While we have written on this topic a number of times before (On Switching Your New Puppy to Raw;BayWoof Featured Article: A Home-Prepared Fresh Food Diet for Your Dog by Kasie Maxwell; BayWoof’s September Nutrition Issue Featured Article: Starting Puppies on a Raw-Food Diet by Kasie Maxwell and How Much To Feed When Switching To Raw ), this post will focus on the key details for switching your healthy adult dog over to a raw diet.
Wondering how to transition your dog to a raw diet? Here’s what you can expect when transitioning to a fresh foods diet through SFRAW.
Supporting YOU: We have a number of different ways to help you with making your pet’s transition over to a raw diet, and offer a lot of support! The best way to get one-on-one expert advice and put together a program with follow-up support is to schedule a consultation with me (you can do so here). I also teach workshops and classes during the Spring and Summer season.
For our members, we offer FREE mentoring sessions with one of our experienced and generous SFRAW Mentors – these take place a few times a month on either Saturdays or Sundays and are available on the Mentor’s schedules, which can vary. This program is really awesome, and is available only to our members.
Of course, if you just stop in, so long as it’s not too busy in here, we would be more than happy to help to give you the basic outline of what you need to do to get started, just so you’re doing things safely, and come up with suggestions for things you can buy to try first. You can just walk-in any day for this 7/days — if I happen to not be here, Jeff is our Operations Manager who works M-F, and he can give you a few suggestions to try some things out. He’s good at the basics. 🙂
For a pup with possible food allergies or intolerances, I typically suggest staying away from chicken and lamb — beef, turkey, pork, duck, rabbit, pheasant, goat, llama would all be good options here — and, if the allergies are severe, I would suggest the Grinds over the Formulas to get started as they have just that one single ingredient and the Formulas have a lot of goodies added.
Methods to Transition (for dogs only – not for kitties! To learn how to transition cats safely, please go here):
Short answer: for healthy dogs over 6 months of age, I suggest a “fasting” method to switch to raw:
Day One: no food or treats, lots of love and favorite activities – if you think they will really suffer skipping a day of food, offering small amounts of goat yogurt, slippery elm gruel or bone broth are OK;
Day Two: yogurt/broth/gruel + 1/2 the expected daily ration of the raw meal;
If all goes, well then by Day Three: 100% the amount of raw food + a bit of the yogurt/broth/gruel.
In my experience, this method is the easiest and least stressful on most dog’s systems. I have been feeding this way since 1989 and I have learned that the slow method of gradually mixing in the old with the new usually is much more difficult on their systems, and prolongs any possible GI upset they may experience with the switch.
Fasting ia a powerful tool that can hep with this transition, but also can be employed every time your pet has digestive upset or just needs a reset or boost to their immune system.
The “Fast-to-Raw” Method is my personal choice and most favorite way to switch to raw! Unless you have a very young puppy, a dog that currently has acid-reflux or regularly experiences “hunger pukes” (vomiting yellow bile); a breed especially at risk for hypoglycemia (tiny breeds) or a dog diagnosed with diabetes/hypoglycemia, fasting is the single best way to move to a new food, in my experience.
Fasting is especially beneficial for any dog experiencing debilitating or challenging chronic health issues, serious acute flares of disease, and for hospice dogs that are very old and frail.
Fasting provides the following benefits:
a. incredibly healing for the gut; allows for the digestive organs to rest and recover from foods that may have been causing inflammation, immune reactions or damage/toxicity;
b. allows for them to metabolize and eliminate residual foods from their system;
c. creates a ready GI system that is genuinely hungry and prepared to digest food;
d. provides a mini-detox for the liver, kidney, spleen and GI tract;
I have found that the “Fasting-to-Raw” method help to limit or minimize GI distress to a few days rather than extending any possible GI symptoms (vomiting/diarrhea, for example) over a few weeks – or even months — with slower methods of switching to raw.
DAY One: NO food or treats; if they beg for food or seem hungry, distract them with extra sessions of play, grooming, love/attention – whatever they enjoy most and feels like a nice reward to that particular dog – but no meals or treats or real food.
Exceptions: useful foods for those not ideally suited to a true fast include small servings of bone broth, small amount of goat milk yogurt/kefir which may be mixed in with slippery elm slurry if GI concerns or honey/blackstrapp molasses if concerned about glucose levels.
DAY Two: Feed 50% the expected daily ration of raw meals for this day – can be mixed in with the yogurt or broth if you used it on day one. Split into two meals or if you have a picky eater, wait to feed until the evening meal only.
Feeding Times: You may be surprised to learn that most dogs actually do BEST on a natural diet when fed just once per day, at night only! If your dog is not enthusiastic about their morning meals, just go ahead and skip breakfast and only feed one evening meal. This is a completely normal and natural appetite and feeding schedule for our carnivore friends. Alternatively, you can feed one mid-day meal + one evening meal; or feed an evening meal + a pre-bedtime snack meal.
DAY Three: Feed the full amount of their daily ration, split between two meals – or for a picky eater, feed once per day only at night — and mixed with any leftover yogurt or broth, if all is going well (2% of the raw food per day based on your pet’s ideal weight)
That’s it! Usually, this works very well for most dogs.
Two Other Methods to Transition To Raw:
The “Cold Turkey” method – just ditching the previous diet and starting the next meal on raw without any transition at all. I have found two categories of dogs that seem to tolerate this method best:
- very ill dogs that are suffering with GI distress and allergies/skin issues form kibbled foods
- dogs that have an excellent, robust constitution and are healthy enough to handle a speedy switch to any new food with limited GI distress
- Donate all kibbled and canned foods to a local shelter; be sure to also donate any commercially produced treats you may have on-hand and/or dietary supplements. These are all possibly problematic foods, and could very much inhibit the health and stability of your dog during the transition.
- Feed one last meal of the old food and for the next meal, start feeding the raw diet of your choice: this can be something like SFRAW Grinds or Formulas (complete and balanced meals you simply defrost and feed); a blend of raw foods you are mixing at home yourself (meat/bones or adequate calcium to balance the phosphors and 5-10% offal + a small amount of other whole foods or ground veggies, pumpkin, herbs, sweet potato, green veggies, greentripe, etc.) It is important to start with just one single protein (most people start with chicken) — feed this one protein for at least a week, maybe two. Add a new protien every week, as tolerated, until you work your way up to 3-4 different proteins – ta da!
The “Slow and Careful” method: I rarely advocate for this, but occasionally there are some dogs (and people) that feel very strongly that their animals are so sensitive to changes in their diet that the only way they can get them to a raw food diet is by mixing with the old food over time and phasing out the kibble over a period of days or weeks.
Like I said, I rarely promote this method – have never needed to use it with any dogs under my own care (even very old, debilitated, hospice dogs). But, it is also important to me to allow for animals and people to do what they feel is best — and some dogs, do, indeed seem to best tolerate this method for a successful switch.
That being said, I’d personally prefer, in these cases, to have the kibble eliminated completely and switch to a home-cooked diet first, and then move to raw eventually. I think even small amounts of kibble is incredibly harmful/damaging; a taxing stress/hard on their bodies, that it’s worth removing entirely, to provide them with real, fresh foods, as soon as possible.
A balanced cooked home-prepared diet is going to be far healthier than kibble, and I think this makes for a nice transition food for many people or dogs with concerns over switching to 100% raw right away.
So many options! There are other ways to go about it, too – here are some links to a few other great guides you can also follow:
As you can see, there is not a single “right” method to make this transition, each of these techniques can get you to where you want to be – eventually feeding a balanced, varied raw diet that is:
- well-tolerated and genuinely enjoyed by your dog
- after a few months’ time, they are not just tolerating, but thriving on the diet– this would be verified by improvements in their overall health, skin/coat, digestion, mobility, behavior, immunity, and energy.
My advice is to simply choose whichever method resonates with you/seems practical/doable, and makes the most sense from your personal perspective, AND, most critically, what you think will work BEST for your dog! YOUR individual dog’s reaction to the nutrition you are offering them is the ultimate deciding factor for which fresh foods diet you choose and what method of switching them over is ideal.