Feeding Puppies A Fresh Food Diet
"Nutrition is never black and white but ever changing shades of grey"
Meg Smart, DMV, PHD
Puppies bring joy, laughter and love into our lives. As responsible and loving guardians we want to provide all the ingredients for a long and healthy life. The role of nutrition for growing puppies establishes a solid foundation for development of the endocrine, immune, cardiovascular, musculoskeletal, and nervous systems begins at conception. This is why the demand for raw feed puppies from raw fed mother's has increased over the years as the benefits of fresh foods becomes more widely known and accepted. Puppies weaned at 4 weeks of age to a fresh food diet rather than processed foods are frequently described as healthy, strong, robust, calm, and smart. For those of us who have been charmed by an adorable puppy who was not initially weaned to a fresh food diet there is hope! Babies, regardless of their age, make the transition quite easily and will reap the health advantages of a real food diet.
The concern is often raised that feeding a fresh food diet will not supply all the nutrients required for a growing puppy. It is important to remember that pet food industry standards focus on nutrients not ingredients. These standards provide the minimal nutrient level to prevent deficiency. The nutrients in these purified, sterile diets are composed of essential amino acids, fatty acids, vitamins micro and macro minerals to simply sustain growth. This is reflected in the disease processes such as arthritis, cancer, diabetes, obesity, kidney and liver disease that commonly plague animals fed a lifetime of kibble. In contrast a fresh food or an ancestral diet is based on evolution and wellness rather than sickness. The focus is on functional whole food ingredients that support optimum health throughout the life of the animal.
Puppies eat from 5% to 10% of their daily body weight. For example a 20-pound puppy would eat 2 pounds of food a day. This will vary with breed, metabolism, and activity. At adulthood dogs will eat 2% to 3% of their body weight a day. Ultimately, the best test for weight is to observe your dog and increase the amount you are feeding if he is too thin and feed less if your dog is too heavy. Keep in mind that puppies will experience growth spurts which will require an increase in amount of food ingested. Puppies need 3 meals a day until they are 6 months old and then they can be fed twice a day. The key to feeding puppies is to prevent obesity.
The health of the growth plate in a growing puppy will have a significant impact on the ability to reach their genetic potential. The growth plate is very dynamic and requires specific nutrients to differentiate and mature. Vitamin D aides differentiation of stem cells. Formation of collagen is dependent on iron, copper, zinc, magnesium, vitamin D, C and A. Maturation of collagen requires copper and iodine. These nutrients are found in nutrient dense organ meats such as liver, kidney, heart and spleen. Proper growth plate development and maturation will impact animals as they age. Any disruption in this process may result in musculoskeletal issues, bone cancers, and ligament injury.
In October of 2009, Lucy, age 8 weeks, joined our family. Lucy transitioned with ease and minimal digestive upset. For the first 4 months I kept her diet simple and limited meat types to lamb, rabbit, pork and turkey and vegetables to canned pumpkin. She received a Prebiotic each morning and I added slippery elm to all her ground meat meals. After 4 months she easily tolerated an increase in variety of meat and vegetables. As I have evolved and furthered my education, I now advise people to include bone broth, raw goats milk and fermented vegetables such as sauerkraut in their puppy's diet.
Meat types - To ensure sufficient amounts of the Essential Fatty Acids and amino acids it is important to feed a combination of meat types such as lamb, turkey, pork and rabbit. Organ meat such as liver, heart, kidney, or spleen should also be added to meals in small quantities. Meg’s Meats ground lamb and pork has organ meat mixed with the ground muscle meat
Raw Goat's Milk
Yogurt- Whole raw goat’s milk yogurt is often easier for puppies to digest than other type of yogurts. Yogurt contains probiotic organisms which support the resident microflora
Vegetables – Canned pumpkin is a good source of fiber and will help to keep stools firm.
Bones- always feed bones, raw. Ultimately feed a diet that consists of 50% bones. This helps to prevent skeletal problems. Meg’s Meats, bone dust, mixed in with ground meat meals can help ease the transition to bones.
Slippery Elm is a gentle herb that lubricates, soothes, and protects internal mucus membranes of the digestive tract. It aids diarrhea, colitis, irritations of the stomach and constipation. Slippery Elm is also nutritious as it contains vitamin A, B complex, C, K, calcium, magnesium, and sodium. It can be fed to animals as a digestive tonic – 1 teaspoon of the dried herb steeped in 8 ounces of hot water or chicken broth. This can be fed alone or mixed with the ground meat meal.
Pre-biotics are defined as indigestible food ingredients that beneficially affect the host by selectively stimulating the growth of bacteria which have the potential to improve host health. They are a class of carbohydrates known as oligosaccharides which are indigestible in the stomach and small intestine. They remain intact until they reach the large intestine and are broken down and fermented by the resident microflora. This results in proper digestion of food and elimination of waste.