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Natural Canine Health Symposium

Starting Your Puppy On A Raw Diet

Puppy Raw FoodAs I write, my delightful little twin puppies, just under five weeks of age, are happily slopping up some minced turkey, egg and goat milk. Hopefully one puppy will stay to live with me and the other has a lovely home waiting for her where her new mom will feed her nothing but raw food. By the time these puppies go home, they will have eaten chicken, turkey, beef, pork, lamb, venison, rabbit and more and they will do so with little in the way of tummy upsets.

When you bring home a new puppy that was not raised on raw, it can be a bit trickier to get him started – although really not that difficult. There are just a few guidelines you need to follow to avoid digestive upset as your puppy transitions from kibble to raw food.

Before I start, I would like to address the issue that many people have with feeding large breed puppies raw. I’ve raised every litter and puppy in the last fifteen years on raw and have never had one of my puppies fail his hips and elbows. Yes, it is important to balance the calcium and phosphorus content in the food, but it’s easy to do with raw food – and in light of the dog foods that were recalled due to excesses of some nutrients, the ability to monitor the nutrients in raw food makes it a safer option than kibble in my opinion.

Here are a few tips for getting your puppy started on raw with a minimum of fuss – and minimal stains on your rugs!

  • Start off cold turkey
    It’s not wise to mix your puppy’s raw food with kibble. Because kibble requires a different pH in the gut to digest, it will make your puppy more susceptible to the bacteria in the raw meats. He is capable of handling this bacteria just fine, but once you add in artificial foods, the meat will sit in his digestive tract twice as long, meaning there is a much greater chance of harmful bacteria building up.
  • Start with one protein source
    Regardless of whether you are preparing your own raw or are using a prepared raw food, it is best to start with just one protein source, like chicken or turkey. Give that one protein for a good week and, if there are no signs of digestive upset, start your puppy on a second source of protein, and so on.
  • Balance the calcium and phosphorus
    This is fairly easy to do. If you view a turkey neck as a nice meaty bone, then your puppy’s diet should be half to two-thirds meaty bones and half to one-third meats and offal (organ meats). There is no magic formula and every puppy is a bit different. Despite what the kibble manufacturers say, it’s pretty easy to balance calcium and phosphorus and there is a wider margin of error when feeding raw. Calcium that comes in a synthetic powder is nearly impossible for a puppy to excrete, so excesses of calcium are more of a concern with synthetic products than with the naturally occurring calcium found in bones.
  • Feed three times a day
    Your puppy should eat three small meals a day until he is about six months of age – then he can eat twice a day and eventually once a day if you wish. This is especially important for small breed puppies as they can become hypoglycemic if meals are spread out too long.
  • Feed 2-3% of his adult body weight
    This is easier to determine if you have a purebred dog, but the amount you feed should be 2-3% of your puppy’s anticipated adult weight. If you’re not sure what that will be, then feed about 10% of his current weight. Watch to see if he gets too fat or too thin and adjust accordingly.
  • Don’t overdo it with the offal
    Liver and other organ meat can cause some pretty nasty loose stools in puppies who have never had them before. If your puppy is new to raw feeding, wait until you see a good two or more weeks of solid stools before you introduce organ meats. Then add them in gradually instead of feeding one giant meal of liver. Don’t skip the organ meats; they are important because they are full of nutrients not found in muscle meat.
  • Don’t forget the supplements
    Even if you’re feeding free range, organic meats, the earth is not what it used to be so your puppy will benefit from some supplementation. Supplements to consider include:
    Fish or krill oil (a source of Omega-3 fats which are a good idea if the meat is not grass fed)
    Coconut oil (antibacterial and antifungal)
    Nutritional herbs (alfalfa, dandelion leaf, nettle and more)
    Probiotics (soil based products are best and green tripe is an excellent natural source of probiotics and digestive enzymes)
    Bovine colostrum (helps to build a strong immune system)
  • Other important stuff
    Make sure your puppy has plenty of fresh, non-chlorinated water. He should also have plenty of fresh air and exercise. Exercise for young puppies should not be forced walks – his growing joints will suffer less stress if you take him outside for short play or training sessions instead. Keep the walks short – about five minutes per month of age until he is about six months of age.
  • Find a mentor or raw feeding chat group
    You will find there are plenty of experienced dog owners who love to help. One day, you can return the favor and help another puppy owner realize how simple it is to raise puppies on raw!

My Favorite Meaty bones (50% to 65% of the diet)

Turkey tails and necks
Chicken backs and necks
Veal ribs and tails
Venison bones of any kind

Muscle Meats (35% to 50% of the diet)

From a variety of animals (includes heart and tongue)

Offal (10% of the diet)

Liver, kidneys, spleen, brain, lung

Balanced foods (feed often)

Eggs with shell
Green tripe
Whole animals (rabbit, quail, etc.)
Also includes fish but this should be fed less often, due to mercury exposure

Extra yummies

Chicken feet and beef windpipes (good source of naturally occurring glucosamine and chondroitin)
Beef neck bones (a great chew that won’t break teeth)


Dana Scott breeds naturally reared Labrador Retrievers under the Fallriver prefix. You can visit Dana and her Labradors at www.fallriverlabs.com


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  • 22 Responses to Starting Your Puppy On A Raw Diet

    1. Laura Z.

      Hi , I just adopted a 12 week old puppy who they think is a lab/corgi mix. Definitely has the lab in him but not sure about the corgi , it looks more daschund to me, but too young to tell for now. They had him on kibble and I would like to start him on the RAW diet and was wondering if that was ok because he’s so tiny and what to start him off with ? Thank you .


    2. Bel

      Hi I have a 6 month old Jackhuahua :-) looking into a raw diet for him as he’s quite the fussy boy preferring what we eat although vet advises us this isn’t good for him.. today I bought some chicken livers unsure how to feed him this or if its too rich for him :-) I also have 2 cats and wish to introduce raw to them also :-) acknowledging this is a canine site :-) I’d like some advice on groups via social media where I can obtain guidance re raw diet Thankyou xx

    3. Diana

      Hi, I am currenttly living over seas in Ecuador and I have a new puppy, hes a small poodle terrier mix (i think). I want to get him on a raw diet but many people here are telling me its a bad idea since the meats here are sold in a market and tend to sit out for long periods of time (gathering bacteria) does anyone know about this subject? Should I or shouldnt I? thanks!

      • Dogs Naturally Magazine

        Diana, dogs are perfectly adapted to each meat and the bacteria has little chance of harming him.

      • jt RR

        All raw meat should be frozen solid then defrosted and then you can feed to your dog as freezing it does something to the bacteria i dont know what exactly but i have talked to a few vets and they all say this , i have 2 rhodesian ridgebacks and i used to feed kibble to one and she had very bad runny stools so i switched to raw diet and i have never looked back so much better and i know exactly what they are eating , also there coat is very shiny and stools very firm less of it and far less smelly ,,,,the only down side is with raw they cant naturally clean there teeth so to combat that i give them marrow bones once a week .

        • Sage Jay

          It kills the bacteria, not always all of it, but most of it, due to the freezing temperature being a nearly inhabitable environment.

    4. Caroline

      We have a rescue puppy who is approx. 17 weeks old and a German Shepherd mix…we think.. :)
      We are feeding him BARF raw diet and chicken wings and necks daily and brisket bones(they are slighty fatty soft bones-which he can eat the whole thing) a couple or 3 times a week with a big marrow bone to chew on a couple of times a week too. The BARF guidance was 2% to 4% of body weight for a large breed puppy, which we assume he is going to be and 3% to 5% for a small breed puppy. He was 8.5k at 11 weeks when we got him and is now 12.1k at 17 weeks. Above you say to feed 10% of their weight or 2 to 3% of their expected adult weight, which is difficult when they are a mixer.. :) Surely 10% of his current weigh would be far too much? Is almost 4k increase in weight about right over 6 weeks? He has 250gm of raw meat split between 2 meals and a chicken wing and chicken neck at lunch time. Can you please clarify. We were thinking of putting him on to 2 meals a day but it would seem from the info he may be a bit young yet. Any advise is always welcome. Thanks.

    5. Victor Iliadis

      Hello, I am victor iliadis and i am going to adopt an american akita puppy could you guide me? can you give me a recipe to feeed as a puppy and as a grown adult? i think of giving 2/3 meat chicken with bones minced some turkey from time to time and hearts and livers and some veggies and eggs what do you think?

    6. Natalia

      Is it ok to give 7 month old Golden retriver cross Briton, one egg a day? Her weight is 20 kg. I give the egg without shell, some times cooked, sometimes row. But after your article will give it row in the shell. :) Thank you! The information you gave is very helpful! Will try to switch to row meat from now!

    7. jones

      I am fostering a puppy who has been taken away from her mom at the age of four weeks. (mom has suffered some abuse, needed surgery, has a very large open wound and can’t risk infection while she is healing) I have been feeding my own rescue dogs RAW for 10 years, but I don’t have experience with puppies! Is she too young to eat RAW? And, if I feed her RAW but the people who eventually adopt her choose not too, will that give her stomach issues?

      • Dogs Naturally Magazine

        She can be weaned directly to raw food. Give her minced food with bone in and you can mix it with raw goat’s milk if you wish. In a couple of weeks, she should be big enough to eat meat on the bone!

    8. Dan

      Any suggestions on meaty bones for small breeds? We just got a miniature Schnauzer and full grown it will probably be about 10 pounds. We used to feed raw to our redbone coon hound and she could down a turkey neck no problem but I can’t see a mini-Schnauzer doing that. I’m thinking something more mouse sized for this one but don’t know.

      • Dogs Naturally Magazine

        Cornish hen would be a great place to start, or other small game birds. A dog this size could get through chicken backs and necks and even turkey necks but some small dogs just don’t want to consume meat on the bone, so a ground food with bone needs to be fed. Alternately, eggshell powder can be used as a calcium source for those who won’t eat bone at all. They can be dried and run through a coffee grinder. For a dog that size, an eggshell or two a day might be enough, but it really depends on what the diet is. If feeding eggshells, it might be helpful to first talk to a vet or other professional who can help you balance the diet.

    9. Most people I speak to find all the articles on raw quite confusing as the previous post pointed out ( regarding how much bone ) many of my friends and myself would be happy to feed raw if we were given example recipes?

    10. 50% bone is WAY too much bone; we’ve been researching and feeding a prey model raw diet since 2004 and 80% of the diet should be muscle meat (which includes heart & tongue), 10% bone and 10% organs (5% liver and 5% other organ like kidney). Dogs do not need 50% bone, my dogs would be constipated if I fed this much bone. We feed primarily wild game and feed a rack of ribs or deer neck once or twice a week. We do supplement with a daily farm fresh egg mixed with their fish oil; we don’t feed any greens but they certainly don’t hurt. Some people feed a daily probiotic.

      • I forgot to mention, where us raw feeders come up with the 80-10-10 rule (% of muscle meat, bone, organs) is by feeding whole prey which means feeding as close to an entire animal like they would eat in the wild. When a pack of wolves take down an elk for example, many bones are left behind, they eat approximately 10% of the bone; fowl is high in bone content, if you feed a whole chicken, it’s approximately 30% bone; but a wolf’s diet would not be 50% bone or anywhere close to it. If we feed bones twice a week, it’s probably closer to 20% bone that week; but we usually feed bone once a week. Some dogs need a little daily bone to keep their stools firm, so if you are feeding a large dog, a turkey neck would suffice with a mostly meat meal. If you are feeding more than once a day, the dog may only need bone during one feeding and not the other. Raw feeders tend to be ‘poop watchers’ which tells us how thier diet is going and the health of the dog by their output.

      • Dogs Naturally Magazine

        Tina, that’s 50% MEATY BONES which equates to no more than 25% bone.

    11. Barb Miller

      I have always understood that if you give a dog raw egg, it is the egg white that if given too often will inhibit the absorbtion of vitamin A in the gut.

      • Dogs Naturally Magazine

        It’s biotin that’s the issue. But if you feed the egg in its entirety, it contains lots of biotin to offset this.


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