A raw diet for dogs, well you’ve probably heard it mentioned quite a bit but… yeah we know it also sounds a bit scary and gross. It is becoming more popular though and many people have started feeding their pups on a raw diet, so what exactly is it? And should your pup be on a raw diet too?

There is definitely a camp of people that only feed raw and can preach quite a bit to those that feed a home-cooked diet, kibble and wet food and vice versa. Everyone is passionate about the way they feed and why, so it can sometimes be a bit overwhelming knowing who or what to believe and deciding the right diet for your puppy. We’re here to help you unravel some of the myths and facts. 

We’ll be straight with you. Here at Zigzag we don’t believe that there is one diet that suits every puppy or every dog, because well…they’re as individual as you and I, aren’t they? There also isn’t one diet that suits everyone’s lifestyle and budget.  While some people might be delighted to create nutritionally balanced homemade recipes for their puppy, many others don’t have the time, or the inclination, and that’s just fine. You do the best for your puppy, as long as the diet is nutritionally balanced and you’re feeding the right amount for them. Please don’t beat yourself up.

If you’re choosing to feed a commercial diet that can be bought and aren’t sure how much to feed we have a handy food calculator within the Zigzag app. You can input your puppy’s expected adult weight, their age, what food you’re feeding them, and hey presto, it will tell you how much they should be eating. We also have a team of fully qualified dog trainers and behaviourists to help you out with any queries you might have about training your puppy or general care and advice. 

Dog licked meat from hand
Photo by Camylla Battani on Unsplash

What is a raw diet for puppies?

So back to raw food… What exactly is it? There are quite a few different names that people use for a raw diet, you might have heard of the BARF diet, I know…the fact that it’s called BARF doesn’t make it sound great does it? But it actually stands for bone and raw food, or there’s RMBD, that’s the raw meaty bones diet, sounds much more appetising than BARF!

Raw diets can be homemade, where you put it all together and work out the ratios of protein, fats, carbs, vitamins and minerals yourself or following one of the recipes created by a qualified vet or dog nutritionist. 

A commercially produced raw diet usually, but not always, comes as a mince with all of the components combined, or you may buy a meat mix and a vegetable mix and combine the two yourself.

You can also get a dehydrated or freeze dried raw diet which can be more convenient for some people – no mess!

Ingredients of a raw diet typically include organ and muscle meat, bone, either whole or ground, raw eggs and fresh fruit and veg. There is also often a dairy product such as yoghurt or kefir too.

People who feed their puppies and dogs a raw diet, say there are many health benefits such as better dental health, healthier skin and a shinier coat, a stronger immune system, smaller poos which are less smelly, and dogs that overall have more energy. This may be explained by a lower fibre and higher fat amount in the raw diet for puppies. 

Commercial raw diet companies should have had their food approved by the Animal and Plant Health Agency to ensure their raw diet for puppies contains approved ingredients.  

Critics of feeding puppies a raw diet, say that there is no scientific evidence to say that a raw diet is better for dogs than a commercial home-cooked or dry/wet complete diet.

Are raw diets safe for puppies?

While puppies can eat raw diets just like adult dogs can, there are also some safety concerns in feeding a raw diet for puppies that will pop up. 

  • Raw diets are not heat-treated or pasteurised therefore, bacterial infections like Salmonella and Campylobacter are a risk. These infections are also zoonotic and can be transmitted to humans.  
  • Puppies have different energy requirements and nutritional needs to an adult dog, so making sure the raw diet is made specifically for puppies is important. Long term use of an inappropriate diet can lead to nutritional deficiencies and cause big health problems such as rickets, and hyperparathyroidism.
  • Feeding a puppy bones can be a choking risk or cause broken teeth.

    Learn how to check and clean your puppy’s teeth in our handy guide. 

You should also be aware that many veterinary associations have released statements advising against the use of raw diets due to the risks posed to both animal and human health. Before choosing a raw diet for puppies, you should take note of the risks above, and ask yourself if you have it covered, and whether it’s the right thing for your puppy. 

Dog sitting next to bowl
Photo by FLOUFFY on Unsplash

When should I introduce a raw diet to my pup?

If you’re thinking about trying a raw diet for puppies, there are a few different ways you can do this and some tips you might want to follow.

You can feed puppies a raw diet from 8-12 weeks of age

Some breeders even rear their puppies on a raw diet. It is a safe diet as long as it’s age-appropriate and you take precautions to store the raw food properly. 

You can feed puppies a raw diet some of the time

Despite what some websites will say, you can feed some components of a raw diet for puppies alongside a non-raw diet. In fact feeding some fresh ingredients in a puppy diet can be very beneficial to their health. Vegetables can be good for creating a healthy microbiome, and giving a puppy raw bones is generally safer than giving them rawhide or cooked bones! 

Are raw diets for pups more expensive?

Raw diets for puppies can be as cheap or as expensive as you choose. Some of the commercial raw diets, which are pre-prepared can be very expensive, especially if you have a large breed of dog that requires a large amount of food! 

Similarly, a small breed of dog eating a homemade raw diet can be fed very cheaply, don’t forget the supplements though. They can add quite a lot of cost on top!

Whichever route you choose, do consult your Veterinarian and make sure that a raw diet for puppies is not going to cause your puppy any health concerns. 

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In summary, a raw diet for puppies is not for everyone, and it will not magically solve all of your dog’s health problems.  If you have a dog who is immunocompromised or is undergoing veterinary care for cancer or IBD, then other diets such as home-cooked may be a much better choice for them. You can always add fresh ingredients to your puppy’s food, or feed them some cooked food to their regular diet if you want to give them some variety. 

puppy jumping for food
Photo by Kacper Chrzanowski on Unsplash

If you’re looking for more tips and advice on feeding your puppy, why not check out our article on puppy nutrition? You’ll also find information, including a food calculator for commercial raw, homecooked, dry and wet puppy food, download the Zigzag puppy app. We’ll take you on a step by step journey to a well trained pup and have a team of puppy coaches on hand to be on the other end of the phone,Whatsappp or email when you need them.