At What Age Can My Cat or Dog Start a Raw Diet?

Jun 08, 2021 Dan

FEEDING PUPPIES AND KITTENS A RAW DIET

The following opinions and views are based on a healthy puppy and/or kitten with no serious medical conditions that can be affected by nutrition.  In situations where nutritional decisions can affect the health conditions, it is best to seek the advice of a certified nutritionist.

For over 10 years now, we have been helping and guiding pet parents with feeding their pets’ a diet of real, species-appropriate food.  In fact, we have helped so many pet parents start their puppies and kittens on raw and during this time not once have we heard or experienced any negative health issues due to a raw food diet.

Several of our store associates have started their dogs on a raw diet as puppies and all have grown into wonderful and healthy pets.  Donna and I started our Oliver (Black Lab) as a puppy, and he enjoyed a wonderful and healthy 14.5 years with us.  Eddie, a Bernese Mountain Dog and famous store dog who owns Ann our manager, is the epitome of health at just over 8 years old and is thriving.

So why is there a negative stigma attached to the notion of feeding a puppy or kitten a real food diet?  We hear it from customers, and we read about it in different feeding groups.  

“You should only feed kibble during the first year and then switch to raw”.

“Your dog/cat will not get all of the proper nutrients they need during their formative growth months”.

In most instances, it is the influence that some (not all) veterinarians and vet technicians have on the decision as to what to feed and what not to feed.  Here is a typical conversation that we have with owners who have already started their cat or dog on a raw diet:

 

Pet Parent: So, I wanted to ask you about the food we are feeding.

BTTB Store Associate: Sure, what do you want to know?

Pet Parent: Well, my vet is concerned that my puppy is not getting all of the nutrients they need for proper growth and development by being on a raw diet and I want to make sure I am doing the right thing.

BTTB Store Associate: Oh, I see.  So, can I ask you a few questions?

Pet Parent:  Sure, go ahead.

BTTB Store Associate:  Did your vet ask you specifically what you are feeding?

Pet Parent:  No

BTTB Store Associate:  Did your vet ask to see the full nutritional’s of the food you are feeding?

Pet Parent:  No

BTTB Store Associate:  So how would your vet know that what you are feeding will not meet the needs of a puppy?

Pet Parent:  Good point!

The real point here is that most vets and vet techs, many breeders and other pet community influencers are ignorant of what a balanced raw food menu plan looks like.  More importantly, they have no idea what the nutritional’s are and whether or not it will meet the needs of a growing puppy or kitten.  Lack of education is the main reason for this.  There is also a conflict of interest between Large Pet Food Manufacturers and Veterinarians (including their respective associations) as well as breeders that are compensated by different kibble manufacturers for pushing their food onto new pet parents.

A little more on this later.

 

THE SOONER THE BETTER!!!

  1. The sooner you get them used to a moisture-rich food in their bowl the better.  The last thing you want to deal with is having to manage the eating behaviour of a picky dog.
  2. Healthy Gut = Strong Immune System.  Feeding a real, raw food diet will feed the microbiome and in turn will help develop both a healthy gut and lower digestive tract.  It is an important factor in ensuring our pups and kittens get off on the right foot by supporting a healthy and strong immune system. 
  3. Feeding the pleasure centre.  When a dog or cat is engaged to their food it releases happy hormones when they eat.  The gut – brain connection is very well documented now.  Remember, happy puppy/kitten, happy life. Nutrition absolutely plays a part in mood and behaviours. 

 

How To Start?

Puppies and kittens are easy peasy to get going on raw.  They have no past addictions and current preferences.  

A.  Start cold turkey and introduce one protein.  We like to start with a turkey.  Great to start with since very few dogs and cats have issues with turkey and a low-fat option will be easy on digestion.  Feed for a couple of days and then start to introduce another protein, like chicken, beef, or lamb.  Raw fat is huge important in a diet and feeding different fats from different protein sources is great for their overall health.

B.  Feed an amount that will meet their growth requirements.  Many will suggest feeding anywhere from 2% to 3% of future adult bodyweight.  That can be a daunting task especially if you have not met the parents.  Generally, you would feed 10% of bodyweight at 8 weeks of age and that will decrease to 4% at around 6 or 7 months of age.  A great way to check on feeding amounts is to use our Raw Feeding Calculator.

C.  Feed complete dinners that contain the appropriate amounts of muscle meat, bone, organ meat (and the right organs), phytonutrients from some veg, fruit, botanicals, and seeds as well a sea kelp.

D.  Rotate your proteins.  Feed a minimum of 3 different proteins over a 3-week period.  Variety is the spice of life, and a variety of proteins will ensure your puppy or kitten is getting all of the macro and micronutrients they need.

E.  Feed 3 times a day until your puppy or kitten is anywhere from 5 to 7 months in age.  You can go down to twice a day thereafter.

F.  Start to introduce raw meaty bones appropriate for the breed and size.  Meal replacement raw meaty bones like chicken necks, chicken feet and duck necks are great for growing pups and kittens.  The bone is relatively soft and gives them a great workout.

G.  Supplement with a good source of Omega 3’s to help balance off the high Omega 6’s in their diet.  Good to get them use to a good fish oil in their diet at a young age.

A Note About Calcium and Phosphorous Ratios

Many people have heard horror stories about dogs being fed a diet that has led to lack of bone growth and development.  Balancing the right amount of phosphorous and calcium in the diet will ensure that proper bone formation and development occurs during the first two years.  DIY feeders really need to pay attention to this.  The complete dinners that we offer all have the correct ratios (within reason) to ensure your pup and/or kitten are getting everything they need. 

Despite what the kibble manufacturers say, it is pretty easy to balance calcium and phosphorus. Plus, there is a wider margin of error when feeding raw. Calcium that comes in a synthetic powder is nearly impossible for a puppy to excrete. This means an excess of calcium is more of a concern with synthetic products than with the naturally occurring calcium found in bones.  Another benefit of feeding real food that has a high bio-availability factor.

A Few Final Thoughts

  1. If you have done your research and have decided to start your pup or kitten off on raw, then it is really important to find a veterinarian that will work with you and not against you.  Having to deal with a veterinarian office that does not support nor understand your choice of food for your pet will make it difficult to create a good foundation for a healthcare plan for your pet.
  2. If your breeder makes you sign a document that states the guarantee is null and void if you do not feed the kibble they recommend, then you may want to reconsider purchasing a puppy or kitten from that breeder.  Nine times out of ten there is a financial relationship between the breeder and the kibble manufacturer.  The breeder is not recommending the food because it is the best food available for your pet, they are recommending the food because there is a kick-back directly to them. 
  3. All we want is to give our pets the best and give them the best chance at a long and happy life.  Some things we cannot control, but there are many we can.  How we vaccinate, when we decide to spay/neuter, maintaining proper weight and providing physical and mental stimulation to name a few.  What we decide to feed our pets is of huge importance.  Remember, we are what we eat and that The Proof is In The Poop!!!