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The Best Puppy Food Recipe: A Homemade Raw Diet

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Dr. Mark is a veterinarian. He has been working with dogs for more than 40 years.

If feeding more than one puppy, make sure there are plenty of chicken necks available.

If feeding more than one puppy, make sure there are plenty of chicken necks available.

What Is the Best Choice?

If you were to choose the best food for your kids, would you pick:

  1. Potato chips and other “vitamin fortified” 100% complete dry snack foods, sold by your pediatrician, obstetrician, and endorsed by the government?
  2. Canned foods that smell bad, taste great, and which another government group has labeled as healthy and 100% complete?
  3. Fresh produce and other food with vitamins and minerals?

Not everyone would choose number three. There are those families out there that let a company decide what is best for their family and choose “vitamin fortified” empty foods instead of choosing what is right. But, if you did choose number three, and want to feed your family correctly, why would you want to do any different when it is your new puppy in question?

Chicken feet are not as nutritious as some other pieces, but they do taste good.

Chicken feet are not as nutritious as some other pieces, but they do taste good.

Vitamin-Fortified and Sold by Your Vet: Purina Puppy Chow

Choice number one is a popular dry food that is supplemented and has been declared to be fortified and complete. Purina Puppy Chow is so popular in the US that some vets and small breeders will recommend you purchase it to maintain all your puppies. This dog food is no better than feeding your puppy a diet of enriched corn chips.

The main ingredient in Puppy Chow is corn, and the second ingredient is corn gluten meal. Corn may provide some energy, and the gluten meal may provide some protein without meeting your puppy´s amino acid requirements, but much of it will pass through your puppy and end up in your yard. Anyone who has cleaned up after puppies fed this diet knows what I am talking about.

Puppy chow also has chicken by-product meal, the carcass after the prime cuts like breast and thighs are removed. It has animal fat, which can come from any sort of animal (even dead, diseased, and dying animals of any species), soybean meal, brewers rice, barley, and many other supplemental vitamins and minerals so that the product will make the grade when the government certifies it.

Dry foods do not have probiotics, however, and much of the food is not even digested. Your puppy cannot even make use of all of those ingredients.

Even though they appear to have what your puppy needs and will keep him alive, are they what you need to feed to keep him healthy? Is this what you want for your new puppy?

Healthy and 100% Complete: Alpo Canned Puppy Food

Most puppies are so hungry that they will eat anything, even the “vitamin fortified” dry food that you pour into their bowl a few times a day. Some new puppy owners realize that canned corn chips are not enough, and many of them will buy the second choice, a can of puppy food to give as a treat or feed as a regular diet. Are canned diets really what your puppy needs? Not really.

One of the most popular, Alpo, lists water as the main ingredient. That is pretty normal with all canned foods, so they let you know right on the label that it is only adequate for processing.

The next major ingredients in Alpo are meat by-products, followed by liver and chicken. It is hard to tell the quality of these items, and although they are cooked and lose some of their vitamins, they are better than the ingredients in a sterile bag of dry food.

The scary part is what else is in the can you are feeding your puppy. Wheat gluten, a residue that helps raise the protein level, is the next ingredient. Soy flour and cornstarch help fill up the can. The food also has artificial coloring to make you think you are feeding more meat and minerals that are probably not bioavailable.

Like the puppy chow, this food will keep your puppy alive, but it will do nothing to keep him healthy.

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Is that really all you want?

The Natural Option When Feeding Your Puppy

If you chose option number 3 for your family, you are intelligent and responsible enough to take care of your kids and make sure that they are getting what they need to grow and stay healthy.

Despite what AAFCO, the AVMA, and most vets want you to believe, feeding a puppy is even easier.

A natural diet will supply the vitamins, antioxidants, and probiotics that your dog needs to grow and be healthy. Every meal is not going to be 100% balanced. Neither are the foods that you give to your family. What matters is that you feed a balanced food over time. Feed it an adequate ration and your puppy will be a lot healthier than those fed the commercial alternatives.

As your puppy grows and all of her adult teeth come in, you can add a lot more variety to her diet. Raw sardines, oxtails, offal, beef lips, and tracheas, and about anything else are all appreciated—you do not need to spend a lot of money buying only those cuts sold to humans.

Get started as soon as you bring your new puppy home. Does she deserve anything less?

Natural Feeding Recommendations for Puppies

For a new puppy that will grow up to be a 10-kilo dog, feed about 2% of that weight each week, or 200 grams per day. Each week you will need to give her:

  • About 1 to 1.5 kilos of raw, meaty bones. Chicken necks and chicken wings are ideal since the bones are soft and easy for the puppy to chew. If feeding wings, the wingtips should be cut off to prevent choking, and if feeding necks, the skin should be cut off to reduce the fat and make it easier for the puppy to chew.
  • About 100 grams of liver (do not overload on liver).
  • About 100 grams of kidneys or other organ meat.
  • A raw egg a few times per week.
  • About 100 grams of finely blended raw veggies (carrots, squash, romaine lettuce, etc.) a few times a week, along with a few tablespoons of raw yogurt to act as a natural probiotic. The veggies have to finely blended or your puppy will not be able to digest them. You can mix the veggies with the raw egg or liver to make them more appealing to your puppy.

If your puppy is interested and willing to try fresh fruit, let him eat a little banana, coconut, or berries high in Vitamin C and other antioxidants (like blueberries).

If you have a larger puppy, the amounts will vary, and of course, the amounts will vary as your puppy is growing. You should be able to feed him ribs, but they should not be sticking out. Monitor him closely as he grows and adjust his feeding as necessary: if he is too thin, feed him a little more. If he is getting fat, feed him a little less.

Feed Your Puppy a Diet of Fresh Food

Some people in the past thought they could get by with enriched white bread. Do you think you can get by feeding your puppy one of the better brands of dry puppy foods instead of a fresh, natural diet?

It is not going to work that way. The other dry diets on the market may not be as popular as Purina Puppy Chow since they are more expensive, and even with different ingredients they are really no better. The foods are still cooked, destroying vitamins, enzymes and natural probiotics, and some of the vitamins and minerals may block others during digestion. This will result in low digestion of some minerals. You may not notice any problems now, but things may show up in years to come.

Do your best for your puppy now.

If you want more information, you can read other articles that detail some of the benefits of raw for adult dogs. You should also get hold of a copy of a book called Give Your Dog a Bone, by Australian veterinarian Dr. Ian Billinghurst. The book has a great section on the proper way to rear puppies, and gives plenty of details on how to create raw diets for dogs of all ages.

More About Feeding Your Dog

  • How To Buy Inexpensive Raw Dog Food
    You do not need to spend a lot of money on raw dog food--you can feed a good diet for the same price as the cheapest dog food on the market. Find out what you need.
  • Do Premium Foods Make My Dog Live Longer
    Big dog food companies can afford to run trials and find out if their food makes dogs live longer. They don't know if their food improves life spans. Why?

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.


Suzanne Day from Melbourne, Victoria, Australia on January 26, 2014:

Some very happy looking puppies in the photos! Thank you for a most informative hub. I vaguely knew that puppies like to chew on raw meat with bones so they can sharpen their teeth and so on, but your comparison between feeding kids potato chips etc was very funny and put it right into perspective. Voted useful!

Bob Bamberg on January 24, 2014:

I'll meet you on the steps of the capitol. I'll be the one wearing the blue coat.

Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on January 24, 2014:

"The Million Farmer´s March on Toronto"

Okay, that works for me.

Bob Bamberg on January 24, 2014:

Probably a march on Toronto or Albany since Canadian Timothy and NY State Timothy are favored by farmers around here...especially horse people.

Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on January 24, 2014:

Can you imagine all the US farmers lining up every morning to open a few hundred bags of "Timothy Chow"? There would be another march on Washington!

Bob Bamberg on January 24, 2014:

Nah, the food had to be cooked so it could be put in a bag and stored unrefrigerated. Americans got lazy and embraced convenience early on. I can see it now...Ol' Orchard Grass, Brome Grass 'n Bits, Alfalfaful, and Timothy Chow.

Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on January 24, 2014:

That obesity problem is really sad, both for pets and humans. Not many kids were fat when they were served a healthy meal, and not many pets are fat when they are eating a natural food. Unfortunately those high carb diets that we are shoveling into our pets nowadays are like the snack foods making kids fat. There is a reasonable solution to both of these.

I also think that there are a lot more unhealthy pets on those diets, and it is not just that dogs are diagnosed more often than previously.

As far as putting those healthy items into cheap food, I agree that it is happening, but they are modified and made mostly worthless by processing.

When did humans decide that dogs need their food to be cooked to survive? Next thing you know it cows will only be served up cooked grass.

Bob Bamberg on January 20, 2014:

Obesity hasn't just gone to the dogs, Doc, it's rampant among humans in the U.S., too. There's a correlation, I believe. I quite often talk to overweight pet owners while their overweight children walk their overweight dog around the store. And they're amused that their "little porker" just loves to eat.

I also wonder if there's a correlation between the increase in the health issues you mention and the fact that people are bringing their dogs to the vets now.

A generation ago, many of these problems wouldn't have been diagnosed simply because the dog never saw the vet. It's for sure they were occurring, but nobody ever heard of them or even gave a second thought to the fact that dogs could be afflicted. Nowadays, many conditions are being picked up early and treated, improving and extending the dog's life.

Finally, I'm concerned that people take a simplistic "what's good for me is good for my dog" view of nutrition and health. I see it all the time.

While both species have the same organs, our respective physiologies are different. We benefit from onions, raisins and ibuprophen, for example.

Americans are a mess, health and nutrition wise, which easily extends to our pets. I fear that without a "nutritional compass" we'll do more harm than good to our animals.

And, Americans do feed their dogs chicken backs, esophagi (?), etc. but over here they're known as by-products and put in grocery quality foods, or are dehydrated and smoked and sold as treats with cute names such as moo tubes, bully sticks (there are no cow sticks since cows don't have "sticks") lamb puffs, Texas Toast, etc.

Sounds inviting, but, pass the Doritos, please.

Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on January 19, 2014:

Hi Bob, great comments as always, but I think they are all wrong. Surprise, surprise, surprise. (From the Gomer Pyle school of veterinary medicine.)

I agree that dogs are living longer, but if they were eating correctly it would be a lot longer than they are now. In the US dogs are developing cancer at young ages, have increased levels of allergies, increased levels of hypothyroidism, and a horrible epidemic of obesity. They all can thank the commerical diets.

Dental disease is another big issue in the US dogs on commercial diets. Why are young dogs developing periodontal disease? They are eating junk that clings to their teeth and they never get to chew. Not chewing like a normal dog also leads to behavioral problems.

Finally, I have to ask if your wife only cooked meals for your son that were okayed by a board certified human nutritionist? No? Of course not. Feeding dogs is not more difficult than feeding people. Yes, it is more convenient to go down to Walmart and get a bag of Ol Roy, and that is what the majority of Americans are doing. It is not better for the dog, but there are a lot of websites (supported by the pet food industry) out there that will tell you this is best. I have to tell the truth, even if most people will not bother reading this.

Thanks for the votes, despite disagreeing!

Bob Bamberg on January 19, 2014:

It might surprise you to learn that I disagree with you :). I agree that the commercial foods you list are very low quality compared to the grain-free holistic foods on the market today.

But I can't get beyond the fact that animal nutrition is a complicated science unto itself, with it's own degree programs. Complete and balanced is not an advertising cliché, but a critical concept in animal nutrition.

I'd support a homemade, natural diet such as you recommend, providing it was determined by a board certified animal nutritionist to be complete and balanced. Otherwise, mixing a variety of even wholesome ingredients, willy nilly, into a diet plan is playing fast and loose with a dog's health.

I realize things are different in your area, but over 96% of the 77 million dogs in the U.S. are fed commercial diets and, in spite of claims to the contrary by critics of commercial diet, our dogs are living longer than ever before and enjoying a better quality of life.

Advances in veterinary nutrition are a factor, along with advances in veterinary medicine and the fact that enlightened pet owners are willing to spend money on vet care and quality food.

A generation or so ago, the only time dogs saw the vet was at the annual rabies clinic at town hall, or if they got hit by a car. Now people readily bring their dogs for annual or semi-annual check ups and are generally more health conscious.

While I predict the ensuing comment stream will assail me as a shill for the pet food industry (I'll accept the charge, but add that I truly believe in the concept of complete and balanced and of commercial diets), and comments will support your position, you'll never get Americans to give up the quality and convenience (emphasis on convenience) of high end commercial diets.

I value the fact that we can disagree on, and debate, this issue, and remain friends, Doc, and I voted this hub up, useful and interesting because it is all of those.

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