Puppies can be put on raw immediately, but raw feeding is a bit different for puppies than adult dogs. Let’s take a detailed look at what it takes to feed a growing puppy raw properly.
As puppies go through such a fast-paced growth and development period, providing all essential nutrients daily is vital as they cannot regulate nutrients as adult dogs can. This means they require balance daily. Puppies have different macronutrient requirements compared to adult dogs. They have higher fat, vitamin, mineral, and amino acid requirements.
Due to this, the cold turkey method is recommended when transitioning to a DIY diet. This method is when the dog immediately goes onto a fresh diet with no transition period. This is easiest for puppies as their systems are more adaptable and need daily balanced meals. Even though puppies are put on 100% raw food from the start, it is important to not introduce a large number of proteins at once to avoid stomach upset and to be able to pinpoint any sensitivities/allergies. Like a slow transition, it is best to start with a more bland protein such as chicken, turkey, or rabbit and introduce richer proteins after a few days.
Puppies grow exponentially, which means their weight and diet requirements will be in constant flux. Keep track of their age and weight to keep track of the necessary diet adjustments. If you know their parents’ weight or breed, estimating their adult weight will help ensure they grow at a healthy rate.
Puppies are fed based on age. The younger they are, the higher percentage of body weight they must be provided. Looking at the chart below will give you an estimate of how much to feed. But amounts may vary depending on the pup’s activity level, breed, and metabolism. If you choose to meal prep, it is recommended to only do a week at a time since the amount varies so often.
The base will be raw bones, meat, and organs like feeding adult dogs. But certain adjustments must be made to adhere to puppy guidelines. Adult dog guidelines are 80% muscle meat, 10% organ, and 10% bone. Puppy guidelines are 69-71% muscle meat, 15-17% bone, 7% liver, and 7% another secreting organ. This is due to the increased need for calcium, phosphorus, and other essential nutrients for growth and development.
Puppy Ratio Breakdown -
69-71% Muscle Meat
Raw muscle meat provides essential amino acids (protein) and water-soluble vitamins. Variety is a critical component in a successful raw diet. Different types of animals and cuts will provide additional nutrients. A good guideline to follow is to roughly feed 40-50% of the muscle meat as nutrient-dense muscular red meats (non-secreting) such as hearts, lungs, gizzards, tongue, tripe, trachea, and uterus. The rest can be filled using less nutrient-dense meats ground meats or white meats.
15-17% Raw Meaty Bones (RMBs)
RMBs are vital to providing proper calcium and phosphorus for bone growth and development. The ratio for bone is for the amount of bone only, not the included meat on the bones. So if feeding a bone such as a duck neck, some calculations will be needed to know how much bone is being fed. For puppies, it’s best to stick to softer bones such as quail, rabbit, duck, and chicken. Depending on how young they are, you may need to grind the bones as they may not have the jaw strength to chew. Feeding whole bones will also aid in the teething stages. Larger bones are acceptable to feed after all baby teeth are out.
The liver is mother nature’s multivitamin and one of the most crucial parts of a raw diet. It is packed full of vitamin A, water-soluble vitamins, and many other vitamins and minerals. Different livers provide different amounts of nutrients. For example, ruminant livers such as beef, lamb, and venison are much higher in copper than poultry livers, whereas pork has no copper bioavailability. Feeding a lower amount of ruminant liver will provide the dog with proper amounts of vitamin A while still keeping copper at a safe level. If your puppy is sensitive to organs, lower the quantity to 5% and slowly work your way up.
7% Other Secreting Organ
Another secreting organ is needed to have a concentrated amount of nutrients. Puppies have a higher requirement for iron due to their growth and development, so choosing organs high in iron, such as spleen, will make meeting the requirement easy. The more variety fed, the better. Secreting organs include kidney, spleen, sweetbreads, pancreas, thymus, eyes, brain, testicles, and ovaries.
Following the NRC, which established nutrient guidelines for dogs, puppies, cats, and kittens, there will still be nutrient gaps in the ratio diet. But there are many whole food and supplement additions to fulfill these.
Below are the most common nutrient deficiencies, their Recommended Allowances (RA), and their whole food and supplement sources:
Puppies: 25mg RA per 1000kcal Adult dogs: 15 mg RA per 1000kcal
Canned Oysters - 25 mg per 1oz (28g)
Wheatgrass - 496 mg per 1oz (28g)*
*while wheatgrass is high in many essential nutrients, there is no consistent data and is plant-based. For this reason, wheatgrass should not be relied on to supply essential nutrients. If shellfish cannot be fed, Zinc Picolinate can be used. The body best absorbs Zinc Picolinate following Zinc Chelate.
Omega-3s (EPA, DHA & ALA)
Plants may not be a source of essential nutrients, but they are beneficial to add. Vegetables provide soluble and insoluble fiber, antioxidants, phytonutrients, and an array of nutrients. Although dogs do not require carbohydrates for their essential nutrients, providing a small amount of non-starchy plant matter can be of benefit. Raw plant matter can be quite hard for canines to digest, so it’s essential to make sure to prep the plant for maximum bioavailability. This is because canines are not equipped with the biological functions to digest plant matter, such as herbivores and omnivores. Breaking down plant matter before feeding allows for the proper enzymatic digestion to occur. Optimal ways to do this are blending, fermenting, steaming, boiling, or sautéing in healthy fat.
Whole prey is the whole prey or the whole intact animal. Intact means what the animal would look like if it were freshly killed. The animal fed includes the skin, fur/feathers, head, feet, intestines, etc. Whole prey includes the skin, fur, blood, organs, and more in one neatly wrapped animal bento body box. Feeding whole prey also gives your animal excess to all the organs in the body, not just two at a time like the ratio DIY diet. This means brain, eyes, liver, kidneys, pancreas, ovaries or testicles, spleen, and thymus. This does not mean that feeding only two organs is inadequate but highlights the variety that whole prey gives. If available, introduce whole prey as early as possible to make feeding easy.
Like plant matter, fur is an excellent source of dietary fiber. Dogs will often "play" with the fur/feathers sometimes, which provides great mental stimulation. Fur is a great sensory and smells enrichment tool just by itself.
A puppy grows rapidly and requires abundant energy to grow in a healthy matter. Splitting meals between 3-4 feedings during the first six months is recommended. Eventually, it can be decreased to 2-3 feeding. Once they reach adulthood, feedings can be reduced to once a day if suitable for the individual animal. Growth periods vary depending on the size and the breed, which is important to factor in for how long your puppy is in its puppy stages. Smaller breeds reach adulthood as early as ten months, while larger breeds can take up to 18-24 months.
What If My Puppy Isn’t Eating?
Especially if you have a younger puppy, they may not be able to eat chunks of meat and whole bone by themselves yet. In this case, blending or grinding their food into a grind will make it much more appealing and suitable for the pup to eat. Phase this step out as they get older and used to the taste, smell, and texture. If they are older and not finishing their food consistently, it may be possible they are being offered too much at a time.
Premade raw makes raw feeding easy and convenient, especially with a puppy. When searching for a commercial raw food to feed, it is crucial to look for the claim that the food is suitable for “all life stages” according to AAFCO standards.
For large breed dogs (70lbs/31kg +), look for the label that specifies the nutritional levels established by the AAFCO Dog Nutrient Profiles for growth/all life stages. Large breeds require more calcium and phosphorus, with the ideal ratio being 1.2:1 (Ca:P).
"All Life Stages" Complete & Balanced Premade Brands:
There can be some GI upset when transitioning from a highly-processed diet to a fresh diet. This is a normal part of moving on to new foods. To help the process, you can supplement digestive enzymes and probiotics to help the body adjust and accumulate beneficial gut flora.
∙ Adored Beast, Healthy Gut | Digestive Enzyme [use “GSDSTORMY15” to save!]
∙ Source Naturals Pancreatin 8X 500mg (currently having sourcing issues)
∙ Dr. Mercola Complete Probiotics ∙ Adored Beast, Love Bugs | Pre & Probiotics [use “GSDSTORMY15” to save] ∙ Adored Beast, Fido's Flora | Species Appropriate Probiotic
∙ Doggy Biome+
Slippery elm bark powder or marshmallow root can also be fed to help soothe the GI system. These herbs are mucilaginous products that function as a demulcent (anti-inflammatory) agent. The mucilage of these herbs is a complex polysaccharide that becomes a gel-like substance when mixed with water.
Many dogs are picky with organs at first. For this, it is recommended to change the texture of the slimy organs. Freezing or lightly searing organs can change the smell, texture, and taste of dogs and entice them to eat them. Eventually, this technique can be phased out as the dog adjusts to the organs.
The Poo Tells All
The “perfect poo” is something that all raw feeders are familiar with as it shows how well the dog is adapting to the food and if any adjustments need to be made. On a scale from 1-10, 1 being a puddle and 10 being a cigar, a healthy raw fed poop should look like a 7-10. A raw fed poop will be like a small cigar with no smell and relatively small. A kibble-fed stool will be more of a 3-4 and look like soft serve, be big, and very smelly. Be aware when a dog in transitioning stools is loose.
Stool tells you information about what is happening inside your dog’s system. Below is a guide with the most common poos and what they mean.
∙ White/Grey/Chalky: White/chalky stools mean that the dog had too much bone content. For this, skip bone for a meal and then slightly reduce bone content overall.
∙ Yellow: Yellow stools are present when the majority of the meal is poultry. This is most common when transitioning.
∙Tar-like/Liquid: If the poo is tar-like or liquidly, it means that too much organ was fed at one time. Adjust the organ amount to make it less rich.
∙Dark Brown/Red: When stools are this color during transitioning, it is due to the addition of red meats.
∙Black: If the dog ate something high in blood content, such as spleen, it would result in black stools. This is because blood oxidizes in the colon, turning poo a darker color.
If you aren’t a fan of all the leg work that goes into raw feeding, you can always get a meal plan. Purchasing a meal plan hires an experienced and knowledgeable nutritionist to create an NRC/FEDIAF balanced recipe. It will include all the amounts you need to feed plus additional supplements. But there are many “nutritionists” who sell meal plans that are not qualified or do not provide quality balanced recipes.
To seek a quality nutritionist, they should be…
Follow NRC or FEDIAF guidelines and have a clear understanding of providing a balanced diet.
Can answer questions in an easy to understand and professional manner
Do they have any biases (carb-based, fat-based, cooked only, etc.)
Use specific measurements
Custom recipes should never look like a ratio diet (only meat, bones, and organs) or have rotating proteins. Taking one course from Dogs Naturally Magazine does not make anyone qualified to formulate and sell meal plans. Looks for certifications from programs such as:
Perfectly Rawsome creates custom meal plans for both puppy and adult dogs. If you purchase a meal plan from them, use STORMY10 to save!
Now you should be armed with the information you need to transition your puppy onto raw successfully! Keep in mind that everyone’s experience is different as every dog is different. The best thing you can do to prepare is research, research, research, and go at your pup's speed. Don't rush the process and take the time to organize a plan of action to make the transition as smooth as possible.
The Raw Storm - Adding More To The Bowl: Ratio Diets
Perfectly Rawsome - Calorie amounts for puppies
Perfectly Rawsome - Nutritional requirements for puppies
SoCal Raw Fed Dogs - Caloric feeding for puppies
Paws of Prey - How to start your puppy on a raw diet