Guide to Going Raw: What to Expect While Transitioning Your Dog to a Raw Diet
Diet transitioning can be tough, especially when you're switching your dog from a kibble diet to a more species-appropriate, raw diet. Most dogs will have no problem with the transition, but if you find your dog isn't taking to their new food right away, don't freak out.
It's actually quite normal for your dog to be hesitant about their new food. Imagine suddenly cutting all the sugar, sweets, and not-so-good-for-you snacks out of your diet - it'd be hard, right? When we're used to eating the same highly processed foods all the time, it may take some time for our bodies to adjust to a healthier diet. That being said, this exact thing might be happening with your dog.
To make the transition a little easier, we've curated a guide to going raw with everything you can expect when transitioning your dog to a raw diet. Keep reading for more!
Why choose Raw?
First things first - why would you want to go raw as opposed to other forms of food?
Just as processed foods have contributed to health issues in humans, processed pet foods have done the same for dogs and cats. Veterinarians routinely see chronic conditions such as obesity, epilepsy, allergies, and diabetes in dogs that can all be linked back to the food they eat.
For years, the commercial pet food industry has been dominated by cheaper quality ingredients and heavy use of food additives in order to produce mass quantities and sell to pet owners all over the world - but cheap production can come at the cost of our companion's health. Our dogs and cats require fresh, vital foods just like us to maintain vibrant health.
Transitioning Your Dog to a Raw Diet
Essentially, there are two ways you can go about switching your dog's current diet over to a raw one - either a quick and easy rapid switch or a more slow and steady approach.
Regardless of the method you choose, there are a few tips we'd like to highlight around transitioning your dog to a new raw diet:
- Aim for variety: Introducing a rotational diet is the most beneficial way to make sure your dog is getting all the nutrients they need to keep them at optimal health. Plus, all of Raw Bistro's products are formulated as true rotational diets, so it's easier than ever to mix and match their next meal. Check them out here!
- Play with the temperature: Some dogs may like their raw food straight from the freezer and do not like mushy or partially thawed food. On the other hand, some dogs may prefer to be served at room temperature. Lightly cooking food for older dogs with heath conditions such as cancer, immune deficiencies, or gastrointestinal problems can also help ease the transition.
- Portion food to reduce waste: It may be helpful to freeze (and defrost) your dog's raw food in portions to minimize waste, especially if your dog has a small stomach or prefers to eat only a little at a time. You can defrost up to about 3 days worth of food for maximum freshness.
- Mix raw + kibble: It's perfectly OK to mix in the new raw food with their old food whether it's kibble or another form. This can help to wean your dog off commercialized foods and get them slowly adjusted to a raw diet - plus, this can be a more affordable option if you're looking to test out a raw diet. After all, some raw is better than none!
Know that there isn't a strict schedule you need to follow when transitioning to raw - we'd recommend following whatever feeding schedule that works best for you and your dog.
If you have a chowhound, you know your dog will eat anything, no questions asked. Some dogs are completely fine with switching almost overnight, and it's quite safe for them to do so.
Rapid switches are an easy way to start your dog on their new food - simply start feeding them raw at the next mealtime and voilà! However, every dog is different and some may need more time to adjust, especially if your dog is used to an all-kibble diet.
Switching on a dime may not be the best approach for a dog who has been eating kibble day after day for many years. Imagine if you ate nothing but dry cereal and water for years, and then suddenly going out for Mexican. If you eat a little bit of the enchilada, you'll probably be just fine. But if you eat the whole meal (as it's quite easy to do!), it may not have the best outcome... body-wise, or bowl-wise.
If you do decide to dive right into a rapid switch, paring their meal with a gut supply (such as pumpkin) can help to firm up stools. Keep an eye on them over the next few days to monitor how they are handling their new food.
Signs that you may have switched your dog's food too fast include major stomach upset and vomiting - if this is the case, slow down on the transition and mix their food giving more of the old, less of the raw.
On the other hand, taking a slower approach may be more successful and offer an easier transition - especially for senior dogs, dogs with food sensitivities, or other GI issues.
Start with mixing a bit of the raw in with their old food. Over the course of a few days gradually decrease the amount of dry food and increase the amount of raw until your pet’s diet consists of 100% raw food.
Note that it may take your dog some time to even recognize their new raw meal as food. This can be especially prominent in older dogs who may have grown up eating a commercialized kibble diet all their lives.
Switching for Puppies
While raw diets can be safe for puppies, they must get the appropriate nutrition for their growing bodies. Making sure your puppy is getting a complete and balanced diet is the most important thing you can do.
In this case, it might be best to avoid any homemade raw diets and invest in a true rotational diet, so you are guaranteed to get the most nutrients out of each meal.
As any puppy parent knows, growing puppies generally eat a lot and premium raw isn't exactly cheap. That's why we recommend mixing foods for puppies - plus, this can help ensure that they are getting that complete and balanced diet.
What to Expect After the Transition
Once your dog is loving their tasty new diet, you'll start to notice some of the benefits too. You can expect your dog to sport a glossier coat, higher energy levels, less allergies/itching, and increased overall health.
Changes in their stool can be noticed almost immediately. Because of the high water content in the meat and vegetables, stools may turn out softer than usual for awhile. Eventually, their stool output will decrease to be smaller and less frequent. Because there is less waste, stools should be compact and slightly drier than before.
After transitioning to a new diet, your dog may experience a period of detoxification in which their body will release toxins through the exterior as a way of cleansing internal organs and tissue.
A few temporary symptoms some dog owners may see during the transition to raw are:
- eye tearing
- discharge from ears
- increased ear wax
- loose or runny stools
- itchiness due to detoxing from carbs or preservatives
Symptoms generally last for about 10-14 days at most and should be non-severe but know that it's normal for your dog to take much longer such as a few months to fully adjust. The amount of time to fully clear up and stop exhibiting symptoms largely depends on how long your dog has been on a kibble diet.
Nervous About Switching to a Species-Appropriate Diet?
It's normal to be nervous about switching to a new diet. As pet parents, we don't want to do anything that could potentially be harmful to our four-legged buddies. The most important thing you can do is educate yourself on raw dog food diets and all that they entail so you are better equipped to make the best decision possible - here at Raw Bistro, we want to help make that information easily accessible to you!
If you're nervous about switching to a species-appropriate diet, there are a few things you can do to ease the transition:
- Take time to read about raw feeding and understand the benefits
- Know how to properly read food labels in order to understand what is actually inside the bag/can.
- Invest in your dog's health - buy the best quality ingredients that you can afford, even if its just a meal topper or mix-in.
- Ask questions! Know which questions to ask so you can tailor your shopping experience to your dog's needs.
- Schedule a raw dog food consult with Raw Bistro to talk through any concerns about raw feeding or how to get started.
Whether you're new to the raw scene or not, there's a ton of information out there to sift through. At Raw Bistro we're committed to making raw diets accessible and easy to understand for any pet owner. Don't be a stranger and give us a shout!