Can My Puppy Eat A Raw Diet?

Like any small mammal, a puppy has specific nutritional needs that you must meet for it to grow into a healthy adult dog. That’s why there are dog foods made specifically for puppies, as their needs are significantly different from an adult dog’s. 

One of the biggest trends in the last few years is to feed dogs a raw diet, i.e. foods that haven’t been cooked. It makes sense when you consider that, in the wild, dogs and other canines always eat a raw diet. (They’ve never learned how to use a barbecue, unfortunately.)

With that in mind, I was thinking about a question I get from many of my readers about their puppies and the best food to feed them. Many have heard about raw diets for dogs and thus wonder, “can my puppy eat a raw diet?”

The answer is that, yes, your puppy can eat a raw diet. Indeed, many dog experts and veterinarians believe that a raw diet is the best diet for a puppy and, when done correctly, will provide all of the nutrition they need to mature and grow. 

Of course, as with any diet for your pup, you need to ensure that they get all of the nutrients they need no matter what you feed them. That goes for a raw diet, also, and means extra time and effort is required to do it right. 

There are also some who believe that a puppy should only eat cooked food as it’s the only way to ensure that any pathogens in the food are killed. That way, the puppy (and possibly its owners) won’t get sick. That’s why proper handling is a must.

Now that you know your puppy can eat a raw diet, you likely have more questions about how it’s done. When can you start your pup on a raw diet, for example, and what raw food is recommended for them. If you do, read on. I’ve got lots of information, and real-world advice below that can help you!

Is a Raw Diet Good for Puppies?

There’s a lot of debate, frankly, about whether a raw diet is good for puppies. On the one side, raw diet advocates say that, in the wild, a raw diet is the normal, natural order of things. On the other hand, you have those who say that feeding a puppy a raw diet opens them and their owners up to health risks, primarily due to food contamination and nutritional imbalance.

The fact is, though, that a raw diet, when done well, is healthy for puppies. Raw diet advocates argue that it’s the best, most natural way to nourish a puppy and give it the nutrition it needs to be healthy and grow into a strong adult dog.

Raw food advocates will tell you that there are many benefits a raw diet delivers over a typical puppy food diet, including:

  • Shinier coats
  • Healthier skin
  • Increased energy
  • Smaller stools (i.e., poop)
  • Better dental health (gums and teeth)
  • More robust, healthier bones and muscles

What is a Raw Food Diet for Puppies?

A raw food diet for puppies is pretty much exactly what it sounds like; raw food that hasn’t been cooked. It consists of uncooked protein in the form of beef, fish, pork, or chicken and several different types of uncooked grains, fruits, and vegetables. 

The meat in a raw food diet for puppies usually is from an animal’s organs and muscles. It can be the entire bone and flesh or, in some cases, ground bone. It also includes raw eggs, which are exceptionally nutritious.

Experts say that raw food can be fed to puppies very much like it’s fed to adult dogs. That being said, some adjustments to the ratio of raw food must be made when feeding it to pups. That way, they will get all of the essential nutrients they need from the raw food they eat, including:

  • Water
  • Protein
  • Fats
  • Carbohydrates
  • Minerals such as calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, and manganese.
  • Vitamins including A, D, E, K, B-complex.

When Can I Start My Puppy on a Raw Diet?

Veterinarians and canine experts recommend starting a puppy on a raw diet when they are between 8 and 12 weeks of age. Before that time, they will likely still be feeding exclusively from their mother’s milk. During this time, their teeth and the digestive system might not be ready for raw food.

Interestingly, but not surprisingly, it’s recommended that you give the dam (doggy momma) raw food before she whelps her pups. They say that this can improve her pup’s health, including their immune system. It can also help the puppy to handle raw food later when you start feeding it to them.

How To Wean My Puppy Onto a Raw Diet

When weaning your puppy onto a raw diet, experts recommend doing it gradually, especially if they’ve been eating processed puppy food. The process is similar for puppies who have only been feeding on their mother’s milk, just as it would be if you were weaning them onto regular puppy chow.

The best recommendation is to start by giving them 1/4 of the food they eat as raw food and ensuring they don’t have any adverse reactions. Then, slowly but surely, you can reduce the amount of processed food and increase the amount of raw food until they are eating 100% raw.

One of the ways to make sure your puppy is responding well to a raw food diet is to check its stool. If it’s solid and firm, that’s a good sign. If it’s loose and watery, you may want to cut back on the raw food until their stomach gets accustomed to it. 

What is the Recommended Raw Diet for Puppies? 

If you want to feed your puppy a raw diet, you can make it yourself or buy it at the store. (Store-bought raw food usually comes either freeze-dried or dehydrated.)  Raw food diet advocates and veterinarians recommend that, whatever raw food should you feed your puppy, it includes the following ingredients:

  • Organ meats like liver and kidney.
  • Muscle meats, typically still on the bone.
  • Whole or ground bone.
  • Some dairy, including yogurt.
  • Fresh fruits and vegetables that are dog safe. Broccoli, spinach, celery, apples, and bananas are good choices.
  • Raw eggs.

Final Thoughts

If you’re asking yourself, “Can my puppy eat a raw diet?” the answer is yes, they certainly can. Many veterinarians and the American Kennel Club approve of raw food for pups, as long as it’s given with due diligence and proper handling. Yes, there are some risks, but they are small compared to the benefits a raw diet delivers.

I hope you enjoyed this blog and that it gave you the information you were looking for today. If you have more questions, need advice, or want to learn more about taking care of your new puppy, please see my other blogs on the subject. They’re chock-full of excellent, real-world information that can help you raise your precious puppy into a healthy, happy adult dog.