As I write, my little 5-week old twin puppies are happily slopping up turkey, egg and goat milk. One puppy will stay to live with me. 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’ll have eaten chicken, turkey, beef, pork, lamb, venison, rabbit and more. And they’ll 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. Don’t be afraid or intimidated. There are just a few guidelines to follow to avoid digestive upset as your puppy transitions from kibble to raw food.
But before I start, I’d 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 I’ve never had one of my puppies fail his hips and elbows. Yes, it’s important to balance the calcium and phosphorus content in the food, but it’s easy to do with raw food. With all the dog food recalls of the past, the ability to track the nutrients in raw food is important to me. This also makes it a safer option than kibble.
Here are a few tips for getting your puppy started on raw with a minimum of fuss – and minimal stains on your rugs!
Starting Your Puppy On A Raw Diet
1. 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’s 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. This means there’s a much greater chance of harmful bacteria building up.
2. Start With One Protein Source
Regardless of whether you’re preparing your own raw or are using a prepared raw food, it’s best to start with one protein source. Give that one protein for a good week. If there are no signs of digestive upset, start your puppy on a second source of protein, and so on.
Muscle meat should make up about 35% to 50% of the diet.
3. 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 organ meats). There’s 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. Plus, there’s a wider margin of error when feeding raw. Calcium that comes in a synthetic powder is nearly impossible for a puppy to excrete. This means an excess of calcium is more of a concern with synthetic products than with the naturally occurring calcium found in bones.
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
- Chicken feet and beef windpipes (good source of naturally occurring glucosamine and chondroitin)
- Beef neck bones (a great chew that won’t break teeth)
Balanced foods (feed these often)
- Eggs with shell
- Green tripe
- Whole animals (rabbit, quail, etc.)
4. Feed Three Times A Day
Your puppy should eat three small meals a day. Do this until he’s 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.
5. Feed 2-3% Of His Adult Body Weight
Knowing how much to feed is often where people get caught up. But it’s actually pretty easier to figure out.
This is easier to determine if you have a purebred dog, but the amount you feed should be 2-3% of your puppy’s adult weight. If you’re not sure what that will be, feed about 10% of his current weight. Watch to see if he gets too fat or too thin and adjust accordingly.
6. Don’t Overdo It With The Organs
You don’t want to skip the organ meats. They are important because they are full of nutrients not found in muscle meat. But you want to introduce them slowly. Work up to organ meats as at least 10% of the total diet (25% is better).
Liver and other organ meats 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. And remember to mix them up – don’t just feed liver.
RELATED: What’s the biggest mistake people make when it comes to feeding organs? Find out here.
7. Don’t Forget The Supplements
Even if you’re feeding free-range, organic meats, the earth is not what it used to be. Your puppy will benefit from some supplementation.
Supplements to consider include:
- Phytoplankton – whole food nutrition that contains nearly every nutrient your dog needs
- Nutritional herbs – alfalfa, dandelion leaf, nettle and more
- Probiotics – friendly bacteria that protects the body from bacteria, viruses and fungi
- Digestive enzymes – break down and absorb nutrients from food
- Bovine colostrum – helps to build a strong immune system
8. Remember The Other Important Puppy 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.
9. Find A Mentor Or Raw Feeding Chat Group
You will find there are plenty of experienced dog owners who love to help. We have a great group in our DNM The Pack Facebook group if you want to join us.
One day, you can return the favor and help another puppy owner realize how simple it is to raise puppies on raw!
RELATED: Raw feeding is important, but so are other aspects of raising a puppy. Read this: Taking The Risk Out Of Puppy Shots.