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How to Wean Puppies onto a Raw Feeding Diet

↯ Key takeaway points

  • Weaning a puppy onto a raw diet is a gradual process that should start at around four weeks old and be completed by six weeks old.
  • A step-by-step plan is provided for weaning puppies to a raw diet, starting with a blended mix of puppy formula and goat's milk.
  • Benefits of a raw diet for puppies include a shinier coat, improved dental hygiene, smaller and firmer stools, healthier skin, and increased energy.
  • Risks of a raw puppy diet include bacterial infections, choking on bones, and the need for careful balancing of nutritional types.
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Published on
Monday 11 May 2020
Last updated on
Friday 14 July 2023
How to Wean Puppies onto a Raw Feeding Diet
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Many people have concerns about providing their dog with a raw diet, especially if they are younger. But raw diets imitate the natural diet of dogs and can actually strengthen their bodily systems. However, the process of puppy weaning to raw diets is a gradual one.

Of course, there can be risks when you wean your puppy to a raw feeding diet. This is why we have labeled out the benefits, worries, and step by step process to changing their diet. Whatever the reason may be for choosing a raw diet for your puppy, you want to do it right and we can help.

Can I Wean My Puppy To A Raw Diet?

There are many factors that go into the timing and if your puppy can be weaned onto a raw diet. You have to consider their current health. Whether they are ready for solid food, their digestion capabilities and do they have a sensitive stomach. Furthermore, you need to be prepared that this is not something you can do overnight. The transfer to a raw food diet is gradual.

Usually, a puppy will begin the process of being weaned at four weeks and will be fully weaned by the age of six weeks. We want to mimic a natural diet and timetable. Therefore do not try to do so before the age of four weeks old. A puppy should also be in good health. If your puppy is ill and you begin changing their diet, this can make them feel worse and weaken their immune system. Changes should be made when your puppy is healthy to monitor any possible negative reactions.

Step-by-Step Plan For Weaning Puppies To A Raw Diet

We have devised a four-step plan to help you transition your puppies to a raw feeding diet. It is important to understand this process, so we will explain it step by step. The weaning process begins when the puppies are around three to five weeks old and relies heavily on their mother’s nursing during this time.

For each step, gradually add the new food type to their current diet over the progress of a week.

how long do puppies rely on their mother
Puppies rely on their mother’s nursing for three to five weeks. From then onwards, they enter the weaning process.

4 weeks old

To start the transition, we recommend creating a balanced diet by blending puppy formula with nutritious ingredients. Adding vitamin B or C supplements is also beneficial. We highly recommend using goat’s milk, preferably unpasteurized or raw, as it is easily digestible for puppies. Goat’s milk has smaller fat molecules compared to cow’s milk, making it gentle on their stomachs and preparing them for their new diet.

In addition to goat’s milk, you can include other ingredients like eggs, flaxseed oil, yogurt, and unprocessed honey to ensure a balanced diet. Blend these ingredients thoroughly to create a puppy gruel or mush. It’s important to serve the mixture at room temperature or slightly warmed for your puppies. Remember to use a maximum of one tablespoon of the mixture or measure them proportionally to the goat’s milk to provide the right amount of food for your pup.

5 to 6 weeks old

Once your puppies are comfortable with the goat’s milk paste, you can introduce lean meat such as turkey into their diet. During this two-week period, start by giving them the goat’s milk blended mixture for breakfast and lunch, followed by a small portion of turkey for dinner. You can add some bran flakes to the turkey to ensure they get enough fiber. The low-fat content in turkey makes digestion easier for your puppies. Gradually introduce grated vegetables with their evening meal to maintain a balanced diet. Reduce the amount of goat’s milk in the first two meals while increasing the nutritional ingredients.

7 weeks old

At seven weeks old, you can introduce white and red meat and modify the middle meal to include lean meats. A typical daily meal plan should consist of a smaller proportion of goat’s milk and a larger proportion of the recommended natural ingredients for breakfast. For lunch, offer turkey, grated vegetables, and bran. For dinner, provide some chicken slices, grated vegetables, and bran. Maintain this meal plan for a few days, then switch the turkey meal to chicken and the chicken meal to small diced pieces of red meat. This ensures that your puppy gets accustomed to different meat types. Introduce variety at the end of the week.

8 weeks old

By the time your puppy reaches eight weeks old, they should be fully adjusted to a raw food diet. You can now offer them three meat-based meals combined with a fiber-based ingredient and grated vegetables. Ensure each meal consists of different meat types, fiber sources, and vegetables to provide a varied diet. If at any point during this process your puppy experiences an upset stomach, revert to the previous step and allow more time for adjustment. If your puppy’s health does not improve or their symptoms worsen, consult a veterinarian. Remember, a gradual transition is always better than a rapid one when weaning a puppy onto a raw food diet.

Benefits of a Raw Diet for Puppies

control ingredients with a dog raw diet
One of the best upsides of feeding your dog a homemade raw diet is that you have complete control over the list of ingredients.

There are multiple benefits to feeding your dog a raw diet.

  • Coat: Your dog’s coat can become shinier and more luxurious. Up to 40% of the protein in their diet goes towards nourishing their skin and coat. Therefore a raw diet will provide the extra protein required to maintain these two elements highly.
  • Teeth: Dog’s breath can be improved along with their dental hygiene. Due to minimized carbohydrates in this diet, unlike in regular dog kibble, the amount of sugar stained on teeth is less. This is because dogs do not possess amylase in their saliva.
  • Stools: Your puppy’s stool will actually be smaller, firmer and less smelly! This is because the diet has more digestible nutrients so less is wasted through fecal matter.
  • Skin: As previously mentioned, 40% of the protein in your dog’s diet goes towards their coat and skin. This can reduce dandruff or dry skin.
  • Energy: This diet can increase the amount of energy your pup will have. As more of the nutrients provided are more digestible, more of the food is being used and can be used well i.e. being turned into large energy storage.

Risks of a Raw Puppy Diet

With everything, there are risks, and it is important to be aware of them so you know how to wean puppies to a raw feeding diet.

  • Bacteria: Salmonella and other infectious diseases may infect your dog. Or if they do not directly affect your dog they can make your dog a carrier to affect other dogs or humans.
  • Choking on bones: Whether a large bone is eaten or bone fragments are in the meat, your dog may choke on the pieces or gain an intestinal blockage if they do not chew it thoroughly enough.
  • Balancing the diet yourself: This requires high maintenance as you will need to make sure your dog is receiving the right percentages of nutritional types for each meal each day.
disadvantages of a dog raw diet
A raw dog diet is generally considered a huge upgrade from most commercial dog foods. However, there are a few disadvantages to feeding a dog raw food.

Weaning Puppies to a Raw Diet – FAQs

Here are your top FAQs answered so you know how to wean puppies to a raw feeding diet.

How can I feed a raw diet to my puppy?

The process is very gradual, even more so to a puppy as their stomach is so sensitive. Furthermore, the canine digestive system is different so the adjustment must be tailored directly to their age group.

An important note when feeding a raw diet to your puppy is to make sure all the pieces are either small enough, well blended or they are able to chew them well. If your puppy has very few teeth, this also needs to be considered. Furthermore, check that the portion size is appropriate and that they are not either having their food taken by another animal or taking their food. This can interrupt their diet, health or that of your other pets.

Is it possible to wean puppies straight onto raw meat?

It is possible but strongly recommended against due to a puppy’s teeth, digestive system, and sensitivity of their stomach at this time. Even with an adult dog, if you directly transfer them onto raw meat, they can begin to vomit, diarrhea and feel ill.

Therefore, weaning puppies to a raw feeding diet needs to be slow. These effects can be very serious in puppies due to their size. Vomiting and diarrhea cause weight loss and dehydration. This is much more serious in smaller individuals because the negative effects are stronger. The process of weening a puppy onto a raw diet must not begin with meat. They can still feel unwell, even if it is not serious. That is unpleasant for both the puppy and the owner to witness.

How much raw meat can puppies eat?

The puppy’s weight, age and how long they have been on a raw diet all affect the ideal quantity of raw meat to feed a puppy. A puppy’s weight can dictate how many meals they should be eating and what percentage of that should be protein, fiber, and other nutritional groups.

Similarly, their age will help you tell which stage of the gradual transfer onto the raw food diet they can be placed on. Very young puppies should remain on the mother’s milk. Finally, the more settled and acclimatized a puppy is to a raw diet and raw meat, the more they can eat safely. There is no one right answer. It depends where an individual is on their raw food journey, their own sensitivities and how old they are.

When can I switch my puppy to raw food?

The beginning of a raw food diet for puppies can usually begin at four weeks old.

However, if your puppy, for whatever reason, has an upset stomach or is reacting badly to the first few days, take them off the diet. You can try again, possibly in much more gradual stages, depending on the reason behind this reaction. You may want to consult the vets if the reaction was severe or if you are concerned. Vets can try to understand the cause of the behavior such as the process was not gradual enough or they are not yet ready for solids.

A smaller progression is to provide goat’s milk and nutrients alongside their mother’s milk as an evening meal. See how this settles their stomach and if they are able to handle it.

Is raw dog food healthier for puppies?

This is debatable. A raw food diet has many health benefits to your dog’s teeth, skin, coat and energy amongst other things. But like every diet, it comes with risks such as bacterial infection to your dogs or those they interact with. Also many ask how to wean puppies to a raw feeding diet and struggle with the slow and precise changes.

Similarly, though, a regular kibble diet comes with pros and cons. This diet does not possess the risks of bacterial infection and minimized choking risks. However, the ingredients contain more carbohydrates and sugars and therefore provide less energy, more dental damage, and messier stools. It is about deciding what is best for your individual, what they need and what would be best for your budget and care of them.

There are clear pros and cons to weaning your pup onto a raw diet. Consider both sides and ultimately, do what is best for your dog at that time.

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