Did you just bring home a new puppy? Or know someone who did? It seems like just about everyone has a brand new addition to their homes these days, and with it often comes several questions, like, “Can I feed my new puppy a raw diet? Does my puppy need anything special added to his diet?”
Can I feed my puppy a raw diet?
This is an important question, since the first year of a dog’s life is the most critical in terms of health and growth. During these first 12 months, you are setting the stage for your dog’s future health and wellness. This is the life stage when the critical systems of your dog’s musculoskeletal frame are developing. This is especially vital for large or giant breed dogs. Therefore, choosing food that is full of bioavailable nutrition that your puppy can digest and utilize is critical during this time.
Many of the ailments that plague growing puppies (poor digestion, sallow skin/coat conditions, sporadic growth spurts) are nutritionally related, and are often a result of continually ingesting extreme-heat treated soluble carbohydrates found in commercial dog food. Eating high levels of these carbohydrates can cause growth spurts that occur at irregular intervals, which contributes to major stress on the puppy’s musculoskeletal system. If the development of the bones, tendons, muscles and cartilage happens at different rates, the result can be structural damage, leading to growth patterns that are out of sync, and ultimately resulting in conditions such as hip dysplasia, arthritis, tendonitis and other musculoskeletal concerns.
This can sound terrifying, but it can be easily avoided. Feeding puppies a raw food diet can help to minimize the risk of developmental issues in your dog, by slowing down growth spurts and allowing a more optimal development of muscles, bones and tendons to occur.
Does my puppy need a special diet?
Providing nutrients that support your puppy’s growing needs is important and easy to do. The great thing about a balanced raw diet is that puppies can eat the same diet as their adult and senior counterparts--just the amount changes. Because puppies are actively growing, they will need more nutrition (in terms of a percent of their body weight) than that of a fully grown dog, and yet the formula doesn’t change.
You do want to look for a quality raw food that is not only complete and balanced, but that has a good combination of lean meat, organs, bone meal and eggs (with the eggshell) to provide all the amino acid building blocks, calcium, phosphorus and micronutrients that will support your puppies growth. Also, always be aware of any potential choking hazards in your puppy’s food. Be sure that all pieces are ground up well or are small enough to swallow if your puppy doesn’t chew thoroughly or if your puppy doesn’t have many teeth yet.
And, while not necessary, your puppy might also benefit from some supplements that will support his growth. Some additions to consider include: green tripe (for added nutrition,
increased probiotics and digestive enzymes), raw goat's milk (extra vitamins and minerals, enzymes and probiotics), raw chicken feet or turkey necks (for naturally-occurring glucosamine and chondroitin) or raw beef tendons or neck bones (full of elastin, collagen, and glucosamine, these are great chew toys that won’t break teeth). As always, be sure to watch your puppy if you give him any bones, feet, tendons or necks to prevent any possible choking from occurring.
But what about balancing calcium and phosphorus? Don’t I need to be concerned about that?
This is a common concern, when feeding commercial dog food that is made primarily of heat-treated, synthetic ingredients that include excessive amounts of carbohydrates and fillers. Synthetic powdered calcium is difficult for a puppy’s system to utilize (and even harder to excrete) and excess amounts can build up over time, causing calcium deposits, tumors, and in some cases, hypercalcemia and kidney disease. However, a raw diet that is primarily meat, organs and meaty bones provides all the naturally-occurring calcium and phosphorus their bodies need, in easily-digestible bioavailable form. Any excess that their bodies don’t need is simply excreted in their stool. You’ll notice their stool will turn somewhat sandy in appearance (compared to the dark, rope-like consistency of regular raw-fed stool) after you’ve given them a raw meaty marrow bone. This is normal.
How much should I feed my puppy?
Puppies need more food per pound of body weight than their adult counterparts because their bodies are developing and this requires extra energy. As they get older and their activity level decreases, the amount of food will decrease as well. We recommend an amount that is between 3-8% of their body weight, depending on their age, split over 2-3 meals per day. (We suggest 3 small meals a day because puppies typically have a higher metabolism, and some breeds, especially smaller breeds, can become hypoglycemic if there is too much time between meals). It is important to continue to weigh your puppy, as well as measure their portions*, in order to avoid overfeeding or under-feeding. Once your puppy hits his adult weight, adjust his portions to 2% to 3% (depending on his activity level), and pay attention--feed more if he is too skinny, feed less if he’s overweight. See the chart to help determine your puppy’s food portions.
OR... check out our calculator that does the math for you!)
We hope this helps as you start out with your puppy! Send us pictures of your new pups and keep us updated on how they are doing. Happy feeding!
*using a simple digital kitchen scale