How to Feed a Puppy a Raw Diet

Raw chicken is best to introduce raw foods to your puppy.
Raw chicken is best to introduce raw foods to your puppy. (Image: Thomas Northcut/Digital Vision/Getty Images)

Widespread pet food recalls have caused many dog owners to reconsider feeding their pets commercial dog food. Pets suffering from food allergies, have prompted other owners to follow suit. Many raw food proponents for dogs believe a species-appropriate diet should model the prey killed by wolves in the wild. They claim dogs thrive on a raw diet that is varied, fresh and rich in amino acids and enzymes that haven't been diminished by cooking. You can switch your pup from kibble to raw foods quickly following a few guidelines.

Things You'll Need

  • Raw meat and bones
  • Raw fish
  • Whole eggs
  • Shredded organic vegetables (optional)
  • Organic fruit (optional)

Fast the puppy for a day before changing from commercial food to a raw diet. Avoiding solid food for a day gives its system time to digest and clear out any remaining kibble.

Pick one protein source and feed it to your puppy exclusively for a week or more. Start with chicken thighs, which are easily digestible, affordable and widely available. Despite rumors, chicken bones are only dangerous to dogs when the bones are cooked and become brittle. They can then splinter in the intestinal tract. Raw chicken bones are soft. Generally, feed puppies up to six months of age three times a day, switch to two feedings a day when the pup is six months old, then to one when it finishes growing at about a year.

Get to know your dog and experiment to determine the proper amounts to feed it as it grows. The amount fed is dependent on the size, activity level and appetite of the dog. A general guideline: for puppies, feed 2 to 3 percent of the dog's anticipated weight when fully grown; when fully grown dogs should eat 2 to 3 percent of its weight a day. Active dogs require the higher amount, while a more sedentary pooch will require less.

Introduce new foods slowly. With raw food there is no need for concern about balancing the dog's diet. Any animal that swims, runs or flies is appropriate. Raw food proponents believe dogs are carnivorous and don't require grains, vegetables or supplements. Feeding too much variety too soon can cause intestinal upset. Go slow and give the dog's system time to adjust to new foods.

Keep organ meats to a minimum in the pup's diet. Organ meats are rich in nutrients and a vital source of vitamins and minerals for your dog. But too much organ meat in one serving, especially liver, can cause diarrhea. Serve organ meat regularly but in small quantities. Watch to make sure whether the organ meat is causing the dog to have loose stools. If it does, reduce the amount you feed it.

Add vegetables and fruits to your pup’s diet if you choose. Raw food proponents stress that fruits and vegetables aren’t necessary for a dog’s health. Yet, many dogs enjoy the taste of fruits and vegetables and for those dogs the treats are useful as training aids.

Give your puppy frozen, raw, meaty bones. Don’t cut raw bones into small pieces because it can cause the dog to choke. The larger the bone, the better. Meaty bones help puppies teethe and keep their teeth clean.

Pluck large primary feathers before feeding wild fowl to dogs. Dogs can eat soft, downy feathers, but sharp primary feathers can cut their mouths and throats.

Tips & Warnings

  • Some veterinarians warn against raw food diets, due to the risk of bacterial contamination, dietary imbalances, and internal injury from inadequately chewed bones.
  • Remove all buckshot from wild game before feeding it to your dog. Some shot is lead-based, causing possible lead poisoning in your dog.
  • Freeze wild game and raw salmon, steelhead and trout for at least 24 hours before feeding to kill parasites.
  • Freeze wild rodents for a month before serving to your dog. Wild rodents carry many parasites and diseases including tapeworm and the plague.
  • Avoid feeding large bones, such as cow femur and knuckle bones, as they can break the dog's teeth.
  • Cut off sharp spines or fins on fish before feeding them to your dog.
  • If you choose to supplement your dog's meat diet with vegetables and fruit, avoid onions and raisins, which are toxic to them.

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