Dear Katie, is a raw diet for puppies ok?
I’m thinking about switching my 4-month-old puppy to raw feeding. But is a raw diet for puppies suitable, and does it provide enough support as they grow?
Moving a puppy onto a raw diet is a very common concern among vets and pet parents, as they are concerned it may lack calcium for growth or provide enough protein, in addition to other essential nutrients. However, you can certainly make the switch. What’s critical is to ensure you’re feeding the right diet. Sadly, not all raw diets are created equal, and some may not be appropriate for your puppy.
Certain vets will suggest waiting until a puppy is 6 months old before switching to a raw diet, but you do not need to hold off if you’re buying from a reputable supplier who can provide appropriate food for their life stage.
I recommend starting with a raw mince formulated with puppies in mind, as it will typically have finer bone content and will be easier on smaller breeds’ digestive systems. As a guide, we can look at what an 8-week old pup would have eaten in the wild pre-domestication. At this stage, a puppy definitely wouldn’t be hunting. Instead, they’d be eating the food their mother chewed and regurgitated for the litter. They’d also be playing, snuffling around, and investigating the carcass remains as their teeth came in and the desire to chew fired up. We can learn from and, to a certain degree, replicate this diet when feeding today’s puppies, hence starting with a raw mince.
The best raw diet for puppies will also be complete and balanced, designed to stimulate healthy growth and development. If you are unsure whether a company provides a complete raw diet for puppies, ask them! A good company should be happy to answer any questions they get on their food.
Transitioning to a raw diet for puppies
There are 2 ways to shift to a raw diet for puppies:
1. A straight swap
If you’re feeling brave, you can safely make the swap right away to a raw diet for puppies in mince form, kicking off a new day with their new raw diet.
2. A gentle transition
Want to take things more slowly? Hug’s raw puppy food is the ideal introduction to a raw diet. Unlike most puppy foods, it’s cookable, so you can gently acclimatise your pup to raw food by adding it cooked to their kibble. (I do not recommend cooking any type of raw that contains bone). Likewise, while fresh veggies and raw meat tend to be a hit, some pooches may be resistant to change or have health concerns that need factoring in, such as digestive issues. In cases such as these, we recommend a gradual transition to a raw diet.
Begin by feeding half of their morning meal as cooked Hug mince. If all is well the following morning, feed the whole morning meal as cooked mince.
After you have shifted your pup to a raw diet, their poop should become firmer, and there will be less of it. If your young’un is a little more sensitive to change and passes softer stools, pause at just one cooked meal or half-cooked meal per day until they’re passing solid stools. From here, wait a day or two, then gradually replace their second meal of the day with cooked mince until you are serving both meals cooked.
At this stage, if you’re happy cooking the food, continue doing so. Alternatively, you can reduce cooking time over a week until you’re serving the food entirely raw. Once your pooch is eating their meals 100% raw, you can switch to traditional raw with bone or stay on the cookable raw puppy food.
Formulating your own raw diet for puppies requires specialist knowledge, especially for those with large or tiny breeds. Rather than going DIY, I recommend consulting a nutritionist or professional for a plan, as things can easily go wrong. You also need to be careful of certain types of bones with puppies until they have all of their adult teeth, so this can restrict available options when DIY feeding in the early months.
The focus needs to be on delivering a bone content of approximately 10%, in addition to ensuring that meals are calorie-dense enough to meet energy and growth requirements. Like I mentioned before, not all diets are created equal, and regardless of the type of food you wish to feed, a poor and imbalanced diet can cause lots of problems!
How much should I feed my puppy?
Unsurprisingly, puppies expend a lot more energy than adult dogs as their bodies and minds continuously grow and develop. Due to this, they need a lot more food, up to around 6-8 months of age. Once they’ve reached adult size, they can drop down to a daily allowance of roughly 2-3% of their body weight.
Although it may seem like quite a lot of food when switching your puppy to a raw diet (especially if you previously fed dry food), it is needed!
I hope this helps and your pup enjoys their new raw lifestyle!