Switching Your Dog to a Raw Diet Smoothly
Switching your dog to a raw diet is a great decision: you'll be taking better care of your beloved pet's health and providing them with a healthy diet they will thrive on. It's important to know that making the transition can be problematic if not handled with care — for your pet's comfort, we recommend you transition to a raw diet gradually and slowly.
While raw diets have been shown to promote a healthy gut flora & improve digestion while improving the overall health of dogs, the transition period can sometimes cause temporary loose stool that can often scare people away from the diet.
However, it is normal to experience temporarily softened stool while enzymes in the stomach adapt to the abundant & rich nutrition. Dogs with known sensitive stomachs may also experience softened stool in the process of switching to raw.
There are different opinions as to whether or not you can mix kibble with raw, and it can be confusing as a pet parent to decide which method to take.
You may come across advice that tells you the opposite — that you need to make a sudden cold turkey switch. However, this can be dangerous and may cause your dog quite sick, especially if you have a senior dog or one who has a sensitive stomach already.
We believe that mixing raw and kibble while gradually increasing the raw food intake over 1-2 weeks is a better & smoother alternative to a cold turkey switch.
Safe Methods for Transitioning to Raw
There are a few ways to switch your dog from processed foods to raw safely, but all of them involve gradually introducing raw meat over several days or even weeks. Remember, every dog is different, and we suggest monitoring as needed.
1. Mix Raw Food Into Kibble Gradually
The most common & safe method of transition is to replace some of the existing diets with fresh raw food in every meal.
We recommend following this 3-Step transition process:
- Start by feeding your dog 20% raw food and 80% kibble. Continue this ratio for 3-5 days.
- If your dog stool is mostly firm, proceed to the phase of 50% raw & 50% kibble for another 3-5 days. In case your dog has any diarrhea, wait a few days before increasing the amount of raw.
- Finally, move onto 80% raw & 20% kibble for another 3-5 days before switching 100% to a raw diet.
The process will take about one to two weeks, but you can go even more slowly if your dog needs it. For instance, senior dogs who have never eaten anything but kibble may need several weeks to adjust. Puppies may transition to a raw diet quicker.
Ready To Transition? Read Our Raw Food Topper Guide
2. Introduce Raw Treats First
It may be best to try the most gentle approach of all if:
- You tried to switch to raw before, and your dog suffered from severe diarrhea
- Your dog has been eating kibble for many years and has suffered from digestive problems in the past
- Your dog has a weakened immune system
You can give your dog muscle meat or a safe raw meaty bone (like a lamb femur orbeef marrow), but you should avoid organ meat initially. This involves giving your dog raw meat treats during the day as a supplement to their existing diet. You could even use different treats every day to determine what your dog likes (and responds to) best.
On the first day, give your dog just a treat or two. If their stool looks fine, you can increase the number of threats over the next few days. After about five days of no diarrhea, you can proceed to the 3-Step transition recommended above.
My Dog Is Picky. What If They Won't Eat Raw Food?
Kibble has added (unhealthy) ingredients to improve the taste and mask the flavor of low-quality meats. Most dogs will jump for joy at the whiff of their new food, but if you have a finicky dog, you might need to do some coaxing. Employing a few tricks can help your dog quickly overcome her initial skepticism. Here are some tips for transitioning your dog to a raw diet smoothly.
1. Serve At Room Temp
Your dog may be suspicious if you put a bowl in front of her containing food that looks like nothing they have ever eaten before. Even if it smells appealing, your dog may still worry that it's inedible. To increase the desirability, allow the food to sit at room temp for 30 minutes before feeding. This will also enhance the aroma of the food.
2. Serve On An Empty Stomach
If you are giving your dog a full meal (as opposed to treats), make sure they are starving & serve on an empty stomach. Feed your dog nothing for 12 and 24 hours before help builds up their appetite & reset their stomach pH. Like this, your dog will be more likely to dig right in.
Only try this technique with adult dogs. Puppies under the age of one need to eat 2-4 times every day to keep up with their high energy demands.
3. Help Your Dog See What They Are Eating
It can be difficult for some dogs to see what you are feeding them if you serve the food in a deep bowl. Show your dog that they have nothing to worry about by placing the raw food on a shallow plate instead.
4. Stick to a Single Source of Meat
You should be aware that it will come as a slight shock to your dog's system no matter how you introduce the raw diet.
If your dog feels uncomfortable, it may become less willing to eat. For this reason, it is essential to use just one type of protein in your dog's meals for at least the first week — longer if your dog still has diarrhea after seven days.
Chicken and turkey are great options to start with during the transition period as they are leaner meats.
Once your dog is used to the first source of meat, you can introduce the next — again giving at least a week to adjust. When you've established a raw diet after a couple of months, you can mix things up with different meats each day. Once you hit this point, a variety of meat sources is beneficial to your pup!
5. Avoid Showing Concern
If, after all these tricks, your dog still shows disdain for her raw food, stay unfazed. Some dogs will try to gain your attention (or tasty treats) by refusing their meals.
Give them time to realize that they can eat their meal or nothing, and they will soon change their attitude. Your dog can tell if you are concerned, so stay positive!
You'll see better results when transitioning to a raw diet if you choose high-quality foods. Instead of struggling to figure out what to feed your dog and worrying about nutrient deficiencies, feed a species-appropriate diet, and enjoy more time together.
What If I plan To Supplement Kibble With Raw Dog Food, Instead Of Feed 100% Raw?
We understand that a 100% raw diet is not for everyone & we think supplementing our formulas is still a great benefit to your dog's health.
Our recommendation would be to feed at least 50% of your dog's diet in raw food. You can mix the two foods for each meal or provide one in the morning and the other at night. Either way, it is essential to stay consistent daily once you've transitioned your dog.
In this case of supplementing kibble with raw food, your transition will only be a 2- step process getting to that 50% raw & 50% kibble ratio.
We think that once you see the changes & improvements in your dog's allergies, digestion, oral health, weight management & more, you'll want to get them on a 100% raw diet eventually.