Q&A: New To Raw Dog Goes from Super Enthusiastic to Suddenly Picky — Why? What to do?

Question: “Hi, I’ve been a regular customer for 6+ months, after switching my pup to a raw diet.  She was very happy and satisfied (and greedily devouring her servings) for the first few months, but since mid November/early December she has been extremely disinterested in the food.

I’ve been feeding her various of your formulas, rotating after each pint, so she isn’t getting the same flavor day after day.  When she stopped wanting to eat, I tried cooking the formula in a pan, heating it with a touch of boiling water, mixing other things into it (she picks the other stuff out without touching the formula).  When she gets hungry enough, she’ll eat a little bit, but then won’t touch it again for a couple days.

I’m wondering if you changed your recipe or your meat source?  I’m at a loss as to why she went from viewing the raw formulas as a treat to now being something she won’t touch.

I’d love your thoughts.  I really don’t want to switch her to a kibble diet, but if that’s all she’ll eat…

~Karin

Answer: Hi Karin,

I am so glad you wrote to us about this. Thank you for asking!  You must be very perplexed and concerned. 

Few things — if she is a puppy, she may just simply be adjusting to becoming an adult and appetite change is rather common at around 6-9 months and then again, at full maturity. Appetite changes in growing puppies can be expected – do your best to “roll with it”. If she is over 6 months of age, my suggestions below would apply. Please follow my recommendations at the end of this (lengthy!) reply.

Secondly, I saw that you mentioned cooking the food to entice her to eat. We currently prepare *only* TWO flavors, Beef Grind/Formula or Pork Grind/Formula, which can be safely fed either raw or cooked. ALL of our other Grinds/Formulas should never be cooked because they all contain raw ground bone. Unless bones are pressure cooked down into a mush-like soft consistency, bones should never be fed cooked to dogs & cats as there is a known risk of cooked bones causing damage to the digestive system. The physical structure of the bone material becomes altered by heat, they become more brittle and rigid, and this can be quite dangerous for dogs/cats to consume.

If you’d like to warm the Formulas or Grinds that contain ground bone in them, you can certainly feel free to mix hot liquid or small amounts of cooked healthy supplemental foods into raw cool Grinds/Formulas immediately before feeding. It is a great idea to warm meals up for dogs/cats that prefer room temperature meals, and this is perfectly safe to do in this manner (pour over and mix in the bowl/plate) because the Grind/Formula is not being cooked directly, but simply warmed by adding warm/cooked foods or warm water/liquid (broth, milk, etc). Remember to please be sure to always use a clean serving dish for each meal, and never allow raw meat meals to sit out for long periods of time (especially after being warmed up).

Sourcing is Our Focus and Our Producers Rarely Change! First, our sourcing and proteins/ingredients have not changed for many years (indeed, many of our key suppliers we have worked with since our start in 2003!) and do not change often, if at all. It takes a lot of research/screening, careful consideration, references/personal introductions, and relationship building that takes a long time to do before we bring on new producers or new products. We have worked with the same suppliers for many years and have established long-time relationships with these producers that ensures consistent supply to us as part of their annual and long-term programs.

Real Food, Real Flavor (and nutritional profiles, too!) We are totally dedicated to working with ranchers and producers raising animals in a healthy, more natural and holistic manner exclusively. This is natural “real” or “slow” food that is raised in a traditional, sustainable manner, not industrialized meats that are processed on a large scale with tight controls through artificial means.

Food raised in an industrialized manner comes along with many serious side effects including being far less healthful, more dangerous/high risk to eat and to produce, damages our environment, and is much less nutritious – not to mention inhumane, and sometimes very cruel.  All animals, humans and all others, are dynamic organic living beings that are a part of our greater ecosystem, they are not widgets and should not be raised or treated as such IMO 😊  

Reviews some of the reasons why we focus on sourcing!

Because of the way we source, our meat/poultry and seafood is a lot like wine, with qualities and characteristic influenced by terroir.  The flavor and nutritional profile will absolutely change, even from the same suppliers, from season to season. Wetter/drier periods can grow or support different plants on the pasture during different periods of time through the seasons (one of our suppliers refers to their beautiful, lush region producing “sweetgrass” beef since the grass their cattle graze on 100% of their lives has a very unique character and this translates, after dry-aging, to beef with a taste that is out of this world!). What they eat and are exposed to before slaughter really does change the character and quality of the meat.  The soil quality/mineral profile, as well as unique, changeable microbiology, and forage that these animals are raised on will have a direct influence of the flavor and nutritional profile from harvest to harvest. Changes reflected in the quality/character and nutrition of the meat can be seen after just a few short weeks of rain or sun, or changes in their diet/nutrition!  It’s quite remarkable.

So, for this reason, meat from the same supplier may taste differently and vary from harvest to harvest. 

Interestingly, as an aside, we have seen animals that were known to be allergic or intolerant to chicken, who are able to enjoy our wild foraging heritage truly pastured chicken (which is also air-chilled and not treated with chlorine baths like most other USDA poultry) without issue because it is just so very different from even organic birds found in conventional markets.

Organic Seasonal Produce Likewise, the fresh 100% organic local produce found in our Veggie Mixes (also in our Vitality Blend) certainly does change weekly and seasonally. While we focus on many of the same basics: spring lettuce mix, a variety of winter greens such as kale, chard, arugula, frisee, escarole, chicory, endive, cabbages and other cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower, celery, fennel, dandelion leaf, herbs such as parsley, basil, thyme, oregano, dill, tarragon, chervil, rosemary, ginger or garlic – the varieties of each and flavors of each change weekly due to supply and the natural character of the different plants.

My favorite day of the week are produce delivery and processing day – it smells absolutely fresh, delicious and wonderful in here and everything looks so amazingly fresh and perfect! I can’t help but to sample the produce myself. xoxoxo YUM!

Flavors will certainly vary from harvest to harvest/week to week. For example, some weeks we can’t get certain greens due to weather, and will then use a similar type of green that is doing well/great under the present climate – and, being organic local food, there are times when things taste their best and other times when things are just not at peak.  

All a part of eating with the seasons…

Furthermore…in our Vitality Blend, we purposefully include a different seasonal dry herb blend developed for each of the seasons.

btw: we sell these blends separately, too – our Seasonal Nutritional Blends: Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall.  Our SFRAW Seasonal Nutritional Herb blends support the energetic systems and organs in the body according to the season. For example, we use a blend of western and culinary/nutritional Spring Herbs that support detoxification and the liver/hepatic function; Summer Herbs support cardiac function/the heart; Fall Herbs support the lungs/respiration and breathing; Winter Herbs support the kidneys/renal function.

Learn more about TCM food energetics and eating seasonally here.

While the Vitality Blend is a small addition to the Formula products, the seasonality of these fresh plant-based ingredients may have an influence on an individual animal’s interest in, like/dislike or tolerance for our Formulas batch by batch or by season.

Our Formulas contain 5% Vitality Blend.

Our Grinds are simply the whole animal ground up with nothing else added. 100% duck, 100% turkey, 100% chicken, 10% beef, etc. So, if you think there might be an ingredient that your dog is reacting to, we suggest switching to the Grinds and see if this makes a difference for them.

However, the bottom line (besides these ingredient based explanations for individual tolerances and preferences for our different foods) is that what you are describing is actually quite common, and may not be anything to be alarmed by at all! So long as your dog’s weight is
lean and healthy, and overall demeanor/energy remains normal, of course.

Let me explain…

Many newly switched to raw, or new to SFRAW from other brands/sources of raw, will experience this change in eating habits in their animals is just as you describe! These animals can begin with an almost voracious appetite to start with – they LOVE every single bite, and go really crazy for their meals! Super exciting – yay!

While SFRAW foods are tasty and delicious, we think this has nothing to do with the intrinsic flavor or taste of the food, but is an indication of the poor nutrition of their previous diet. Our theory is that their bodies were nutritionally or energetically deficient when they first switched to SFRAW sourced foods – and that their systems were downright desperate for this good nourishing, healthy food!

This fun, rewarding period can be very exciting for new to raw feeders to see their animals engaging with their meals in this way. For others, it can be very stressful since their animal seems to have an unlimited appetite and is eating FAR FAR more than what we expected, without gaining any weight. They are very concerned about being able to afford to feed this much food for the long-term. This period of hyper enthusiastic eating and/or requiring large amounts of food can last anywhere from several weeks to several months/up to 6-8 months, especially if they were in poor shape and very depleted when they started on our foods.

THEN — what happens next may come as a concern (or a relief…) I try to give people a heads-up about this when we discuss the transition and what to expect because it can seem very alarming if not expected or understood (as you are finding!) The time it takes for this to develop and occur is different for every animal, but it’s typical to occur in adults after 3-4 months of eating our foods.

Suddenly no longer interested in their raw food – why is my dog or cat suddenly picky? Once the individual animal’s body is fully satiated, fully nourished & replenished (like an empty vessel or parched/dry soil is finally restored and re-filled), their overall health will be improved on a cellular and biological level. When this occurs, they can “all of a sudden” “stop eating” their raw meals – even flavors/foods they loved just a week or day ago! Why is this?

For MOST animals, this is actually GREAT NEWS because this is a signal that they have achieved a whole new level of health during the “honeymoon” or “re-feeding” period that immediately occurred after the switch to SFRAW! So, what is happening in these cases may not only be natural and normal, it can be a very GOOD SIGN.

Think of that empty vessel (or worse, an empty vessel with holes in it!), that you are laboring to fill and fill. It might be difficult at first, but as the holes are repaired and vessel finally becomes full, there comes a time when – oops! suddenly even! – it reaches a point where the vessel just might start to spill over/overflow. This is what we think is happening in these animals. Indeed, we can be pleased to know that they have finally “filled their cup” which is now overflowing with all that goodness – nutritionally speaking. Because of this shift in their nutritional requirements and improved health status, we simply need to re-calibrate how much we’re feeding.

What to do when this happens: It is at this “drop-off” point where I will suggest making adjustments to their nutritional habits/eating schedule to accommodate their new-found health and vitality. For most, this means they now require much less food to maintain proper body composition over the long-term. 

When they start to seem disinterested in their food or are less enthusiastic about their meals, this indicates that they may be ready to move to once a day feeding/intermittent fasting (two or three meals fed only within a 6 hour window each 24 hour period and no food/just water for the other 18 hours), regular/once per week 24-hour fasts, and other more natural appetite based feeding schedules (some follow a Big Food Fed Less Often (BFFLO), also called “Gorge and Rest” or “Gorge and Fast” method of feeding 3-4 days a week only, ongoing) that promote health and supports longevity.

Reset & Recalibrate for their changing needs and requirements: So, we have moved from deficiency to abundance (or, adequacy/balance) in the individual. This is a GREAT and exciting sign that we have accomplished a genuine, actualized improvement in their base health status by providing them with all that good SFRAW nutrition.  Even if mealtimes all of a sudden are no longer the super fun event they had been experiencing after their first few months/weeks. Don’t worry! Joyful eating and happy mealtimes will return (maybe with a little less over-the-top enthusiasm — but they will still lick the plate clean and genuinely enjoy their meals), but we do need to help them find a new balance.


How to Proceed: Start with a Fast After a short fast of water-only (no food for a minimum of 24-hours, but up to 96-hours), we then introduce a simple meal of a previous favorite protein. So, for example, offer one of our Grinds (in their favorite or best tolerated flavor), but not the Formulas. Please understand that fasting for 1-4 days is not only considered safe within holistic veterinary circles/standards, but very beneficial, for healthy adults. Read more here…

Break the fast with a small, simple meal Offer HALF the amount of what you were feeding up until now in volume. Feed with love, but please do not fuss or tinker with the meal.  Place it down and offer this meal with joy, love and confidence, all for them. You may even gently encourage them. Allow a normal amount of time for them to eat (or not) within 15-30 minutes.  If they are not interested in the food, don’t worry about them or fuss over it/this behavior at all. Any uneaten food should get wrapped back up without any drama, and put in the refrigerator until the next meal. This can be done for up to 2-days. After 2-days, please discard of the food as it may not be safe to feed after this.

NO TREATS between meals, please! If they ask for food between meals, instead of a meal or treat,
engage with them in an enjoyable or favorite activity: training, learn a new trick, explore a new place, new or favorite play/games, cuddles, grooming/spa sessions, or do other fun activities together — like visiting a new place, checking out dog-friendly stores or restaurants (no treats please!), or even better, your BEST option – go for a hike or walk in nature.  Being in nature for a few hours every day is the best way to promote healing and health in your animal.

Time to change the feeding schedule: From now on, you should feed them only once per day, in the afternoon or evening. Alternatively, you can feed them within a 6 hour window, and fast them for the other 18 hours/day. If you do this, you can feed two meals during the 6 hour window if this seems to work better for you and your dog. This is the healthiest eating schedule for our carnivores to maintain a healthy hormonal balance and it aligns with their unique inherent “hunter” biorhythms, too. Fasting for 18 hours/day allows for their bodies to go through a natural cleaning process called autophagy, which can prevent many diseases and increase lifespan.

Problems? If they experience “hunger pukes” where they vomit bile or seem to have an issue with reflux, you can choose to feed one day a meal PLUS a small morsel/meatball just before bed. That little bedtime snack usually remedies these symptoms, which often eventually dissipate and go away entirely, the longer their bodies have time to adjust to the new schedule and volume of food.

Focus on Body Condition & Energy: The most important thing to look at and focus on during all of this – over appetite, in all cases — is to make sure your pet’s body weight and composition is trim/lean. We also want them acting normally and having normal energy (indeed, in sick animals, a two-three day fast usually promotes feelings of wellness with a big boost in energy and feelin’ fine!) This is very important and more important than their interest in food (seeming hungry or not being hungry).  If they are even slightly overweight, this can reduce their longevity by a significant factor and will complicate not just their natural and healthy appetite, but their long-term health. 

Eliminate, entirely, dietary roadbloacks to true health and a healthy appetite! As for kibble and commercially available treats – just like for people that struggle with sugar addictions or other food addictions, etc. – the only way to successfully manage this issue in a real and effective manner is to simply not have those unhealthy foods in the home/available, ever. Take all processed foods like commercially available treats, canned foods, freeze-dried or dehydrated foods, and kibble out of the cupboard, and keep it off the menu, out of the bowl and “off the table”. Eating these foods can cause serious appetite issues and also will ruin all the good progress made with their transition to fresh foods. It makes dogs seem picky when they’re really not – but their appetites are indeed “ruined” or thrown off by eating these unhealthful foods.  When these types of foods are out of their program entirely, they will no longer influence your dog/cats appetite – allowing them to become healthier and have a hearty, normalized appetite for the foods that truly heal and nourish them.  

So, please completely avoid any processed foods entirely – especially if you are experiencing appetite issues in your dog. 

Fasting Tips: If your dog has gone 4 days without eating a single thing at all, and yet seems healthy otherwise and has a normal weight, this is totally fine. Please don’t panic. By day 5, this is the time when you start to offer the healthy raw food again to your animal, and we can re-calibrate to a new feeding schedule and new volume of food needed every day to maintain health and a normal appetite.  Typically, this is going to mean feeding weighed out meals that equal 1.5-2% their ideal body weight in food per day, total. Start here, and adjust accordingly. Some dogs require very little food to maintain a perfect body condition and you may be fortunate enough to have a “thifty” dog with a very efficient and highly functioning metabolism.

When should you be concerned during a fast or change in appetite? If, at any time, your dog is actually acting sick, depressed or is experiencing symptoms (such as fever, malaise, GI distress, vomiting or diarrhea) please do not hesitate to seek the advice and counsel of a veterinary professional (ideally, one familiar with raw feeding and raw nutrition).

If your dog is otherwise acting normally, and has exceeded past 4 days of fasting/lack of appetite or if they continue to refuse their once a day meal offered after the fast period, then we need to take a closer look at the foods being offered to them. 

During periods of fasting, animals should be acting normally with normal energy to do their usual activities. If they experience symptoms such as depression, lethargy, repeated vomiting or diarrhea, then this means that they could be unwell and need veterinary care. If this happens, please seek veterinary counsel. But if they are not experiencing symptoms, and yet still reluctant to eat after a 4 day fast, perhaps they may be in a period when their bodies need cooked foods or warm foods, or perhaps they have become intolerant to a specific protein. Please contact us if this happens or set-up a consultation with me so that we can guide you and make suggestions for your individual dog and unique circumstances – be prepared that our advise may include the suggestion of a veterinary exam and/or diagnostic testing visit, if warranted.

Be sure it’s a true fast: Fasting means truly no food at all, no liquid besides filtered water.  Some people don’t understand this and their animal’s difficult and disrupted appetites may be caused by “fasting” that is not actually a true fast. You would be absolutely shocked how LITTLE an animal needs to consume each day to stay alive, and to indeed, how little intake is required to meet their basic metabolic needs.  They can have just a nibble of a few teats one day, and this will “ruin” their appetite because they are nourished “enough”. The problem with this is, over time, they start to develop deficiencies again because they are not consuming a balanced whole, fresh foods diet.

So, if you are offering treats or other foods during the day or during the “fast” period, this very well and often does cause a long-term struggle with appetite. It may even cause long-term nutritional problems, too. 

The BEST and most effective way to proceed in these cases is to do a true water-only fast for for a minimum of 24 hours. Then, go to feeding once on day #2, offering a very small meal to break the fast (1/2 of what you would normally feed or less). The next day, you can then feed a little more so that over 2-4 days, they are back to eating an appropriate quantity of food for their size once per day. After a proper fast and reset/re-calibration of the corrected quantity required for daily nutrition intake, you should quickly see a change in their appetite to become normal and enthusiastic again! 

Rest assured that your animal is getting the very best nutrition they need when you are feeding a balanced, wholesome fresh foods diet. Recognize that they have experienced a big adjustment in their health status at this point. During this transitional period, you should expect changes to occur and be ready to make adjustments that will continue to support and further elevate their improved health and vitality.

Two great aspects of this experience that are causes to celebrate:

1) less food = less expensive & easier for you!

2) clear indication that they’ve advanced to a better nutritional state/higher level of health with increased efficiency.)

I know that it may be really upsetting and disappointing to see them look up for something else, or to walk away from their previously beloved meals.  Your “eating with gusto” dog becoming picky is no fun – until you understand why this can happen in newly switched to raw animals within that first year. Usually, this is just their bodies communicating to us that they are finally BETTER than they were before (YAY!) and that they are now ready for the next step in this amazing journey and adventure we call health!


In Summary, here’s what to do: 1) Fast. 2) Reset & Recalibrate. 3) Enjoy and celebrate! Look forward to this change marking the start of a longer life, increased healthspan, and healthier future ahead!

Conclusion: If you have any other questions, please do not hesitate to ask – I only regret that you had not contacted us sooner or been told to possibly expect this ahead of time. For that reason, I am going to post this on our blog for all to see and I am grateful for your inquiry providing me with this opportunity to help others in the same position. Sometimes this type of information is not communicated or is not readily available to new to raw feeders. I am currently working on a small booklet, too, so people can take home with them a short guide on switching to raw and what to expect, including this common experience of expected readjustment.

Please let me know if you need anything else or more support during this period – we’re here to help!

Warmest Regards,

Kasie

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