Lynn Potts - Author
Having virtually watched the Raw Dog Food Summit presented by Pet Summit: The Premier Pet Parent Learning Platform, it appears that “How do I transition my dog to raw food” is a universal question.
The one thing I am certain is that no one answer is the right one – it all depends on your pet. I will share some of the speaker’s tips - remember you know your dog the best so what will work for one may not work for another.
The first step is having decided that you want your dog to have a species appropriate fresh food diet. The second step is choosing a pre-made quality frozen food. Knowledgeable staff can assist you in choosing what is appropriate for your dog.
Once you have purchased your food and brought it home you are ready to start the transition. As the product is frozen it will need to be defrosted in your refrigerator. Thawing in a container is a best practice in case the packaging leaks. Once defrosted, the food can last in your refrigerator for a few days.
Now you are ready to start the transition. Keep in mind the following suggestions are for healthy adult dogs.
COLD TURKEY TRANSITION
If you have a dog that has a stomach of steel and readily accepts new foods without any gastrointestinal issues this might be for you. Basically, you will feed your dog their next meal using the new raw food, not kibble.
FASTING AND BROTH TRANSITION
During a period of 12 - 24 hours, you do not feed your dog any food but do provide them with bone broth. The thought behind this is that during this period all kibble will be eliminated from the stomach. Bone broth is nutritious and supports good gut health. After the 12 - 24 hour period the dog’s next meal will be raw food. This transition is suited for those dogs can eat anything without having any issues.
There are a couple reasons why transition is done over a period of time. Some dogs have sensitive stomachs and cannot handle any rapid changes in their diets. Other dogs are picky eaters and it takes time for them to adjust to changes.
One school of thought is on the first day replace ¼ of the kibble with raw food, on the second day ½ of the kibble with raw, ¾ of the kibble with raw on day three and by day four you feed completely raw. Extremely fussy dogs may start with just 1 tsp of raw day one, increasing it to 2 tsp on day two, 4 tsp day three and continually doubling the amount of raw fed daily until the dog is completely eating a raw diet (or adjust those measurements based on the total raw food you would normally end up feeding your dog).
Occasionally there are dogs that will not even consider taking a bite of raw food. Some dogs do not like their food cold so you can try letting it warm up on the counter for about 20 minutes so it is closer to room temperature. Lightly flash frying the raw food is another option but this should only be done with a product that does not contain ground bone (Tollden Farms Beef, Lamb, Kangaroo and Boar are examples of a raw food you can cook). Each day you reduce the amount of time you cook the food. Sometimes adding bone broth to the food can entice a dog to try the food.
Do not give up as your dog may not like the protein you have chosen, the veggies in it or even that particular manufacturer’s texture.
For those picky eaters other tips would include cutting out the snacks and treats, have a consistent feeding routine and increasing exercise. At Pet Grocer we have had great success helping picky eating transitions with slow introductions using a supportive digestive aid (for example Healthy Gut or Digest).
WHAT DO YOU NEED TO WATCH FOR
No matter what method you choose you may see some changes in your dog that may cause you some concern.
- Raw fed dogs have a reduced water consumption. Some suggest this could be between 60%-70% of what they previous drank on a kibble diet. This drop in drinking water is normal.
- Stool quantity is reduced as a raw fresh food diet does not contain any fillers. The body digests all the nutrients in the raw food thereby producing less poop. Smaller, less stinky poop - Bonus!
- If your dog experiences loose stool or diarrhea during transition it may mean that you are transitioning too quickly and need to slow down the process. Slippery elm can help soothe the digestive tract. A two day addition of chia seeds also helps firm things up quickly!
- If you find your dog’s stool hard and chalky your dog may benefit from some added fiber such as canned pumpkin into the bowl. Our favourite way to help with the hard or chalky poop is to add in a higher quality meat based diet and add in organic apple cider vinegar to breakfast.
If the idea of becoming a label reading expert seems daunting…ask for help at stores like Pet Grocer™, where holistic, fresh approaches with knowledgeable trained staff are their specialty. At Pet Grocer™ we are excited to support you on your pet’s journey to vibrant health.
Dr Conon Brady www.dogsfirst.ie
Dr. Conor Brady is the author of Feedings Dogs, Dry or Raw? The Science behind the Debate, an Amazon best-seller, including #1 in Small Animal Veterinary Medicine in the US. He is a leading pet scientist, writer, trainer, and pet nutritionist.
Dr Nick Thompson www.holisticvet.co.uk
Dr Nick Thompson is a vet who is the founder for Raw Feeding Veterinary Society. He has been fighting for responsible, species-appropriate raw food feeding for pets for over 25 years.
Dr Katie Woodley www.thenaturalpetdoctor.com
Dr. Katie Woodley is the owner and holistic veterinarian of The Natural Pet Doctor. Her Facebook page covers herbal medicine, supplementation, and nutritional advice that shows her commitment to pets thriving not just surviving.