Puppies are a lot of work for their new owners. They need vaccinations, worming treatment, neutering and careful socialisation with other dogs. Nutrition is particularly important in a growing canine; if mistakes are made at this age, the consequences could affect the dog for the rest of his life.
Some people prefer to feed their puppies a raw diet. They feel that this is more natural, and similar to what a wild canine would eat - but is it right for you?
While most dogs love the taste of raw food and your canine companion can thrive on it, there are things to consider before you switch your dog's onto a solely raw diet.
Here are some things you need to keep in mind while you prepare to choose your dog's diet.
Is the diet nutritionally balanced?
Many homemade raw diets have nutritional deficiencies or excesses that can be harmful for dogs. One good example is the calcium-phosphorus ration in the food. Too little calcium in the diet causes rickets. The result is bone pain and swelling, lameness and fractures.
On the other hand, excess calcium in growing pups has been linked with the development of orthopedic conditions such as osteochondrosis dissecans.
Nutritional imbalances can be particularly important in giant breeds such as the Great Dane or St Bernard If you want to feed your pup raw food, and then research pre-made raw diets to buy or seek advice from a qualified veterinary nutritionist. It's well worth spending the time and money to get his diet right so your pup remains in good health while he grows.
Are bones safe?
Many commercial raw food diets include bones in their recipes. However, if you're creating your own raw diet it's worth bearing in mind veterinary dentists recommend that you don't feed dogs bones on their own because of the risk of fractured teeth, intestinal obstruction and constipation.
If you feed a commercial raw diet, look for puppy specific foods.
Some manufacturers, such as Nutriment, have a Weaning Paste for puppies aged 3-6 weeks, and a Puppy Formula for puppies aged 6 weeks and upwards. Their Puppy Formula includes bones, and being commerically manufacturered, is a great way to give your puppy all they need without the worry your puppy is missing out on essential nutrients which help them grow and develop.
Is zoonosis a real threat?
A zoonosis is a disease that can be spread from animals to people, such as scabies or roundworms. Raw diets can result in transmission of some infections from dog to human. Salmonellosis can occur in dogs fed a raw diet and can cause gastrointestinal upset and diarrhea. It's essential that you're meticulous about hygiene and hand washing when you're feeding a pup a raw diet.
How to get started
It has been said that the best food to feed your dog is the food he does best on, whether it is a dry food or a raw diet. Before you start to prepare a home made raw menu for your dog, seek advice from a veterinary nutritionist to make sure you're not doing more harm than good.
Alternatively, and often the easier scenario, is to feed a commercially prepared raw food. This is a good compromise. On the one hand, you're feeding your pup the raw diet you feel is best for him, while being confident that feeding trials have shown that the food has all the nutrients he needs in the right amounts for good health.