Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Puppy Diets Part A Kibble: Part B Raw and Homemade. by Meg Smart Sept 12,2012

Part A: Kibble


Growth is a complex process involving metabolic changes, environmental influences, genetics, nutrition and unknown factors. The eventual size of the dog is determined by its genetics, but  the age it reaches its adult size can be in part controlled by nutrition. The only nutritional trial to follow Labs from weaning to death was done by Purina. Although flawed,  this trial gave us insight into in the role that nutrition plays in growth. They took two groups of puppies and fed one group all the food they could eat in a 15-minute period per day, over their lifetime. The second group was fed 25% less. The initial diet was Purina Puppy Chow; the adult diet was Purina Dog Chow. The onset of hip dysplasia and arthritis was delayed in the second group; the second group lived significantly longer.

Caloric Intake:

No matter what diet you choose you must feed the appropriate number of calories per day and monitor the weight and body condition of the puppy. Ideally, if you look at the puppy from above it should have a waist, the hipbones and ribs can be felt. The skin should be moveable over the hips and ribs with some fat. The ribs and hips should not be hidden or covered by a layer of fat.

The growth of a puppy can be divided into three periods:

Period 1 rapid growth: 8 weeks to 16 weeks (56 to112 days) (2 to 4 months)

 Period 2 moderate growth: 16 weeks to 24 weeks (113 to168 days) (4 to 6 months)

Period 3 slow growth: 24 weeks to 52 weeks (169 to 365 days) (6 to12 months)

The table (Table1) below reflects average daily caloric intake based on research studies done on the impact of nutrition on the growth of large breed puppies. In the Purina study, only the average caloric over the 3 periods was given and this was 1483 Kcal/day. The average caloric density of the large breed puppy research diets reviewed is 3700 Kcal/1000g.

Table 1: The average daily caloric intake for giant breed puppies based on the scientific literature

Period 1
Period 2
Period 3
1240 Kcal/d
1640 Kcal/d

I analysed over 50 commercial puppy diets and calculated the industry average for all puppy diets and the large breed puppy diets (Table2):

Caloric density
Period 1
Period 2
Period 3
All Diets
Large breed puppy diets

Table 2: The calculated average calorie intake of 50- commercial diets then the caloric intake of commercial large breed puppy diets. There is very little difference in the overall caloric intake among the research diets, the commercial diets and the Purina study. 

 To determine the number of calories your puppy needs in a day based on its actual body weight you can calculate for:

 Period 1: the number of calories per day by: Actual BW in kg x 80 Kcal/kg BW

Example: 13 kg pup at 4 months suggested caloric need is:  80X13=1,049 Kcals / day

Period 2: the number of calories per day = Actual BW (kg) x 70 Kcal/kg BW

Example: A 17 kg puppy’s suggested caloric need is 1190 Kcals per day

Period 3:  the number of calories per day = Actual BW (kg) x 60 kcal/kg BW

Example: A 21 kg puppy’s suggested caloric intake is 1260 Kcal per day

*Note: These calculations represent the average for puppies of that weight and may not be accurate for each individual puppy. They represent a starting point as a result  you must always monitor your puppy’s body condition if the puppy is becoming too thin feed more if too fat feed less. Make gradual rather than rapid changes in food intake.

** Note: The above calculations are less than the average suggested by the feeding recommendations on the commercial puppy diets

***Note Commercial treats. Rawhide chews, pig’s ears all contain fat and calories that can cause your puppy to become fat. Unfortunately, if you cut back on the puppy’s diet you could be creating a nutrient deficiency. Always cut back on or change the treats first! Puppies do not recognise special treats as such; all they recognize is that through treats you are rewarding them with attention. So give them the attention without unhealthy treats. You can substitute walks, play time, and if you feel treats are necessary use pieces of raw apples, carrots, squash or the diet you are feeding the dog so long as it does not exceed what the puppy needs in a day.

 Body Condition Scoring:

Body Condition Scoring is really very simple. It uses a scale of 1-9, with 1 being very underweight and 9 being very overweight. A body condition score of 4-5 is considered ideal. To work out your puppy’s individual body condition score, you need to do three checks:

  • Rib Check: Run both your hands, palms facedown across your dog's ribcage on either side
  • Profile Check: View your puppy  standing from a side-on angle, this is best done if you are level with your pet
  • Overhead Check: Look down at your standing dog from an overhead angle

In an ideal body condition, your dog's ribs can be felt without excess fat covering; the waist should be easily visible when viewed from above (giving an hour-glass shape) and the abdomen should be tucked up towards the pelvis, when viewed from one side.

Keeping a close eye on body condition and working to maintain an 'ideal' score throughout all stages of your dog's life, can also decrease the risk of weight associated health problems such as arthritis, heart disease and even diabetes.

Calculating how much to feed your puppy

Once you determine how many calories your puppy needs then you must determine how much food your puppy requires. For this you will need to find out how many calories are in 1000g or a cup of the food you are feeding. This information may be on the label, on the company’s web site or phone the company.


Your puppy (Eore) is 16 weeks old and weighs 16kg and is in Period 1:

Eore’s caloric requirements are 16x80=1280 Kcal/day

The diet has 3700 Kcal/kg or 3.7Kcal/g;  You must feed 1280/3.7=345g of the diet per day if there is 105 g of diet in one cup you must feed 378/105=2.3  8oz measuring cups per day. Best to divide into 2 meals or more per day.

  • You do not need to weigh your puppy every day but once at the start of a period and once in the middle, to adjust the caloric intake.


Small Breed Puppy
Large Breed Puppy
Giant Breed Puppy
B W (kg)
BW (kg)
BWt (kg)
Adult Body Weight (ABW)
Birth Weight
3 mo
4 mo
5 mo
12 mo


Table3. Estimated Daily Caloric requirements for small, large and giant breed puppies

Main Nutrients:


Your puppy must have free access to fresh water during the day and night


Unfortunately, for most dog foods the nutrient breakdown on bag label gives you only the guaranteed analysis that is either the guaranteed minimum or maximum but not the actual nutrient percentage. You may be able to get this information from the company’s web site or their hot line.

Research indicates that a protein percentage in the diet on a “Dry Matter (DM) “basis (no moisture) of between 14 and 35 supports the growth of large breed puppies. In a Great Dane study protein percentage below or above these values are detrimental. In Purina’s study, the protein content was 26 %. In the study I did of commercial puppy diets, the average protein content of 50 puppy diets was 30%. There is no reason to feed a puppy more than 30% Protein on a dry matter basis (27% at 10% moisture or 6.6% at 78% Moisture)

I recommend looking for a diet that has between 24 and 35% Crude Protein on the label of a dry diet and 5 to 7.2 on the label of a canned diet.


The fat percentage in the research diets averaged around 10% DM. In the Purina study the fat percentage in the diet was 11%DM. The average for the 50 puppy diets was 15 %, 4 to 5% above requirements. This is related to the facts that fat is a cheap but concentrated source of calories and fat increases the palatability of the diet.


A puppy requires between 4 g and 8 g of calcium per day. Less than 4g may be considered low; less than 2 g deficient. Above 8 g may be too much.  Thus a puppy diet with between 1 and 1.5% Ca (DM) is appropriate. In the Purina study, the Ca was 1.2% and the average for the 50 puppy diets was 1.3 %. The maximum Ca is 2%. These values are based on a diet that has no moisture.  The amount of Calcium on the label for dry food should be no less than 0.9% and no more than 1.5%; for canned no less than0.22% and no more than 0.4%

The Ca: P ration should be 1.5:1


The Ideal Large breed puppy diet should have a caloric density of approximately 3700 Kcal/1000g. This may be on the bag label, on the product’s website or obtained through the companies hot line.

You will need this value to calculate how much food to feed per day

The Nutrient Analysis should indicate: (most puppy diets fall into this area as do almost all of the life stage diets. Special large breed puppy diets or veterinary therapeutic are not necessary 

  • A caloric density between 3500 and 4000 Kcal per 1000g (kg). For diets over 4000Kcal/1000g the protein, calcium and phosphorous % must be higher because you will be feeding the puppy less of this diet. As these diets often contain a higher % of fat which if over fed can lead to obesity.
  • A Crude Protein of between 24% and 35% of DM {A kibble diet (22% to 33%) a canned diet (4.8% to 6%)}
  • A Fat of no more than 15 % and no less than 10% DM {(Kibble 13.5 to 9%), (canned 3 to 2%)}
  • A Calcium of 1.2% DM and no more than 2% DM {(Kibble 1.1 to 1.8%), (Canned .24% to .4%)}
  • A Phosphorous of .8%DM (Kibble .72%, Canned .16%)

*Grain free diets are an option but in my experience they are not any better than diets with grains.

*Grain free diets contain carbohydrates from fruit and vegetables which when heat processed will likely have the same digest ability as that of the grains.

*Research is very limited in this area; mostly these recommendations are based on opinion rather than facts.

When is it necessary to start on an adult food?

By a year of age your puppy could go on an adult formula, but the majority of adult diets are similar in nutrient content to what is in a puppy diet.

**When you bring your puppy in for a health check or a vaccination, bring in a zip lock bag with the amount of food you are feeding the puppy per day, plus the label information on the diet you are feeding  (an empty bag will do) and any information on the treats you are feeding your puppy. Your veterinarian can make sure you are on the right track to having a healthy puppy.

Part B: Home Made Puppy Diets:


Studies with large breed puppies found that a protein % of 14 to 35on a dry matter basis was adequate a protein above 35% and below 14% was detrimental to development .All the research has been done on processed puppy diets not on homemade or raw diets Animal based protein stimulates the appropriate acid levels in the stomach and small intestines for optimal digestion. The most common source would be muscle tissue with attached tendons, cartilage and soft (immature bone).By including the cartilage and immature bone, you are providing Calcium Phosphorous, glucosamine and chondroitin sulphate. Another natural source is raw chicken breasts, necks and backs, with the bone left in. Whole eggs plus the shell are another good protein and calcium source. Cheese particularity cottage cheese and plain yogurt are other protein sources. Wheat germ is the embryo of the wheat plant it has no gluten or starch and but is high in protein, minerals, Vitamin E, B vitamins and antioxidants. I recommend always adding it because of the nutrients it contains.


The Purina research Center has done numerous studies evaluating diets for many breeds of puppies. These were 10 week growth studies involving Labrador Retrievers, German Shepherds, English Springer Spaniels, English Setters and Siberian Huskies. The energy level of the diets was approximately 3300Kcal/1000g and the Ca: P =1.2:1. Breed differences were noticed in the puppy’s response to low Calcium and excess Ca intakes. Their conclusion was that 1 to 1.5% DM or3.0g/1000Kcal to 4.5g/1000Kcl was safe and adequate for all breeds

The most common mineral to be deficient in a homemade puppy diet is calcium, especially if the puppy is fed only meat with no ground bone. Too much calcium in the form of supplements in the diet can be a problem. The excess calcium in fresh ground small bones found in raw food does not seem to be a problem, but it has not been closely investigated

Feeding Raw diets to Puppies

BARF biologically appropriate raw foods have been successfully feed to zoo animals and puppies, with no detrimental effects, so long as variety is offered and the diet approaches that of the natural prey: bone, partially digested gastro intestinal content, and muscle tissue.  (Unlocking the Canine Ancestral Diet. 2010. Steve Brown. Dog Wise Publishing ISBN 978-1-929242-67-2) commercially prepared raw diets have potentially less harmful bacteria than the meat and chicken you buy in the supermarket. I still like to add fruit and vegetable to help balance out the minerals and vitamins. Not all raw foods are created equally; some companies like some kibble manufacturers are strong on marketing and weak in actual nutrition knowledge.

Equipment needed for a Homemade Diet:

  • An accurate kitchen scale, measuring spoons and cups
  • a meat grinder and or a food processor,
  •  a coffee grinder can be used to grind up  whole flax seed, dry egg shell
  • A large rubber maid tub with lid, or a large portable camping cooler. 

All ingredients can be fed raw except the rice, grains and eggs. Whether you grind, or mince the ingredients in a food processor or leave in chunks will be an individual choice

**Note raw meat especially from the supermarket can be contaminated with microorganisms that may be harmful to humans. Handle using suitable sanitary precautions including cleaning feed bowls. Avoid grapes, beet tops, onions, rhubarb, very fat meats and fat poultry 

If meat is cooked, lightly sauté, do not overcook. Do not cook the liver as this will destroy some important nutrients

All fruits vegetables and meats should be coarsely ground in a food processor. The vegetables and fruit do not need to be peeled or the seeds removed.* Note pits from peaches apricots plums must be removed.

Once processed, mix all ingredients together in a large rubber-made container by hand but wear rubber gloves once mixed freeze in smaller meal sized portions.

Introduce the new diet gradually to allow the flora of the gastro intestinal tract to adapt from a kibble to a wet whole food diet.

Puppy Diet Basic

Apples, raw, with skin                                      1kg

Beans, snap, green, raw                                   1kg

Beef, liver, raw                                                 550 g

Blueberries, raw                                               500 g

Grapefruit                                                         1 (246 g)

Carrots, raw                                                     1 kg

Egg shell ground                                             75 g

Egg, whole, cooked, hard-boiled                      30 (1.5 kg)

Garlic, raw                                                       65 g

Parsley, raw                                                     1 cup chopped (60g)

Ground Turkey                                                 1.5 kg

Rice, brown, long-grain, cooked                      1.5 kg

Squash, winter, all varieties, raw                      1.0 kg

Wheat germ, crude                                           1.0 kg

Nutrition yeast  (Health Food Store)                 200 g

**Flax Forward is from Juka organics and is an essential fatty acid supplement, which I believe to be superior to fish oils. But Fish oil, virgin olive oil can be added ½ cup directly to the food when mixing, or feed the fish oil on a daily basis

This diet contains 32% vegetables, 20% fruit, and 30% meat or other protein sources and 20% grain. The calculated nutrient break down on an “As Fed” basis: 1260 Kcal/1000;  9% Protein; Fat 4.1%; Fibre 2.8%; Ash1.03%; Moisture 70% ; Calcium. .3; P .2 %

These proportions for the ingredients in a homemade diet are not etched in stone and recipes which are balanced recommend a much higher proportion of meat and animal based protein sources, others advocate no grain while others state no carbohydrates at all.

To add variety you can substitute within the vegetable, fruit, and meat groups but keep the proportions close to the same.                                    

Amount to feed:

Calculate the caloric requirement of the puppy, based on age and body weight:

Let’s take our Eore our 16 week old 16  Kg puppy  whose calculated caloric requirement  is 1280 Kcal This diet ha s 1200Kcal/1000g as fed or 1.2 Kcal /g. Therefore Eore needs 1280/1.26=1.0kg/day. Which may seem like a lot but the diet is 70 % Moisture .If cut to 10% Moisture he will require 400 g of diet.

Grain Free Puppy DIet

Amount to Make
Carrots, fresh
Grams per day required based on the daily caloric requirements divided by 100 this value multiplied by the number of meals you wish to have on hand. In the example the pup requires 2300g of food. Therefore one meal requires about 290g carrots430 g of turkey ect
Apples, fresh,
Grapefruit, pink,
Blueberries, fresh
Snap Beans, green, fresh
Squash, winter raw
Garlic, raw, clove
Egg, chicken, whole, , hard-cooked, chopped
egg shell
Turkey, ground, raw
Beef, liver, raw
Wheat, germ, crude

On an As Fed basis the calculated nutrient % is Protein 9%; Fat 4%; Moisture76%; Ca .35%; P.16%


The amount to feed can be calculated by determining the pups the pups caloric intake based on age and body weight = daily caloric intake/1.04 Kcal/g

Example: The pups caloric requirement is 2400Kcal/d or2400/.1.04=2300g of food /day This seems like a lot but 76% of it is water only552g is actual dry food. or approximately ¼


 The whole issue of a balanced homemade diet can be confusing to the new puppy owner.  If you are reluctant to feed a homemade diet, freeze dried, dehydrated and raw whole food diets are available commercially, but you must research the manufacturer thoroughly or quiz the owners of the store you are buying the diet from to determine if they have investigated the diets completely. You should introduce variety into your puppy’s diet as well, whether it is a kibble, canned or whole food diet...

The End

Any Questions please email Meg Smart at or visit my blog


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