You may already know that a raw diet is a more biologically appropriate way to feed Fido. Raw-fed dogs are a healthier weight, have stronger muscles and immune systems, shinier coats and even whiter teeth!
So as you welcome a cuddly new puppy into your life, you may wonder: Is a raw diet safe for puppies? When is the right time to transition your furriest new family member to a healthy raw diet?
Can Puppies Eat a Raw Diet?
Many things that are safe for adult dogs aren’t appropriate for still-growing pups. Therefore, it’s reasonable that pet parents would ask if raw food is safe for puppies.
The biggest risks of raw food for puppies come from homemade raw diets. The raw meat you buy from the grocery store — a package of chicken breast, for example — are intended to be cooked before consumption, and therefore carry the risk of harmful microbes such as salmonella. If your puppy consumes a harmful microbe, they may be at risk of serious health consequences.
However, a commercial raw diet like Vital Essentials is made specifically for pets, meets stringent safety standards, and is designed to be eaten as-is — no cooking or other prep required.
Therefore, yes, it is safe to feed puppies raw food — and you can start getting all those good benefits of a healthy raw diet right away!
Benefits of a Raw Diet for Puppies
All of the incredible benefits of a raw diet for adult dogs are also true for puppies — as well as a few unique health benefits of starting a puppy off right on a nutritious raw diet!
Digestive Benefits: One of the biggest benefits of a raw diet is that your puppy’s digestive system isn’t exposed to unnatural preservatives, chemicals and dyes while it’s still developing. These processed, artificial ingredients don’t support the healthy gut microbes that are necessary to make sure your pup’s digestive system function as intended.
A raw diet, on the other hand, is a natural probiotic. If healthy gut microbes are established in your pup’s intestinal tract while they are still young, it’ll be easier for their bodies to continue to support a healthy digestive system throughout their life. That keeps everything moving along as it should — and makes for an easier cleanup at potty time!
Immune Benefits: A raw diet for puppies also promotes a strong immune system right away, boosting lifelong immunity. Breeders and researchers have observed that raw-fed puppies grow up with stronger immune systems than puppies fed traditional kibble.
Coat and Skin Benefits: Plus, the high fat and protein content in a raw diet promotes your pup’s natural oils, keeping their coat shiny and oh-so-soft and their skin nicely moisturized. Raw-fed pups rarely have issues with dandruff or dry skin!
Bone and Muscle Benefits: Finally, the most obvious benefit of raising your puppy on raw is that they develop more muscle and a stronger bone structure as they grow. Your pup’s body uses the protein they consume as the building blocks of their muscles and tissues — so when that protein is butcher grade, high-quality meat, that naturally results in high-quality muscles!
Risks of a Raw Diet for Puppies
Protein-rich high-quality meat is one of the biggest benefits of a raw diet — but there is such a thing as too much of a good thing!
When puppies are still growing, too much protein can result in growing too fast. Slow and steady weight gain is key for all puppies, but especially large breeds. Large-breed puppies like St. Bernards and Irish Wolfhounds grow at astounding rates — far faster than their wild wolf ancestors.
If your puppy grows too fast, this can cause serious health problems, so make sure to monitor your pup’s weight and follow your vet’s advice to reduce meals if needed. For pet parents previously used to feeding grain-heavy kibble, it can be deceptive how little raw food you actually need to feed for a comparable level of energy. A little goes a long way when the food is this rich in protein and nutrients!
As with many things in life, moderation is key. Be careful and intentional about the amount of raw food you are giving your pup. Most veterinarians recommend calculating how much you should feed your puppy based on their predicted adult weight, not on their current weight.
Remember that your feeding patterns will also change often as Fido grows up. Very young puppies should have several small meals a day, which is gradually condensed into two meals by the time your pup is six months old.
The other chief concern, if you choose to feed a homemade raw diet, is ensuring your puppy gets all the right nutrients in the right amounts. The most important is the correct calcium-to-phosphorus ratio.
If you feed a commercial raw diet approved for all life stages such as Vital Essentials freeze-dried or frozen dog food, then this is not a concern. If you do feed a homemade raw diet instead, that can be extremely risky to your growing puppy’s health and should only be done under the supervision of a certified canine nutritionist.
How to Start Feeding a Puppy a Raw Diet
You can start transitioning your puppy to a raw diet as early as 8 or 9 weeks, which is around the age most puppies are picked up from a breeder or adopted. Wherever you acquire your puppy, make sure you talk to their previous caregiver about how and when they were weaned and what diet they are currently on.
Transition your puppy to a raw diet slowly. The process is the same as it would be for transitioning an older dog, except because the portions are much smaller, the process needs to be slower, too.
Start with introducing a tiny amount of raw to your pup’s meals, then incrementally increase the proportion over the course of a few weeks or even a month. Monitor your pup’s bowel movements during this time. Puppies can develop diarrhea for a variety of reasons, but one possibility is that their stomach is still adjusting to the new food. Don’t increase the proportion of raw until you see firm, hard, healthy stool!
While there are many ways to introduce raw to your pup, we recommend starting with Freeze-Dried Toppers. These easy-to-feed foods can be sprinkled for a light dusting of raw meat goodness, getting your pup used to the taste and prompting their digestive system to develop the necessary gut microbes.
What is the Best Raw Food for Puppies?
The best raw food for puppies is full of natural nutrients — not reliant on artificial ingredients that have been added later. It should be made from quality starting ingredients, like butcher-quality real meat, that has been minimally processed so all those natural vitamins and enzymes are retained.
Raw puppy food should also be protein-rich, low carb, grain free, and high in digestive enzymes and probiotics. Digestive enzymes are especially concentrated in green tripe, making it the perfect supplement to your puppy’s healthy diet!
A healthy raw diet offers many benefits for your canine companions. Feeding your puppy a raw diet sets them up for success with a strong, healthy start to life!
Once you’ve mastered your pups diet, check out this list of 10 essential puppy supplies.