Transitioning Your Dog to a Raw Dog Food Diet
There are many opinions about methods for transitioning your dog to a raw dog food diet, and for the most part, they may all be correct. You know your pet’s digestive health better than anyone, so choose the method that you are the most comfortable with but always be prepared for a possible digestive reaction.
Generally, most pets make the transition incident free, but having a digestive aid or a fiber additive on hand is always a good idea.
Choosing the Right Method
Making the switch to a raw diet can already make some pet owners nervous, and there is no better way to scare a pet owner back to kibble than a rocky transition.
Raw diets are incredibly beneficial, highly digestible, and the most natural way to feed your pet. However, they are a significant change from most commercial dog foods, which means that you need to consider different transition methods to help minimize, and often eliminate, an adverse reaction during the switch.
Here are some of the most common and safest methods for transitioning your dog to a raw dog food diet.
Method 1: Dipping your toes in the water
The most commonly recommended transition method is to start using small pieces of raw food as a treat throughout the day, but separately from meals.
Monitor stool quality to ensure proper digestion. If your pet’s stool is abnormal, watery, or your pet shows signs of constipation, then a slower method may need to be used.
Over the next few days, if no digestive concerns arise, offer larger pieces of the raw food as treats, while slowly reducing the kibble or canned meals, thus preventing overfeeding and maintaining proper digestion. Continue to monitor stool quality for inconsistencies or signs of digestive distress.
If your dog seems to be tolerating the raw inclusion well, then it’s time to replace one full meal with a raw diet. Continue this for 3-5 days and monitor stool quality. When you are comfortable, replace all meals with the raw diet.
Most dogs will experience minimal to no digestive upsets during this transition, but for those dogs with sensitive stomachs or chronic gastrointestinal problems, a more cautious method may suit your dog better.
Method 2: A Cautious Approach
If you know your dog has a sensitive stomach or has shown signs of digestive issues with the previous method, start the transition process by feeding plain raw meat as treats, instead of using a complete and balanced raw diet with many ingredients.
You can start with meat from the grocery store and slowly work your way up to a fully raw diet once your dog’s system begins to adjust.
You can even partially cook the pieces of meat, and over time, cook the meat less and less until your pet can tolerate purely raw meat.
Never cook a raw diet that includes raw bone. Cooked bone can become brittle and even splinter, posing a risk of intestinal perforation or choking in your dog.
Next, start replacing raw meat treats with pieces of a complete and balanced raw diet. If you see no digestive repercussions, then you’re safe to start following method 1.
Method 3: Ripping off the Band-aid
For those dogs with “iron stomachs,” we recommend skipping all the extra steps and put your pet on a 12-hour fast before switching to a complete raw feeding schedule. It seems too good to be true, but I find that this is becoming a popular approach to transition your dog to a raw dog food diet.
If your pet experiences minor digestive upsets using any transition method, you can add in a digestive aid, like pre- and probiotics, or extra fiber, like pumpkin, to help firm up the stool and reduce the gastrointestinal distress until your dog’s body adapts to their new food.
Comprehensive Guide to Raw Dog Food
Tips for Raw Feeding
Beyond the actual food switch, there are a few things you can do to ensure that your dog continues to thrive on a raw food diet. Take a look at our top tips for feeding your dog a raw food diet:
Tip # 1: Scale Up
The more drastic the change in quality is, the higher the chances that your dog may struggle with the transition. Look at their current food and assess the quality.
If you are feeding a low-end kibble, which is predominantly carbohydrates with by-products and altered ingredients or is loaded with synthetic nutrition instead of real foods, then you may need to first switch your pet to higher quality nutrition in their current diet format before making a move to raw food.
While kibbles can’t always be compared to the ingredients and nutrition in a raw diet, try to find a food that is as close as you can. High-quality food should be meat-rich, low carb, and as natural as possible, allowing your pet’s body to start adapting to sourcing nutrients from food products and not from synthetic additives.
Tip # 2: Rehydration Recommended
Many pet owners are aware of the benefits of raw food but are looking for a less time-consuming feeding option for their dogs. Dehydrated and freeze-dried raw diets provide all of the nutritional benefits of raw without the mess and hassle of defrosting and storage.
While these are a perfectly suitable alternative to fresh raw food, one of the benefits of a raw diet is the increased moisture content which aids in digestion and nutrient absorption. Therefore, it is recommended that a dehydrated or freeze-dried food be rehydrated to make sure that your dog gains the full benefit of raw foods.
Tip # 3: Stick to What Your Dog Knows
Outside of food allergies, it can be beneficial to start a raw diet using the same animal protein that your pet is currently eating, reducing digestive stress during the transition.
Once your dog is acclimated to the raw diet, you can start introducing new proteins. Rotational diets are recommended for cats and dogs, so it’s a good idea to consider changing proteins every few months.
Every animal protein has a different make-up of amino acids, minerals, and omega fatty acids, so rotating between various meats can ensure that your pet is receiving all necessary nutrients.
Raw Food Diet for Cats -Safety First
Tip # 4: Choose the Right Format
Raw diets come in a variety of formats, so look for the diet that best suits your lifestyle and their eating habits. Texture, size, and ingredients can all be customized to find the best fit for your pup.
Many dogs are happy with raw meat in any format, but portioning their food may be easier with pre-formed packs, or scoopable bite-sized pieces.
If you have a picky pet that is used to canned or wet food, then you may want to look for a freeze-dried or dehydrated food that is finely ground and easily rehydrated.
To accommodate sensitivities or allergies, a single protein food, or a whole prey diet, either commercial or homemade, may be a better fit. It will allow you to control all of the ingredients they are eating to eliminate potential triggers.
Are you a raw feeder? Share your experience of switching to a raw diet in the comments below!
“Transitioning Your Dog to a Raw Dog Food Diet the Safe Way”
Guest Writer: Krystn Janisse is the content writer for Homesalive.ca and a pet nutrition enthusiast. She has worked in many facets of the pet industry for over a decade and loves to share her passion for animal welfare with others.
Featured Image: Tiia Monto [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)]
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