Is your dog ready for the big switch?
Transitioning your dog to a raw diet is one of the best things you can do for their health.
For most dogs, it’s easy to change from a boring kibble diet to fresh, juicy raw food.
For others, though, you may need to transition slowly to accomodate a sensitive stomach or a picky palate.
Here’s what you should know before your dog’s very first raw meal:
When you’re feeding raw for the first time, you should introduce your dog to just one protein source. Chicken or turkey are ideal because they’re easy to digest and not too hard on sensitive stomachs.
After the first 2-4 weeks, you can bring in more protein sources. Add new foods slowly, as you may discover that your dog has allergies or intolerances to certain ingredients. You’ll want to make it easy to figure out which food may have disagreed with them.
Raw meaty bones, such as chicken frames, wings, and feet are a good source of protein and great at cleaning teeth, but they can be difficult for a newly raw fed dog to pick up on. A bone-in ground raw dog food makes it easy to add bone content, especially if your dog has difficulty chewing whole bones.
Most healthy dogs react favorably to raw. As their digestive system is still very similar to that of a wild canine, they’re able to adjust to eating biologically appropriate food.
Some people choose to fast their dogs for 12-48 hours before starting to feed raw. This can help reset the digestive system and ensure that your dog has a big appetite for their first raw meal.
Fasting isn’t safe for all dogs. Toy breeds, like the Chihuahua or Yorkie, as well as puppies of all breeds, are prone to low blood sugar. If you must fast a small dog, it’s best to fast just one meal, or offer goat’s milk or bone broth every few hours.
The idea of mixing raw with kibble is controversial. Some raw feeders will tell you that the foods are digested at different speeds, which can cause gastric upset. An interesting experiment from the Raw Feeding Community showed that kibble may actually be digested faster than raw, despite the widely held belief that it takes dogs longer to digest kibble.
Many raw feeders have fed kibble mixed with raw with no ill effects. Just as you may transition between types of kibble by gradually feeding more and more of the new food, you can transition gradually to raw.
You can start with a very small amount of raw food, replacing just ten percent of your dog’s kibble meal. Monitor them closely for vomiting or any change in stool output. You may notice smaller, firmer stools on raw; this is normal and a sign that your dog’s digestive system is working more efficiently without the excessive fiber found in kibble.
A gradual transition can be spread out over a few days, or a few weeks, depending on your dog’s health and how they react to their new diet.
If your dog doesn’t seem to react well to kibble mixed with raw, or you just prefer to keep the foods separate, you can offer raw “snacks” between kibble meals.
Maybe you would give your dog a half serving around lunchtime, and cut back on their breakfast and dinner kibble meals to compensate for the extra calories. If that works out for a few days, you might replace one of their kibble meals with raw for another few days.
Then, you can see how your dog does with a completely raw diet.
Most dogs get excited when they’re served a raw meal – “wow, all this meat, just for me?” It’s a refreshing change from their bland, dry food.
But some dogs are wary of new foods. They may not like how cold their raw food is, or they may not like the way it smells. Bone Appetit raw food is made with palatability in mind, but some dogs simply aren’t interested in unfamiliar foods at first.
When you warm up your dog’s food, it releases more tasty aromas, and that may be enough to pique your their interest. You can do this by very lightly searing their meal in a pan, just enough to warm the outside of it without actually cooking it, or you can pour warm water over it.
Some dogs just prefer their food is brought to room temperature before feeding, so it may be enough to leave it out on a counter for 20 minutes.
Pick up whatever your dog does not eat in 15 minutes, and save it for their next mealtime. This helps your dog get hungry on a schedule, and they’ll likely be hungry enough to eat next time.
It’s not unusual for some dogs to experience mild vomiting and diarrhea during the raw transition.
You can add probiotics to your dog’s diet to help aid in digestion. Kefir and yogurt are tasty ways to boost your dog’s intestinal flora.
Products made from raw goat’s milk are best, but plain, unsweetened cow’s milk yogurt or kefir works well in a pinch. Though cow’s milk is difficult for some dogs to digest, kefir and yogurt are usually okay because the live active cultures will have predigested most of the lactose.
Slippery elm bark is always good to have on hand – for both dog and human tummy troubles. You would give ½-1 teaspoon for every 10 pounds of your dog’s body weight. You can give this dose up to four times per day.
To prepare slippery elm bark for your dog, boil it in water for 2-10 minutes, until it becomes dark and forms a gel. You can make a big batch and keep the “tea” at room temperature until it’s ready to serve. You may need to mix it with food.
Ready to transition?