I want a dog for my birthday. I found a dog that I want to adopt, but my boyfriend says that we have too many dogs. TOO MANY DOGS??? That sounds crazy to me. I tried all of the usual arguments to no avail…
- You'll barely notice her.
- She's small so she won't take up any space.
- I'll hire a maid to help keep the house EXTRA clean.
- I never had a child (like you) so dogs are as close as I'll get to being a mom. – yeah, that was low.
- I'll pay for her.
- I'll have brands sponsor her.
- We'll be the best home for her because we'll get her started on a raw diet right away.
- They want us to have her.
On and on it went until I realized that he wasn't going to budge and I spent the rest of the evening (and following day) trying not to pout or behave like a passive aggressive twat. But I was disappointed.
Regardless, I think J knows that I really want a dog and I know that it's just a matter of time (maybe a year) before we increase our packs size from four dogs to five (plus a cat) and I began to think about how I would transition this new family member to raw given all that I've learned over the past five years.
What is Raw Feeding?
Raw Feeding for dogs is our attempt to replicate the diet of the Grey Wolf, a distant relative of today's dogs – yes, even your Chihuahua. People who feed raw understand that dogs aren't wolves – they have adapted over the centuries to be our companions and family members. We also understand that the internal makeup of a dog is still very similar to a wolf and therefore feed them as follows:
- 80% Muscle Meat
- 10% Bone
- 5% Liver
- 5% Offal (secreting organs like kidneys, spleen, pancreas, and testicles)
Many raw feeders also add whole food supplements to their dogs' meals to account for nutrients not found in the meat and bone. I add raw sardines for Omega 3 fatty acids (joints, brain health, and skin and coat health), raw goats milk and kefir (digestive supplements and probiotics), raw eggs (multi-vitamin), spirulina (immune system), kelp (iodine), oysters (zinc, manganese, and selenium), vegetables (fiber and other nutrients).
Check out my page Why Raw? for examples of what I feed to my dogs.
Why it's Important to Start a Puppy on a Raw Diet?
I want to start my new puppy (our new puppy) on a raw diet because I believe that the longer our dogs eat a raw diet, the healthier their outlook will be as they grow and age. Rodrigo and Sydney started on a raw diet at three years of age in an effort to fix health ailments:
- environmental allergies
- food allergies
- digestive issues (chronic diarrhea, loose stool, gas, anal gland issues)
- joint issues and inflammation
- chronic ear infections
- skin rashes
- itchy skin and paws
- behavioral issues (due to chronic inflammation)
Within two weeks on a partial raw diet, I saw huge improvements in their health. After years on a fully raw diet, these dogs are healthier than I anticipated, however, they still have health issues that I now manage through diet and supplementation. Rodrigo still has digestive issues due to repeated rounds of antibiotics and Sydney has joint and weight issues.
Scout and Zoey, on the other hand, are healthy and I believe that this is because we started them on a fully raw diet at 6 weeks of age. They healed rapidly after their spay/neuter surgeries. And between them, there has only been one illness.
By starting Scout and Zoey on raw, I didn't have to worry about the transition period, they didn't have a long enough history with food to be picky (thank heavens), and there wasn't a detox period. Well, to be honest, there wasn't a memorable detox period for Rodrigo and Sydney either. Scout and Zoey's digestive systems were healthy too, so except for a mistake I made when I fed too much liver, they handled raw very well.
All in all, the difference in the experience between our two sets of littermates was astounding.
Transitioning Your Puppy to a Raw Diet
Natural Rearing Breeder
If you're lucky enough to get a puppy from a natural rearing breeder, then your breeder can help you with feeding raw. You won't have to transition, you'll just have to keep the party going. Ask your breeder for information on ingredients, sourcing, amounts to feed, and if there is anything you'll need to know about the breed you just brought home. For instance, Dalmatians have trouble processing purines, which can be found in organ meat. Ask if you feed less or if this isn't an issue with raw. Large breed dogs may need more support for those rapidly growing bones and joints.
Taking a Puppy from Kibble to Raw – Premade Raw
If you're taking a puppy from a diet of kibble to a diet of raw, I believe that the easiest way to do this is to start with a premade raw diet. Scout and Zoey ate raw dog food from Darwin's Pet for several months before I transitioned them to DIY. Feeding Darwin's gave me time to find sourcing, work out my budget, procure an extra freezer (today, I have two), and gain a better understanding of feeding a “balanced” diet to all of my dogs.
Also, feeding a premade raw diet meant that my puppies were getting everything they needed.
Taking a Puppy from Kibble to Raw – DIY Raw
However, premade raw can be expensive, so here is a way to transition your puppy to raw with the least amount of a headache.
Transitioning Your New Puppy to Raw in 7 Steps
Many puppies don't require a long, drawn-out transition period like adult dogs. At first, go cold turkey to see how your dog dogs and if your dog is fine and there is no tummy upset, you're good to go. Simply focus on feeding a balanced (or as balanced as possible) raw diet as your puppy grows and their system matures.
If your puppy isn't going to easily transition to raw, you can try the following steps.
1 – Start with One Protein
Many people start with chicken because it's easier to procure, it's affordable, and it's easy on the gut. I suggest starting with a chicken or duck neck or, with a larger puppy, a turkey neck. When you look at the break down of meat to bone in a neck, it's about 50/50 which makes people nervous – THAT'S NOT BALANCED – however, I recommend building up to a balanced diet and then, when they reach adulthood, balance their diet over time.
Feed your puppy the chicken, duck, or turkey neck for a couple days to a week while keeping tabs on his or her poop. If your puppy isn't having any tummy issues or diarrhea/loose stool, then you can add another protein. Do this every week (or few days) to acclimate your puppy to a raw diet.
If you have a source of whole or ground raw, I'm thinking whole (head to feet) ground rabbit, then you can feed this and not worry too much about balance.
2 – Don't Go Overboard on Organ Meat
I made the mistake of feeding too much (10%) organ meat to Scout and Zoey and they gifted us with explosive diarrhea. I learned that their systems weren't developed enough to handle the rich organs so I cut way way way back and slowly added organ meat until I reached the 10% range.
I have found that grinding up organ meat is more appealing to some dogs because it can be mixed in with other ground meats. If you're feeding whole raw and your puppy isn't taking to the organ meat, consider feeding it frozen or partially frozen. Based on discussions in raw feeding groups, many puppies and dogs don't like organ meat because of the texture – keeping it frozen or partially frozen changes the texture.
3 – Don't Feed Too Much or Too Little Bone
I've seen people post warnings about feeding large breed puppies raw meaty bones. Many people believe that the excess calcium isn't good for them, however, I disagree. When dogs are eating whole foods, their bodies can better process the nutrients, keeping what the body needs, while discarding what the body doesn't need.
If you're nervous about feeding bone, then I suggest feeding your puppy under supervision and pay attention to how s/he eats their raw meaty bone. If you're still nervous, swap the bone for another tasty treat. Today, I feed my dogs duck necks and lamb necks.
4 – Feed Your Puppy Several Times a Day
It's recommended that puppies be fed three to four times a day. I personally started feeding each of our dogs twice daily when they reached 3 months of age, however, some feel that you should wait until they are around 6 months of age.
It's also important to keep filtered, clean water on hand. While a raw diet is more hydrating than dry dog food, clean water is still important because puppies will play and play and play and forget to drink. I sometimes add extra water to their meals (in the dish with the raw dog food) to make sure they are staying hydrated.
5 – Don't Forget the Supplements
I don't believe that it's necessary to add supplements straight out the gate, but I do suggest getting them in their within the first week or so. When my dream puppy joins our family, I'll be adding sardines (omega 3 fatty acids), raw eggs (as the multi-vitamin), fermented vegetables (natural probiotic), and other whole foods to their diet. When it comes to whole foods, I suggest starting slow and building to test out your puppy's tolerance.
I'll also be adding a prebiotic to help keep their gut biome healthy. It's important for our dogs to have plenty of native gut bacteria and it's best to start that process in puppyhood. I recommend In Clover Optagest. If you use KTTW10 at check out when you order from InClover.com, you'll save 10% on your order. The amount to add is on the container.
6 – Choose Healthy Treats
As with many raw feeders, once you start feeding fresh food, you begin looking for other ways to improve your dog's diet. I recommend avoiding treats in the chain pet stores and going for healthier treats at the smaller stores or online.
- Freeze-dried organ meat and meat; go easy on the freeze-dried organs at first with your puppy.
- Dehydrated organ meat, meat, vegetables, and fruit.
- Raw meaty bones like chicken necks, duck necks, and turkey necks.
7 – Avoid Recreational Bones Until the Adult Teeth Come In
Some raw feeders will disagree with this statement, however, I stand by it because I worry that puppy teeth aren't strong enough to go at a recreational bone. Some adult dogs break teeth on marrow bones and other hard bones, so I don't trust puppies with them. Instead, I stick with raw meaty bones and then introduce them to the recreational bones I trust (beef knuckle bones, buffalo knuckle bones) when their adult teeth come in. I like knuckle bones because they seem to be mostly cartilage and my dogs gnaw on them instead of trying to eat them.
Don't Beat Yourself Up
For some, learning to feed a healthy, raw diet can be overwhelming. I spent the first year feeding premade raw, the second year using a base mix because I was afraid of DIY, and then one day I went for it and each month, it got easier and easier. If I had to do it all over again, I'd start with DIY because it's easier, less expensive, and I control every ingredient our dogs consume.
Yes, the raw feeding groups can be a bit vicious and I learned that it's important to shelve my ego because my dogs were more important. It also helps to join raw feeding groups that are friendly. I speak up most in the group Raw Feeding 101 – Learn to Feed Raw.
Learn More About Raw Feeding
If you are looking for more resources other than my AWESOME BLOG, here are a few resources that are for people new and new-ish to raw feeding that you may find helpful:
- Book: A Novice's Guide to Raw Feeding for Dogs
- Resources for Raw Feeders (everyone I follow)
- Online Course: Raw Feeding 101 (you can take at your own pace)