One of the best decisions you can make for your puppy is to feed her a diet rich
in fresh and natural ingredients. The first year of your pup's life is an
important time as her body grows and develops, and feeding a diet made up of
a variety of nutritious options will have long-lasting, positive effects on her
health as an adult.
When to Start
The first question every new puppy owner considering a raw diet has in mind is
"When can you start feeding raw?"
The answer is: as soon as you get your puppy!
In fact, many dogs are transitioned from their mothers milk directly to raw
food with no kibble in between. The sooner you can start your puppy on raw, the
better, but if you have a puppy whose been sick or you'd like to hold off on
feeding raw for just a while longer, you can do that too. A raw diet can be
started at any age. Many dogs do not transition until much later on in life,
when they are full-grown adults.
It's better to start your puppy on a raw diet as soon as possible. Waiting until
adulthood simply means your puppy never gets the benefits of a raw diet while
she's young and could use them the most. Puppies as young as 5 weeks old can be
transitioned to soft raw food.
How to Start
Although the pictures of raw meals for dogs may look pretty appetizing on social
media (as dog food goes), it's best to start puppies off on just a single protein
at a time. That means, no adding popular raw feeding community favorites like
egg, vegetables, or goat milk until your puppy is comfortable eating just one
In example, if you decide to start your puppy on chicken, for a few days,
make sure to feed only chicken, such as chicken wing flats, chicken breast, chicken
neck, feet, or thigh and see how it goes. If your puppy was transitioned directly
to raw food, this stage usually goes fine, with minimal stomach upset.
- What about nutrient deficiencies?
Don't worry too much about your puppy becoming deficient during the transition period, because you will soon be adding more ingredients to your puppies food and this will balance it over time.
If your puppy is already eating kibble and you'd like to switch to raw, transition
her off of her kibble by feeding a little less of it with each meal until her
meal is completely, or mostly raw. This will help minimize the stomach upset
associated with suddenly switching your dog to a new type of food.
Not everybody feeds completely raw dog food, and it is common for owners to keep
their dogs on half raw, half kibble (or some combination of that) their entire
lives. There's nothing wrong with that - the more your dog can get access to
fresh, wholesome ingredients, the better! Think of raw food as a homecooked meal
and kibble as fast-food. The more your dog can get of the former, the healthier
she will be, but a little fast-food here and there probably wont be an issue.
It's when your dog is eating fast-food for every meal of the day that it's a
How to Feed
Depending on your preference, puppies should be crated or fed outside, but
should not be allowed to run around inside the house with raw food. Although raw
meat poses little threat by itself, there's no reason to let your puppy walk
around the house with raw meat in her mouth. All the manners and life lessons
your puppy needs to learn come from you guiding her behavior - if you don't
allow her to run around with her food while she's young, she wont do it when
Feed your puppy based on how she looks, not based on what a chart says. You
should be able to feel ribs, but not see them. It is very hard for puppies to
get fat on a raw diet, so if your puppy looks a little bit lean, don't hesitate
to add in an extra meal.
If you're making your own homemade raw food, the easiest way to go about it is
to prepare your food ahead of time. Depending on how much freezer space you have,
how many dogs you have, and how big they are, you can store several months of
frozen raw food at a time. Take it out the night before and it will be ready to
feed the next day. Preparing raw food ahead of time requires a commitment of
several hours, but means 0 work when it comes to actually feeding your dogs.
You can also buy premade raw dog food online and have it shipped to your house,
or look into local co-ops and raw feeding groups for raw food made locally. Some
pet stores now carry specialty raw food brands like Stella & Chewy's, so switching
to raw may be as easy as heading to the pet store!
Whatever you decide, there's nothing wrong with preparing raw food in your own
kitchen. The same rules of disinfecting and cleaning apply as if you were
handling raw meat for the human members of your family, but in the 12+ years I've
fed raw dog food, I've never had an incident.
Some common raw food preparation essentials include:
- A solid wood cutting board, for butchering meat
- Sharp knives, for cutting bone and sinew
- A good supply of tupperware or plastic bags for freezing food
- Ice cube trays, for serving broths, yoghurt, and other frozen treats
- Labels & markers for writing on food containers
- Food Scale
- Meat Grinder, for making your own blends
You should feed your puppy 3 times a day until he's 6 months old, after which
point you can taper off to feeding twice or only once per day, depending on your
preference. It is generally advisable to keep large dogs on 2 meals per day throughout
their lives, as feeding a lot of raw meat at once can make your dog sick, or uncomfortable,
whereas breaking the same amount of food into 2 smaller meals will be much easier
Balance Over Time
Nutrition is a complex thing, whether human or animal. Like us, our dogs bodies
operate on a system of reserves - in other words, their body tries to store
minerals and fats for when there aren't enough, but when in deficit, the body
can pull from these reserves to keep functioning. It's more important that you
provide a variety of organ meat and naturally occuring vitamins and minerals
over time than it is to try to get it perfect in every meal.
As your puppy grows, her body will change and so will her nutritional needs. In
general, a raw diet made up of bones, muscle-meat, and organ is perfect by
design. For thousands of years dogs and their ancestors have survived on nothing
but raw meat, with the organs, skin, and fur still intact, so as long as you can
provide enough of these raw building blocks, your dog will naturally metabolize
and convert this food into energy without issue.