It really is easy and safe to feed your puppy a raw diet. Just think about it for a minute, why would we be worried about feeding real, fresh food to our puppies? Food that can be recognized as food. Shouldn’t we be more worried about dehydrated, processed little brown balls (pellets) filled with all sorts of artificial and chemical nutrients and additives?
We know that the age-old adage “you are what you eat” is true for us. This is true for all species. We also know the closer food is to its natural state, the higher the level of nutrition it provides, because heat (cooking) destroys nutrients. When we feed our dogs and puppies raw food, we ensure they’re getting a meal bursting with nutrients and living enzymes which in turn enables effective digestion and optimum nutrient absorption.
Nature is truly amazing. Dogs’ digestive systems are designed to cope with raw food. Their digestive tracks are relatively short so that food can pass through their systems quickly. Why? To prevent unfriendly bacteria settlement. We know dogs are scavengers and they will and do eat decayed and rotten matter – stuff which could make you and I very sick. So, due to this short digestive track there is a very small window of opportunity for nutrients to be absorbed. This is why it is imperative that the food we give our dogs are highly nutritious and easily digestible. And above all, that the nutrients are natural / bio-available.
Getting back to puppies and raw feeding. It may be a bit more tricky if you’re bringing home a puppy who was not raised on raw food. We will give you a few pointers to follow to avoid any digestive discomfort as your puppy is transitioning, but there is no need to feel intimidated.
There is also no need to worry about larger breeds’ joints or failing hips/elbows. Yes, paying attention to the calcium and phosphorous levels is important, but it is surprisingly easy with raw food. When we’re feeding raw food, nature does it for us. Kibble or pellet manufacturers have to try and replicate this when they’re making little brown balls void of all nutrients which need to be added artificially again.
Here are guidelines to starting puppies on a raw diet.
FEED RAW FOOD ON ITS OWN, NOT MIXED WITH PELLETS
Do not mix raw food with pellets. Meat/protein needs an acidic environment to digest. Pellets/carbohydrates need a more alkaline environment digestive environment. When feeding meat along with starch-based carbohydrates and/or artificial foods, the meat stays in the digestive track much longer than if fed on its own. This makes the puppy more susceptible to the bacteria in raw meat as there’s a greater chance of unfriendly bacteria building up.
START WITH ONE TYPE OF MEAT
Start by feeding protein from only one animal. Be careful as many manufacturers’ variants contain chicken to reduce the cost. For example, it may be called Beef because it has a higher beef content, but be sure to read the ingredients carefully to check that no other protein has been included. Give this protein a week or so and if there are no signs of an upset tummy (vomiting, or diarrhea, or bloating and discomfort) you can start your puppy on the second source of protein. Over time it would be important to feed a variety of proteins as this provides a more balanced amino acid profile, nutritionally speaking.
At Raw Love Pets we understand the importance of offering single protein variants and we are one of very few manufacturers in South Africa who produce pure variants – our four core variants include only a single protein, that is Beef, Chicken, Ostrich and Venison. Potluck or Butcher’s Blend is the only variant which contains more than one protein.
HOW TO GET THE CALCIUM AND PHOSPHEROUS RATIO RIGHT
Remember that every puppy is different, but a good rule of thumb is 50-65% meaty bones and 35- 50% meats and organ meats (and of the meat component 2/3 to half should be muscle meat).
As mentioned before, when you’re feeding raw it’s pretty easy to balance the calcium phosphorous balance. Pellet manufacturing companies make a big fuss about it because they have to do this artificially. Sadly, it is nearly impossible for the canine digestive system to extract calcium from a supplement such as lime, or to excrete calcium that comes from a synthetic powder. Much better to stick to the naturally occurring or bio-available calcium found in bones.
Examples of meaty bones for puppies (50-65% of the diet):
- Turkey tails and necks
- Chicken/duck backs and necks
- 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 (vary these and feed 2-3 times a week):
- Eggs with shell (organic / free range)
- Fish (Omega 3)
- Green tripe
- Whole animals (rabbit, qual, chicken or duck)
FEED 3 MEALS PER DAY
Until your puppy is about 6 – 8 months old they need three meals a day. Then, reduce to two meals a day.
HOW MUCH TO FEED
Each puppy is unique and must be monitored to know if the food is enough or needs to be adjusted. Keep an eye on both weight and demeanour to know if you must adjust the quantity you feed up or down.
As a general rule, puppies can be fed 4-10% of their current weight, or 2-3% of their adult weight. There’s a big difference between 4-10% we know, and this is where breed and size play a role. A Great Dane puppy will be on the 4% end of the scale, and a Chihuahua on the 10% end of the scale.
WATCH THE PERCENTAGE ORGAN MEAT YOU INCLUDE
Just to recap the meat component makes up 35-50% of the total food we feed and of this 2/3 to half should be muscle meat, and organ meat 10-25%. (Muscle meat includes hearts.) If you like math you can stick to the percentages, but you can also use the anatomy of the prey a wolf would hunt to guide the ratios or organ meat to include. And bone for that matter.
Organ meat is important to include as organs are full of nutrients, but this needs to be introduced slowly as it can cause loose stools in puppies and adult dogs when first introduced. It’s also not a good idea to feed a meal of, for example, liver only. Rather make sure that liver is fed as part of a meal.
Mix up the organs for variety and include lungs, spleen, kidneys and gizzards.
WHAT SUPPLEMENTS SHOULD I OFFER MY PUPPY
Try to get meat from animals kept as naturally and organically as possible. How animals are kept and what they eat, have a huge impact on the quality and nutritional value of the meat they become when slaughtered. Having listened to a few experts we admire combined with our own experience, we recommend including the following supplements:
- Nutritional herbs such as alfalfa, fenugreek, dandelion leaf, nettle
- Phytoplankton – a whole food providing nearly every nutrient your dog needs
- Probiotics – friendly bacteria that protects the body from pathogens, viruses and fungi
- Digestive enzymes – break down and absorb nutrients from the food
- Omega 3 – not typically included in a raw diet, we recommend fish
The Raw Love Pets meals contain granulated seaweed, alfalfa, fenugreek, kefir (probiotics) and fermented vegetables (digestive enzymes and probiotics) – all in all providing pretty much everything listed above, except Omega 3. For this we recommend feeding fish 3-4 times every week. Fish contains the most easily absorbable form of Omega 3. We do not recommend extracted oil usually kept in a fridge, or even the capsules, as these start going rancid the moment it gets exposed to sunlight and oxygen. Uncooked / fresh sardines if you can get is first option, but tinned fish will also do.
MEAL IDEA – eggs, sardines and kefir or plain unsweetened yoghurt as a meal 3-4 times a week.
As always, where you source any supplements from is very important. Poor quality supplements are not worth any time or money.
Dr Karen Becker, USA based veterinarian specializing in pet nutrition and holistic care made us aware of the fact that dogs survive on pellets, they don’t thrive. Your puppy will thrive on a diet consisting of real food and develop a healthy immune system, making it possible to maintain good health for many years. Remember to make sure your puppy has access to fresh water, gets plenty of exercise/play and fresh air.
Keep it real!
Raw Love Pets Team