The Puppy BARF Starter Guide – Bones and Raw Food – is a diet plan for dogs based on raw food. Raw feedings has many health benefits and will give your puppy all the nutrients it needs to grow big and strong. You might be wondering, “How do I start my puppy BARF diet?” – well, we’ve got you covered. This guide explains how to introduce a raw diet to young dogs and how to get your puppy started.
Having a puppy in the house is lots of fun – but also lots of hard work! As a proud pup parent, you’ll want to do your best for the new addition to the family, and that means picking the right food.
There’s an enormous array of puppy food on the market, but natural raw food from the start is an excellent option for most young dogs. Whether you’ve got a small breed puppy or a large breed puppy, a BARF diet can give them the best start in life.
Are Raw Diets Good for Puppies?
Every dog is different so you’ll need to judge for yourself whether a puppy BARF plan suits your pup. Generally speaking, raw food diets are wonderful for puppies as they aren’t exposed to any artificial ingredients and just receive pure nutrients.
Some of the benefits puppies might enjoy from a puppy BARF diet include:
- Shiny coat
- Strong bones
- Lots of energy
- Firm poos
- Balanced diet
- Premium ingredients
- No artificial chemicals, additives or preservatives
The Puppy BARF Starter Guide – Transitioning Your Pup
Once you’ve decided to move your pup onto a puppy BARF diet you’ll need to carefully plan out their transition. Puppies have sensitive tummies and changing their food too quickly could make them unwell.
However, the good news is that young pups are able to accommodate changes to their food very quickly so you should be able to get them onto raw food in a fairly short period of time.
Moving a puppy from kibble means getting your dog’s stomach up to an acidity level of 1-2 pH. This takes about 7-10 days from when you start the puppy BARF diet. The stomach acid is a vital part of balancing a raw food diet as it both kills bacteria and breaks bone down safely. You can add bone into the diet after about 7 days – see more about that below in the section Is It OK To Feed Puppies Bones?
Begin by introducing simple proteins only, such as turkey, chicken or green tripe. This should make up 25% of your puppy’s daily food allowance. Providing their poos look healthy, you can ramp up the proportion over raw food over a few days until you have completely replaced the kibble.
Continue with the raw food diet but rotate the types of protein every 3-4 days. Once your puppy is successfully eating at least four different types of protein, you can very slowly start to add organ meats such as liver. These are very rich and should only be given in tiny quantities when first introduced i.e., roughly a fingernail size portion added to the raw food. Over the course of a week, you can slowly increase the amount to the maximum of 7% of the total diet. This reduces to 5% for adult dogs.
If the liver feeding goes well, you can introduce an alternative organ meat after a week. Once your pup is enjoying four separate proteins, two types of secreting organs and bone, you can then move onto fish. This provides the pup with essential omega 3; you can read more about how to introduce and feed fish in this guide.
The final step is adding eggs; these should be fed no more than 2-3 times per week. Eggs can be an allergen, so just like everything else a slow introduction is key.
The BARF Model Ratio Guidelines for Puppies
The usual BARF model for adult dogs is broken down as:
- 70% muscle meat
- 10% soft bone
- 5% liver
- 5% other secreting organs
- 7% vegetables
- 2% nuts and seeds
- 1% fruit
This is what puppies will be working towards but following transition, the puppy BARF proportions are slightly different to those of an adult:
- 58% muscle meat
- 17% soft bone
- 7% liver
- 7% other secreting organs
- 7% vegetables
- 3% nuts and seeds
- 1% fruit
Is it OK to Feed Puppies Bones?
Bones make up an important element of a raw food diet, but they shouldn’t be introduced right from the start. Your puppy should be moved onto the puppy BARF diet gradually with no bones initially. Once your little woofer has been happily chowing down on a raw food diet for at least 7-14 days, with no ill effects, then you can start to slowly add some bones to their meals.
If your dog shows any signs of not adjusting properly to the raw food, such as runny poos or vomiting, don’t start adding any bones until they’ve stabilised for a minimum of 7 days. It can take a little while to find the right proteins and combinations when you start with raw food so digestive upset isn’t a sign that you need to return to processed food.
When you’re ready, add some small bones to your pup’s meal. The bones should always be served with the meat and not separate; this ensures there is lots of stomach acid swirling around to properly break the bones down.
Choose bones which are soft and flexible such as chicken wings and ribs, for example. Don’t be tempted to feed harder bones, such as beef, because a puppy won’t have the strength to break it apart.
The aim is for the bones to be chewed into small parts and then swallowed. This ensures they will be soft and won’t splinter in the gut. The stomach acid then works its magic to strip the bone down to become a soft and rubbery component. For this reason, you should aim for all bones to be at least the size of your puppy’s head (very roughly). Smaller bones could be swallowed whole, which could be harmful.
As your puppy grows you can introduce more types of bones, depending on their breed. The same concept applies about bones being chewed and bitten, and not just swallowed, even for older dogs.
Bones should never make up more than 10% of the BARF diet for an adult dog. Although they provide important nutrients such as calcium, too much bone can make your dog constipated. Growing puppies can have a bit more, up to 17%.
Complete Raw Dog Food for Puppies
Complete raw food is one of the easiest and most convenient ways to switch to the puppy BARF diet as it doesn’t need you to have any expert knowledge. Most puppy parents don’t have in-depth knowledge of balancing canine nutrition, which is one off the requirements if you’re putting the complete diet together yourself.
A complete raw commercial dog food does the hard work; all you need to do is feed your pup the right portion size. It has everything a growing puppy needs to be healthy and well, and won’t require any supplementation.
What to Look for When Buying Complete Raw Puppy Food
Due to the popularity of the BARF diet, there is an increasing number of natural raw food products being sold commercially. That’s good for owners who are interested in raw feeding as it means you’ll have lots of choice. However, trying to pick the right brand for your pup can be a little overwhelming.
Focusing on a few key factors will help you to find the right type of balanced raw diet that will suit your pup. If your dog has any allergies you’ll need to take those into account and look for a food that can accommodate your canine’s needs. Raw foods are particularly good for allergies as there are far fewer ingredients included, just nutritious wholesome food.
Quality is Key
This should underpin everything to do with the puppy BARF diet. You want to know:
- That the meat you’re buying is of the best possible standard and ethical.
- Wherever possible, look for UK companies that source their products locally. (This means the food won’t be in transit for long periods, ensuring it’s in the best condition while also being environmentally friendly).
Other Pointers to Look out for
- Include organic ingredients and animal welfare, such as free-range eggs.
- Check the packaging – this is important too if green credentials are a priority. Compostable, recyclable packaging and vegetable ink are all often used by raw food companies, and they’re a sign of a commitment to quality.