River’s Healthy Puppyhood

As soon as I saw River, I knew we had to adopt him. Just look at that face! He was the most unique looking super mutt I had ever seen. And just like that, another puppy joined our pack.

River is the second puppy that we have adopted after losing two of our “original” dogs to old age. Our young rescues can never replace the “original five,” but they do provide us the opportunity to honor the memories of the ones that came before them by being able to give other rescues a safe, loving, and happy home.

My blog post, “Nutrition for a Puppy to Thrive” detailed River’s “older” brother Woody’s journey of being fed a raw fed diet from puppyhood. I am writing this post to incorporate what I learned from Woody’s journey into what I have added to River’s puppy meals (ps Woody is now 1 1/2 years old and is THRIVING).

Through Woody and River, I am, in a sense, conducting my own food trial. Though all of our dogs are currently fed a balanced and complete raw, fresh homemade diet, unfortunately my original pack only benefited from this diet for a few years before they passed. I initially followed what I was taught in vet school about “healthy meals,” and fed our dogs a “big name” (highly processed) prescription dry food kibble for over ten years. However, after researching and implementing raw diets into all of our dogs’ lives, I immediately noticed a positive change in their health and wellbeing. And now with Woody and River I get to feed fresh homemade meals from the start! Nutrition, no matter the age of the dog is vital, and nutrition certainly impacts the quality and quantity of their lives. And, the best part is that we, as pet owners, have complete control over our doggies’ diets. Now knowing what the right path is, Woody and a River have been afforded the best start in life, simply by providing them with proper nutrition.

Yes, it is more expensive to feed your dogs a fresh, homemade diet with added supplements, but I strongly believe that you either pay for nutrition now, or you pay your veterinarian later. And yes, I’m saying this as a veterinarian because of the positive impacts I witnessed after changing our dogs’ diets from a processed kibble to a complete and balanced raw diet. As for the “complete and balanced” part, I, even as a veterinarian, would find it extremely difficult to formulate a diet from scratch for my dogs. I personally rotate Dr. Harvey’s dehydrated base mixes (Paradigm, Raw Vibrance and Canine Health), and I add in my own high-quality, pasture-raised, grass-fed and humanely raised proteins, mainly from Raw Feeding Miami, along with organic, unrefined oils. I rotate Dr. Harvey’s base mixes, proteins, and oils because variety is key to well-balanced diets. As far as supplements, if I were to pick my top two, for not only puppies, but for all of our dogs, it would be Dr. Harvey’s Solaris and Imperial’s Deer Velvet.

Dr. Harvey’s Solaris is a twice-daily whole food supplement that is packed full of organic healing mushrooms (balances body’s response to immune system), organic astragalus (super herb), organic wheat grass (a living anti-bacterial food that helps detox the body) and organic turmeric (a food high in anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties).

Imperial Deer Velvet is one of my biggest nutritional takeaways from attending the 2019 American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association conference. Several out of the 30+ traditional uses for deer velvet coincide with puppy health, including promoting growth, improving mental development, protecting joints/bones, and strengthening immunity. A main priority of mine with River is to protect his backbone. River is a Border Collie mix, and is predisposed to IVDD, which is a condition where the cushioning discs between the vertebrae of the spinal column either bulge or burst into the spinal cord space. I want to protect his backbone in every way possible, and I can do this by including deer velvet supplements in his diet. Also, with Imperial Deer Velvet, there are no known interactions with other drugs. That is huge! (Promo Code: VetJulia for 10% off, of course, after discussing with your veterinarian). Additional inclusions in the pups’ meals are Organic Good Culture, Whole Milk Cottage Cheese and Organic Lifeway Plain, Whole Milk Kefir. It is extremely important to me that the animals used in our dogs’ meals are treated humanely while they are raised, and this doesn’t stop with just the main protein ingredients. This philosophy is why I chose Good Culture for their cottage cheese and Lifeway for their Kefir, as these products are derived from humanely raised animals.

Organic Good Culture, Whole Milk Cottage Cheese is an excellent way to also add live and active cultures and protein in Woody’s and River’s diet, however, moderation is key. Since Good Culture is derived from (pasture-raised) whole milk, I used one teaspoon at first to make sure they didn’t have any sensitivities to dairy products . I slowly increased the amount, and now I use one tablespoon per ten pounds body weight daily.

I also add Organic Lifeway Plain, Whole Milk Kefir for River (and all of my dogs) at one teaspoon per five pounds body weight daily. Kefir is packed full of many nutrients, including protein, calcium and twelve live and active probiotic cultures. The benefits of these good bacteria help support our five dogs’ immunity and a healthy digestive system. Kefir is high in calcium, so I am careful to not include too much kefir to throw off our five dogs’ calcium to phosphorus ratio, especially since Dr. Harvey’s base mixes contain calcium. Another great aspect of kefir is that it is 99% lactose free, so if I did have a dog that was sensitive to lactose, I would still be able to use this product.

Another tidbit of River’s meal plan is that I feed him three times a day. I choose this feeding schedule so I can break up his meals in smaller portions since puppies’ stomachs are small. I simply divide the daily meal allotment by three.

I’m so very excited to see what a handsome and healthy boy River will grow into as a teen and throughout adulthood, as I am giving him the best chance possible not only to live, but to thrive.


After contacting Dr. Harvey’s to share the physical and mental health benefits that I witnessed after switching my dogs’ diets to Paradigm, Dr. Harvey’s has since given me free products from their lines of food, supplements, treats, and grooming essentials for my honest feedback. Dr. Harvey’s products are not intended to diagnose, treat or cure any disease.

After hearing a lecture on Deer Velvet at the 2019 AHVMA conference, I contacted Imperial LTD. Since then, we have formed a collaboration where I get free products as a result of promoting their product line, which is easy for me since I do truly stand behind their products. Our Five Dogs has also formed a collaboration with Lifeway and Good Culture, and I have received products as part of this collaboration. I had been using these product lines for my pups’ meals before we were in contact, and am thrilled with this opportunity. All opinions expressed about the aforementioned companies, in this and any other article I post may not represent the thoughts or opinions of the affiliated companies. In no way is this post or any other post intended to be a substitute for professional veterinarian advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Yes, I am a veterinarian, but I am not your pets’ veterinarian. Always seek the advice of your veterinarian with any questions you may have regarding the medical condition of your pet. Never disregard professional advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this blog.

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