Feeding Guidelines for Puppies

Getting a new puppy is an exciting time. Congratulations on choosing to feed a wholesome and species appropriate diet: raw meat, bones, and organ to your pup! Growing puppies need a variety of nutrients to grow healthy and strong and feeding an unprocessed and balanced raw diet is the best source of nutrition for them.

The benefits of feeding raw diet to puppies include, but are not limited to:

  • Easier potty training
  • Faster learning
  • Mental and jaw stimulation
  • Better nutritional value as a foundation of heath

Now about some common myths…

Unfortunately, there is an opinion that your veterinarian might be conveying to you that puppies need a special diet. This is nothing, but a myth, created by the commercial food manufacturers. The reality is that puppies thrive on the same diet as adults as long, as it is species appropriate.

Another popular vet’s opinion is that puppies cannot handle a raw diet. This is also a myth. Puppy stomachs are perfectly designed to handle raw from about 4-5 weeks. Right about that time they start wondering what their mothers are eating.

Here are some tips for feeding puppies the wholesome raw diet.

If you are weaning to raw, you can start adding raw meat at about 4-5 weeks. We recommend to start with ground raw meat mixed with raw goat milk. If the mother is raw-fed, she may start regurgitating her food for the pups about this time. The fact that wolfs in the wild start weaning their pups by regurgitating their food is the reason why we recommend feeding ground and moist at first.

As the puppies get older, they will begin tearing and chewing meat on their own and feeding ground is not required. Pups that have been weaned to Raw can chew and tear by the time they are ready to go to a new home. As a puppy owner you want to encourage chewing and tearing, because it is an excellent mind and jaw stimulation and a great outlet for all that puppy energy.

Keeping in mind those little jaws, make sure to offer a size appropriate diet when feeding whole meats: chicken, duck, quail, rabbit and the like are great for puppies to chew and tear on. Beef, pork, lamb, and venison can still be offered, but in the ground form or as chunked meat.

Offering one protein at a meal time or over a week long time span will allow you to understand better how your pup is able to handle each protein.

Recreational bone can and should be offered. By recreational bones we mean bones that cannot be consumed as a meal, and are meant for the pastime of chewing and gnawing. The guidelines are that they should be larger than a puppy’s head and non-weight-bearing (no marrow bones). Depending on the size of your puppy, the choice of recreational bones can range from chicken backs to cow and pork neck bones, backbones or large ribs.

Portions, ratios, and feeding frequency:

The Whole Prey Model feeding recommends the organ-meat-bone ratio for puppies to be the same as for adults. An average puppy needs 10% of edible bone, 80% of muscle meat, 10% of secreting organ (1/2 of which should be liver). The Whole Prey Model tells us what dog’s ancestors would be eating in the wild. Keep fat content around 15% of the entire meal

Feed 10% of the current puppy weight daily until it is equal or greater than her target adult weight. At that point switch to feeding 2-3% of the target adult weight.

Feed your puppy 3 times a day until she is 6 months old.

Additional considerations for maintenance and troubleshooting:

When balancing fat, bone, and organ in your puppy’s diet, keep in mind that every dog is an individual. Watch the stools! Feeding fat and organ will lead to looser stools and bone will produce harder stools. In general the 80-10-5-5 ratio with 15% of fat will give you good stools, but some dogs need more or less bone, fat, or organ. Adjust those according to your dog’s stools.

Feed higher quality meats, if you can. Keep in mind that the US Pet food industry is poorly regulated, so stick to human-grade meat, unless your dog food provider can demonstrare that the quality and practices are comparable to USDA inspected and approved meat production. Seek humanely, organically, and pasture-raised meats, if possible.

There is naturally occurring sodium in meat and there is added sodium. Added sodium should be avoided in general; however, added sodium in moderations is ok as long as the dog can tolerate it. For example, when buying chicken at a grocery store, make sure the sodium content is below 90-100mg per 4oz.

Make sure your puppy is growing up lean, but not too skinny. Ribs should be felt under a thin layer of fat. No hip bones, ribs, or spine should be protruding. Adjust amounts that you are feeding based on whether you puppy appears to be too thin or too pudgy. The amounts we recommend feeding are good for average puppy, it is possible that your puppy will need more or less depending on her activity level, growth, and other individual characteristics.

Vegetables and grains are empty calories and may interfere with the growth and development of your pup. Avoid those.

Puppies can get very excited about their food. Make sure to encourage chewing when you feed whole meats other than swallowing whole. A few crunches and chewing motions is enough to break the piece down and get it down “the hatch”.

Offer fresh water at all times. Note that your puppy might not drink as much as her kibble-fed counterparts. This is normal as you are providing plenty of moisture in the food.

Remember you are feeding your dog raw meat and for your safety, ensure you handle it appropriately. Wash your hands and dogs bowls. Only allow eating and gnawing in designated areas that can be easily cleaned afterwards. Do not leave the meat out at the room temperature for long: it will spoil.

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