The benefits of raw food for dogs are becoming well known, and more and more pet parents are opting for a fresh food diet for their pets. If you’re reading this, you already know why raw food is becoming so popular for discerning pet owners.
That said, switching your pup’s food can be intimidating, especially if you’re new to raw feeding. And that’s ok – every raw feeder had to start at this same place. Just be proud of yourself for getting to this point – it’s a big step, but one that you’re doing for the good of your pet.
So, what’s the best way to get your dog from kibble to raw (or somewhere in between)? And what can you expect along the way?
Raw Food for Dogs: Tips to Make the Switch
When it comes to switching from processed food to raw food for dogs, there are several different ways to make the switch. The approach you choose depends on your confidence level, your dog’s pickiness, and of course their stomach sensitivity. There’s no “right” way – there are lots of different options that make it easier for both of you.
1. Cold Turkey
This one is fairly simple. One day you feed kibble, the next you feed raw. There’s no gradual transition, it’s just bing-bam-boom. This no-nonsense approach doesn’t require much instruction. Throw out (or donate) your pup’s old food and start feeding raw.
Some dogs do amazing with this. Others may experience some tummy upset or diarrhea as the digestive system gets used to the change. This approach is great for young dogs – perhaps not awesome for those with sensitive tummies.
2. Combining Raw and Kibble
This one is fairly simple too. You gradually replace the kibble with raw.
You can determine the timeline that you’re most comfortable with, anywhere from a few weeks to a few months, but here’s a general example:
- Day 1-3 = 25% of the meal raw
- Day 4-6 = 50% raw
- Day 7-9 = 75% raw
- Day 10 = 100% raw
This is a good option for all dogs – even those with sensitive tummies – you can transition gradually to give the digestive system lots of time to adjust.
If you can’t afford to go all raw, or don’t want to, that’s ok!! There’s nothing wrong with feeding your dog a combination of both. Despite the myth, mixing fresh and processed foods won’t harm your dog. Do your best, whatever you’re comfortable with. Some fresh is better than none.
3. Kibble – Cooked – Raw
Another way to transition your dog to raw food is by cooking the food slightly in the early days. This can help the body transition and will even interest those picky dogs who are hesitant to try a new diet. Again, do this gradually. Start by cooking the food halfway through in the beginning, then reduce that over time until you stop cooking it completely. As with combining the food, you can take as little or long as you’re comfortable with to make the switch.
Please note that most pre-packaged raw food contains bones. Raw bones are great for dogs – they’re packed full of nutrients and great for the teeth – but cooked bones are a different story. Bone dust is a good alternative if you’re cooking.
This approach is also good for all dogs, young and old, especially the picky eaters. It gets them used to the new food, at a different consistency, but gives them time to appreciate the change!
Not doing all raw? You can always do kibble for breakfast and raw for supper!
Other Tips for Making the Move
There are several other ways to make the switch seamless.
- Don’t serve raw food ice cold from the fridge. This temperature difference can turn your pet off. Let it get to room temperature.
- If you’re doing the “cold turkey” approach, consider fasting your dog for 12-24 hours beforehand.
- If your pet is picky, try offering bites of raw food as treats in the early days.
- Add probiotics like goat’s milk or kefir to help the belly through the change.
- Digestive enzymes can help the pancreas adapt to the change also – think about adding some as well.
- Raw pumpkin is also a good addition if the switch results in runny stools. That’s normal.
What to Expect When Transitioning to Raw Food for Dogs
Now, not every dog experiences the same things when they start eating fresh food. That said, these are some typical things you might notice when moving to raw food for dogs.
- Mommy, I’m Hungry. Dry food expands up to 5x its size during digestion. This expansion stretches the gut and gives your pet a full feeling. Raw food, on the other hand, is much more calorically dense, but with less volume. At first, you might notice your pet hanging around their food bowl sooner than usual (as the food digests quicker) or looking for food more often (because of they don’t have that same full sensation). Don’t worry, this too shall pass as the stomach adjusts.
- Who Cut the Cheese? Tummy gurgles or a bit of flatulence is normal when switching to a raw food diet for dogs. This is because the normal gut flora in pets fed a high carbohydrate-based diet vs. a high protein, raw meat and bone diet are very different. It may take several weeks for your pet’s digestive flora to adjust. In the meantime, you might notice more rumblings from your dog’s belly or gas. Again, probiotics and digestive enzymes will help the digestive system adjust.
- I’m Not Eating That! If your pup has eaten processed food for their whole life, a sudden (and major) change to the contents of their food bowl might be a cause for concern. Lots of dogs will turn their noses up to raw at first glance, but give it time. They’ll come to see that fresh food tastes really good!
- Where’s the Rest? One of the best things about feeding a raw diet is that poops get better. No, seriously. Once you make the switch completely, you’ll notice your pup’s poops are smaller. That’s because dogs on a raw diet tend to absorb far more nutrients from the fresh food, leaving less waste they’ll need to get rid of. Kibble produces more waste because the body isn’t using a lot of the carbohydrates. Less poop is good poop – for both you (the clean-up crew) and your pet.
If you’ve decided to move from processed food to raw food for dogs, that’s awesome! Whatever approach you take, remember, there’s no wrong way, so do what works for you and your pup. Don’t get discouraged – you’ll get there!
The Veterinarious team is made up of pet owners, pet lovers, and pet experts from around the globe! We’ve banded together to create a community of like-minded pet people to give you the latest research and health advice for your beloved beast!