- Aims of feeding puppies raw
- Rules for feeding puppies raw
- Safety in raw feeding
- Fresh raw food for puppies
- Storing your raw food
- Raw food & puppy teeth
- Variety in raw feeding
- Best raw puppy food
- Feeding puppies vegetables
- Preparing raw puppy food
- Feeding your puppy bone
- How much water do puppies need?
- Raw puppy food quantities
- How often to feed puppy raw
- Help with feeding puppies raw
Whilst most dogs nowadays are fed on commercial kibble, there is a growing interest in raw feeding.
A diet of raw meaty bones (RMB) or biologically appropriate raw food (BARF) is an increasingly popular way to feed dogs
There are undoubtedly risks and benefits to raw feeding, just as there are risks and benefits to feeding kibble, so you might find it helpful to read about the pros and cons of raw feeding before going ahead.
The aim of raw feeding your puppy
The aim of raw feeding is to give your dog a diet that is designed to suit an animal that is carnivorous in design. A dog’s digestive system is designed for processing meat and bones.
This means that it is possible to feed a puppy on processed commercial food too.
From his powerful crushing jaws, to his strong stomach acids and his short meat eaters digestive tract, he is fully equipped to digest and process a completely natural raw diet.
Raw feeding for puppies, rules and principles
If you choose to feed raw, you need to understand the principles involved
And to follow some basic rules to keep your puppy safe and healthy.
Even for animals that are perfectly designed for this purpose.
And it is important that we minimise those risks in any way that we can.
Feeding your puppy a raw diet safely
Before we go any further lets talk a moment about safety. Because whichever way you decide to feed your dog, it makes sense to reduce any risks to an absolute minimum.
One way to do this is to buy an off the shelf raw food.
But many raw feeders want to produce their own at home. So let’s look at what you can do to feed raw in the best way.
Rule 1 – Feed fresh meat to your puppy
Once an animal is dead, its flesh begins the process of decay.
As part of this process, the pathogens in meat will increase naturally over time, unless it is frozen. So be sure to freeze meat soon after purchasing or refrigerate it below 4 C and use it within a couple of days.
Rule 2 – Handle and store raw meat safely
One of the main risks of feeding raw is not to your dog. It is to you.
You can reduce this risk in a number of ways
Store raw meat in covered containers, separately from your other food
And well away from foods that are eaten raw (like salads)
We like these fridge containers with clip on lids from Amazon, but you can use any container with a lid that is dishwasher proof or can be washed in hot water.
Dedicated cutting boards:
Cut up raw meats on dishwasher safe dedicated chopping boards, that you use for nothing else.
Use dedicated knives too, and wash both in a dishwasher or very hot soapy water.
Protect your hands:
Wear disposable latex gloves to handle meat and throw them away when you have finished
Then wash your hands very thoroughly.
Rule 3 – Protect your puppy’s teeth from hard bones
Raw feeding offers both benefits and risks to your dog’s teeth.
The benefits are clean teeth, a result of the abrasive cleaning actions of processing bone.
The risks are tooth damage, including serious fractures of the teeth requiring expensive dental treatment and involving pain for your dog.
Fortunately this risk can be largely avoided, by the following:
Avoid weight bearing bones of large animals
Avoid feeding your puppy weight bearing bones of any large animal, this includes cows, sheep etc.
Weight bearing bones are the bones the animal stands on, the long bones in the legs that carry all of its body weight.
It is OK to feed leg bones of small animals, to most dogs.
Think about the size of animal a small to medium sized dog might be able to catch and consume on his own – a rabbit for example. This is the largest kind of animal you should be feeding whole to your dog.
Rule 4 – Feed your puppy a wide variety of meats
Puppies need sufficient nutrients to keep them healthy and to provide for their rapid growth. The best way to provide those nutrients is to offer a wide variety of nutritious food.
It is very tempting to just feed what is easily available at the time. Many raw feeders are overly reliant on chicken because it is easy to obtain, but this is not sufficient as a nourishing diet, especially for a young puppy.
What is the best raw food to give a puppy?
If you make sure that your puppy has access to the following raw ingredients, at least once or twice each week, he should be able to access the nutrients he needs
- Green tripe (stomach of herbivore)
- Oily fish
- Beef or lamb ribs with plenty of meat on them
- White fish
- Chicken backs, necks, wings and feet
- Pigs trotters
- Kidney, heart, lungs (of cow, pig, sheep)
- Liver (tiny quantities)
Eggs are a great meal for a puppy, some dogs will eat the shell too, which is fine.
You may have to whisk the egg slightly the first few times you feed, to get the puppy started.
There is no truth in the myth that pork is poisonous to dogs. It is fine to feed pig feet, meat, and organs.
Can puppies eat vegetables?
Dogs in the wild eat the stomach of their prey and some of its contents, which may contain digested vegetation. They may also consume fallen fruit, berries and so on at certain times of the year.
If your dog is fed ‘green’ tripe he will have access to the minerals he needs in the remains of the semi-digested material contained in this tripe. Tripe is the stomach of a herbivore – usually a cow or a sheep. Green simply means ‘unwashed’.
The white tripe you can buy for human consumption has had all these important nutrients washed out of it, so it isn’t beneficial for your dog.
Feeding green tripe and feeding whole prey animals from time to time (whole rabbits, fish etc) will give your puppy access to the range of nutrients he needs.
If your puppy’s diet is more restricted, and you don’t feed green tripe regularly, you will need to supplement your dog’s food with some vegetables.
You’ll need to make sure that these are pureed or liquidised. (It is no use giving green vegetables whole, as your dog cannot digest them effectively)
Some people like to feed fruit and vegetables (carrots for example) to their raw fed dogs as snacks, and this is not a problem provided you are aware of which common human foods are toxic to dogs (onions for example)
How to prepare and serve your puppy’s raw food
Don’t cut food up too small
If you cut up meat on the bone, your puppy may swallow large lumps of bone without breaking them up properly first.
How small an item you can feed will depend on the size of your puppy.
For example, a Labrador puppy of three or four months old, may be able to swallow a chicken wing whole if you feed just the last two joints.
So it is best to feed the whole wing of a big chicken.
Or to feed a larger portion such as the back of the carcass.
That way he has to work on the wing to break it down before he swallows it.
Don’t crowd your puppy while he is eating raw meat
It is best not to stand over your puppy whilst he is eating raw meaty bones.
The idea is to avoid the dog ‘gulping’ down large lumps of bone at one time. They are more likely to do this if they think you are going to take their food away from them, so let your puppy eat in peace.
Raw meat is very valuable to a dog and if you hang around him while he is eating, he may worry that you will take it away.
Feed your puppy enough bone!
Ground meat (mince) and steak is easy to find in local shops and supermarkets, and for that reason, many people are tempted to rely on it.
But feeding puppies ground up beef steak is not a suitable diet. He needs bone and connective tissue in his diet, ground meat alone will leave him deprived of minerals, and won’t protect his teeth
Don’t be scared of bone. If you can’t bring yourself to feed bone, raw feeding is not going to work for your puppy.
How much bone does my puppy need?
Puppies need a substantial proportion (at least 10%) of their diet to be bone.
You can buy pet foods that contain minced bone, and its ok to use these as part of your puppy’s diet, but he needs to chew on actual bone in order to benefit from the dental hygiene aspects of a raw diet.
A dog that is eating enough bone will produce firm stools that crumble when dry. If your dog’s stools are loose he is probably not getting enough bone.
Too much offal will also produce loose stools.
If your puppy’s stools are hard and difficult to pass, you are probably feeding too much bone, so just cut back a little.
Let your puppy chew up his raw food
Don’t rely on ground meat to feed your youngster, even if it has been minced with bone in it.
Grinding or mincing meat isn’t wrong per se. But don’t teach your puppy to rely on you instead of his own teeth and jaws.
How much water do raw fed puppies need?
However, water is still essential.
He will drink as much as he needs.
Water fountains like this one are increasingly popular
But your dog will be fine with a regular water bowl provided you keep it clean and well filled
How much raw food to feed your puppy
As always, when feeding puppies, you need to be guided by your dog, rather than by a set of scales. You should be able to feel ribs, but not see them. And your puppy should have a waist.
As a rough guide, many puppies will need to eat the equivalent of 2%-3% of their expected adult weight, each and every day.
So if you have a labrador puppy, you will feed him according to what he might be expected to weigh as an adult (say around 60lbs) which would amount to just over 1lb of food each day.
But don’t forget, the ‘average’ puppy doesn’t really exist. Each puppy is different and will grow and eat at his own pace.
Puppies fed raw are far less likely to be fat, and much more likely to stop when they are full. It is quite hard to overfeed a puppy on a raw diet. So if you want to give your puppy a little more because he seems hungry, then by all means do so.
Just keep an eye on that waistline, and cut back for a few days if he starts to get plump.
If you think your puppy is looking a little thin, despite being fed as much as he wants to eat, he may have some intestinal worms.
You should worm him regularly with a puppy wormer from your vet or from an online veterinary pharmacy. There is NO truth in the myth that raw fed puppies don’t get worms.
Panacur is the wormer I use for my puppies, the active ingredient is fenbendazole and there are a range of products based on it including the popular Safe-Guard.
At the time of writing, fenbendazole is considered very safe. You should always check with your vet before worming your puppy or dog for the first time.
How often to feed your puppy
Don’t try and give your puppy his whole day’s ration at once.
Divide his daily ration into four portions for puppies under three months old, three portions for puppies between three and six months of age, and two portions for six month to 1 year old pups.
Spread these meals out over the day at three to four hourly intervals.
You don’t have to stick to these guidelines rigidly, and raw fed puppies may not want to eat as frequently as kibble fed pups.
If your three month old puppy only wants to eat twice a day and is thriving on that regime, then that is OK.
Adult dogs and fasting
Adults can eat once or twice a day. It is up to you and your dog. Don’t forget that dogs in the wild may go long periods without eating, then eat a LOT of meat and bone in one go.
Your adult raw fed dog won’t come to any harm if you miss a day’s food and give him extra the next day. In fact many experts believe that occasional fasting is beneficial for you dog.
Do NOT fast a dog on kibble then allow him to gorge on extra rations the next day. Kibble is not designed to be consumed in large quantities and your dog is not designed to process it that way.
How to get started feeding your puppy raw food
If your puppy is currently being fed on kibble and you want to make the switch you’ll be excited to make a start.
But its important to take this one step at a time.
Don’t just plunge in with a whole medley of different types of food.
Lots of new foods all at once may trigger a tummy upset.
Start with one food. Chicken is usually tolerated well. Feed a very small amount at the first meal, and if all is well, slightly more at the next. After a couple of days add another food – eggs for example, or tripe.
Small quantities at first, increasing gradually at each mealtime.
Of course your puppy does need variety, but a healthy puppy won’t starve or suffer from deficiencies over the space of a few days.
Getting help with raw feeding your puppy
For some fun raw feeding options for your puppy, check out our article on greats ideas for natural raw dog food.
There are also lots of raw feeding dog owners on my forum, so do come along, say hello, and let us help and support you.
Both on the practicalities of feeding raw, and on helping you choose whether or not raw feeding is for you
Good luck with raw feeding!
More information on puppies
The Happy Puppy Handbook covers every aspect of life with a small puppy.
The book will help you prepare your home for the new arrival, and get your puppy off to a great start with potty training, socialisation and early obedience.
The Happy Puppy Handbook is available worldwide.