raw feeding puppies

Supplying appropriate & optimal nutrition when feeding a puppy is important to their growth. Puppies should be fed balanced meals at each feeding.

Feeding the Dog in Front of You Matters When Building a Raw Diet

Vital nutrients can be consistently obtained through the right variety of foods in the correct amounts during a puppy’s growth. It is important to be educated about your breed(s) and if there are any deficiencies or growth abnormalities they may be predisposed to that can be addressed through their diet. We feed puppies for growth by making sure they are getting the correct types of nutrients in amounts that support them for optimal growth, not maximum growth. Because puppies cannot regulate or store nutrients the same way that adult dogs can, we need to make sure that they are being fed foods each day that provide the critical nutrition for them to physically and mentally grow properly.

Critical Recap: Your puppy’s breed matters and the types of foods that make up the calories a puppy eats determines their growth.

Using Metabolized Energy (ME) is How We Feed Puppies

Energy density of foods determines how much of what goes into a puppy’s bowl. This is because different foods bring different nutritional values. As a basic example, beef and chicken bring entirely different amounts of nutrients so we wouldn’t feed the same amount of beef as we would chicken. What else is in the bowl with the beef or the chicken also plays a part. Let’s use beef as another example and take it a little further: Different cuts of beef provide different nutrition which means they provide a puppy with different amounts of energy. Some cuts are high protein and low fat while others are high fat and bring minimal protein. We can’t feed a puppy the same amount of two different cuts of beef and have the same nutritional value across the board. Puppies eat to meet their energy requirements for growth so the appropriate method to formulate their diet, is per unit of energy. This optimally supplies them with the energy they need to grow.

Establishing your Puppy’s Resting Energy Requirements (RER)

The best choice for raw feeding puppies is via the caloric feeding method using the Nutrient Requirements of Dogs and Cats (NRC) recommendations for post weaning. I’ve shared the table with you below with authorized permission. The NRC guidelines are a guide to tell you what is the floor and what is the ceiling (if there is one) per recommendations put together by experts based on experience and studies. You take these guidelines and apply them to your puppy accounting for the variables of your pup’s life. You need to know how much energy your puppy needs before you can build any portion of their diet.

Establishing your Puppy’s Maintenance Energy Requirements (MER)

Now that you know the RER for your puppy, you must determine their Maintenance Energy Requirements (MER) for their growth stage because a puppy is growing every second of the day. The maintenance energy requirements are the number of kCals they need to take in to maintain a healthy weight through their current life stage & activity level. Calories are not a linear function of body weight. So variables do factor the MER.

You can learn about caloric feeding and what variables are factored for estimating kCals for your dog in the caloric feeding guide here or you can find it on the menu under raw feeding guides. 

Building a Raw Diet for a Puppy

When raw feeding puppies, the right kind of foods to feed a puppy can be accomplished using the food composite databases found here or on the menu under nutrition tools. 87%-93% lean meats are the appropriate choice, with 90% being the solid average to strive for when feeding a puppy. The Nutrient Requirements for puppies established by the National Research Council (NRC), state puppies aged 4 weeks-14 weeks are recommended to be fed 56.3 grams of protein per 1,000 kCals. This number decreases as the puppy ages but the lowest Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) for puppies and protein is 43.8 grams per 1,000 kCals.

Puppies have higher nutrients requirements than adult dogs so you want to provide your puppy with a range of beneficial nutrients that can only be gained through the appropriate amounts of proteins, fats, vitamins + minerals. Not every type and cut of meat or organ offers the same value and not everything your puppy needs to grow optimally can be found in just meat/bones/organs. Particularly, a pup’s calcium needs are much higher than an adult dog’s calcium needs so making sure the correct amount of calcium for the pup’s breed and age is important. Other nutrients such as vitamin D3 impact the absorption of calcium and phosphorus so attention to the correct amounts of everything is needed.

Ratio Feeding is not the Correct Way to Feed Puppies

Raw feeding puppies is intricate and requires time and planning. After auditing many puppy diets and seeing the deficiencies & elevated levels of various nutrients and reviewing case studies as part of required reading in companion animal nutrition classes, I cannot recommend ratio feeding for puppies. You just cannot meet their needs via guesses. There are a lot of fantastic tools online and nutrition books that can help you with caloric feeding. Visit the menu to access these types of tools here on SCRFD.

Food for Thought: There is an element of integration that is important to help occur when feeding your puppy a raw diet. You want to first make sure that your puppy is getting optimal nutrition and second, emulate the ancestral diet to a certain extent.

Whole Foods Your Puppy Should Eat

muscle meats • bones • organs • fish •  eggs • mollusks • sea vegetables • land plants • fruits • seeds • nuts • herbs • other appropriate supplements

Raw Facts: Some foods must be made bioavailable for your dog to benefit from them. Do your homework about each food you are considering feeding to see the best way to give it to your puppy.

Too much or too little of something can negatively impact another nutrient level. Balance is key.

2006 NRC Nutrient Requirements for Puppies after Weaning

Press or click each image to view the table

Critical Information: It is important to note that large and giant breeds have different skeletal growth than other size breeds of puppies.

Click or press here to learn about the appropriate nutrient levels for large and giant breed puppies. 

It is best to work with a professional raw diet formulator when initially creating meal plans for your puppy. This arms you with an appropriately balanced plan for you to learn from. 

raw feeding puppies

Raw Feeding Puppies & How the Average Feeder Can Strive for Balance

Only proteins, fats, and carbohydrates provide energy; vitamins, minerals, and water do not. Notice the NRC recommended protein intake changes based on a puppy’s age while the fats, vitamins, and minerals recommendations apply to puppies aged 4 weeks and older. You can use the nutrition tools provided for you in this guide to make this all come together by feeding the foods talked about and checking the food values you choose in the databases. Some puppies require more and some require less, breed plays a large part in the foundation of how you need to feed your puppy. Though water does not provide energy, water is vital to life and to the optimal functionality of your pup’s internal systems. Offer your pup fresh water with each meal and through the day to ensure they are taking in an appropriate amount of water.

Key Gut Support Suggestions

Canine Specific Probiotic (with prebiotic): There are specific strains of bacteria that are optimally beneficial for dogs such as: Bifidobacterium animalis lactis, Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus rhamnosus, Lactobacillus salivarius, Lactobacillus plantarum, Lactobacillus reuteri. Look for high-grade products that have these on their ingredients list. Number of CFU’s does play a part in the benefits of a probiotic but it is really about the particular strains that impacts/supports the gut. Choosing a probiotic that contains a prebiotic when feeding a puppy is important because puppies don’t have the same microbiota as adults and providing prebiotics helps build and maintain a healthy gut microbiota.

Milk Kefir: Offering your puppy raw milk kefir just a few minutes before they eat helps with digestion and act as great probiotic. Some feeders like to use goat milk too. If your pup is yeasty, then don’t give them plain milk as it can feed the yeast. Stick to kefir. The fermentation changes the structure of the raw milk. The kefir feeds off the sugar and eats the lactose in the milk. 

Slippery Elm: The Slippery Elm is a species of Elm tree used in herbal medicine. It is a high soluble fiber known as mucilage. Slippery Elm is known to provide nutritive support for gastrointestinal wellness.

Ferment Veggies: Fermenting for your puppy focusing on dark green & leafy veggies like kale, spinach, dandelion leaves, cilantro, and beet tops to offer as 50% of the mix and sweet veggies as the other 50% such as sweet bell peppers, zucchini, and celery. Feeding your puppy greens offers vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants plus fiber.

Suggested Foods to Feed your Puppy to Offer a More Balanced Meal

Give your puppy raw eggs. An egg is considered a complete food and an easily digested protein source for dogs. Balanced recipes often call for raw eggs and sometimes they may also call for the shell depending on the other calcium sources formulated into the recipe. 

Feed your puppy oily fish such as raw sardines or mackerel. Salmon is another excellent fish to offer but it ought to be cooked. Oily fish helps boost Omega3s.

Zinc is another important part of your puppy’s diet. Red meat is a great source of zinc. You can also offer your pup Eastern oysters for zinc. Some feeders like to ferment raw (no salt) pumpkin seeds as a zinc boost option. Zinc is important for the immune system and skin + coat.

Add Ocean Kelp to your pup’s meals to help get vital trace minerals into their body. Kelp is a sea vegetable and it has a plethora of minerals + trace minerals as well as amino acids. Kelp is iodine rich so it provides support to the glandular system, particularly the pituitary, adrenal, and thyroid glands. Kelp is a great food source for metabolism support. Ensure you follow the prescribed measurements on the kelp product that fits your dog’s needs. Kelp is heavy in metals so you don’t want to give it daily if you have the option to reach for a high-quality beef and or Eastern oysters. 

Vitamin E is an important vitamin that can be low in a raw diet, this can be fed via foods or it can be met via a high-grade, gluten, wheat, and dairy free complex.

Blanched and/or pureed veggies contributes to the macronutrients as fiber and they can provide boosts of vitamins + minerals as long as they’ve been properly prepared. Correct preparation of vegetables is important for them to be bioavailable to your puppy.

SoCal Raw Fed Dogs offers NRC and FEDIAF balanced formulation services for puppy owners

The owner, Amy Granillo, CHN, DipCN, CertCN is trained and equipped to formulate & plan NRC • FEDIAF • AAFCO balanced diets for puppies. If you would like to learn about these options and the other raw feeding services we offer, you can find them on the menu under raw feeding service