Food Guidelines

Transitioning Your Dog to a Raw Food Diet

By Brandine Strand

From a healthier coat, to improved digestive health, to fresher breath, the benefits of feeding a raw food diet to your dog abound.

But as with most of life’s transitions, the process of changing your dog’s diet to a raw one can be tricky — especially if you are transitioning to a raw food from dry, processed kibble. 

raw food diet

When it comes to introducing your dog to raw foods, there is no perfect way for all pets. The best approach may depend on your dog’s age, former diet, digestive system sensitivity, and other factors. Rather than going cold turkey, try mixing raw food with your dog’s kibble gradually. We recommend switching from a processed diet to a raw food one slowly — ideally over the course of 7 to 14 days.

We’ve outlined the basic steps to a complication-free transition process to raw dog food below. Depending on how quickly your dog adjusts, each step may take between three to five days. 

Step 1: Begin by feeding your dog a blend of 20 percent raw food and 80 percent kibble. Continue for three to five days and keep an eye on the condition of your dog’s stool.

Step 2: If your dog’s stool is mostly firm, you can move on to the next step: 50 percent raw food, 50 percent kibble. Continue this step for three to five days, making sure to monitor your pet’s stool. If your dog is experiencing diarrhea, do not proceed to the next step until the diarrhea has ceased or you talk to your vet.

Step 3: If your dog is ready to proceed to step three, you can try feeding her a mix of 80 percent raw and 20 percent kibble for another three to five days.

Step 4: If all is well, you can move on to the final step and switch to a 100 percent raw food diet.

raw food diet

Throughout these steps, it is normal to see a change in consistency in your pet’s stool — though you should talk to your vet if your dog experiences diarrhea for more than a few days. Your pup may experience temporary tummy aches and soft stool as her system gets used to their new diet, in addition to changes in how frequently she goes to the bathroom. At the end of the transition process, your dog should have smaller, firmer stools due to the lack of fillers and foreign ingredients in her new diet.

4 Tips to Keep in Mind

Raw food diets are what nature intended for our canines to eat, but it is possible to run into complications due to human error during the transition process. Here are 4 tips to make the switch to raw as smooth as possible for your pooch:

1. Start out with a single protein.

No matter how gradual the transition, the switch from dry, processed kibble to raw food will come as a slight surprise to your dog’s system. If your dog starts to feel uncomfortable after being introduced to raw foods, she may become hesitant to eat. Sticking to a single protein source — such as turkey or chicken — will give your dog’s body more time to get used to the adjustment. You can try introducing new meats into your dog’s daily meals after a month or two.

2. Serve meals on an empty stomach.

If you have an adult dog, try feeding her only once every 12 hours to give her time to build up appetite and detoxify her system. If your dog is allowed to become hungry, she will be more eager to chow down on her next raw food meal. Note that this method should only be used with older dogs — puppies less than 12 months old need to be fed two to four times per day.

3. Serve room temperature on a plate.

You can enhance the appeal of your pet’s new food by serving meals at room temperature. Allow refrigerated raw foods to warm up for 30 minutes before serving.

Similarly, you can encourage your dog to eat by helping her see what she is eating. Instead of serving raw food in a deep bowl, try dishing it onto a plate so she knows what she is getting.

4. Keep calm.

Your dog may try to win attention and/or treats by refusing to eat. Try to avoid reacting, as showing concern can signal to a dog that her bad behaviors are working. If you remain calm and hold your ground, your dog will realize you mean business and decide to eat her new food rather than get nothing at all. Remember — every dog is different, so there is no one-size-fits-all approach to transition your pet to a raw diet. Use these guidelines as a basis, but feel free to adjust the process as needed. Staying positive will encourage your dog to adopt the same attitude. And the end result — a happier, healthier dog — will ensure the transition process has been well worth your effort.

Brandine Strand is an avid life-long dog mom & entrepreneur, passionate about holistic health & natural medicine. In 2018, she founded Cali Raw Nutrition, a premium raw dog food company that ships human-grade, complete & balanced, life-stage specific meals straight to your door. Brandine is dedicated to making it easy for dog lovers to provide optimal nutrition for the enhanced health & longevity of their dogs.

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