Getting Started on Raw Feeding: Tips for Transition
Now that the raw food diet for dogs has caught your attention, you are probably thinking of finally doing the transition. But how? Where should you start? And how will the process affect your dogs?
We understand the questions, all the confusion, and whatnot. Those are perfectly normal, especially if you have been feeding your dogs with kibble or any commercially available pet food all their life. You don’t have to worry about anything, though! The transition to raw feeding is easier than you think. Find all useful information below to get started on raw feeding your dogs.
Methods of Transitioning to Raw Food Diet
A successful transition to a raw food diet usually takes up to 3 weeks. There are many known methods used when transitioning to raw feeding, but the most commonly used are the Rapid Switch and Gradual Switch. In this section, we’ll discuss what these methods are as well as their advantages and disadvantages.
The Rapid Switch (Cold Turkey Switch)
The Rapid Switch, otherwise known as the Cold Turkey Switch, is an immediate switch to raw feeding. That’s it—no slow progression but instead an abrupt, sudden transition. One day you’re feeding them canned food or kibble, and the next, you begin giving them raw food. This transition method is best for puppies and young dogs. Still, it’s best to determine first if your dog is fit for this type of approach. Generally, healthy dogs should be able to do a rapid switch with minimal digestive discomfort. You can also use this approach to senior dogs with a history of gastrointestinal upset. Though it would help to add probiotics to their meals before transitioning and during the first few weeks of raw feeding to strengthen their digestive system.
Advantages & Disadvantages
The Cold Turkey Switch is perhaps the easiest and simplest approach to transitioning your pet to raw feeding. However, it does not mean that it’s a smooth process - particularly for older dogs. Note that this transition method can be a dramatic change for older dogs. Of course, the effect varies from one dog to another, but the cold turkey switch may result in digestive distress, diarrhea, and other forms of gastrointestinal discomfort.
The Gradual Switch (Slow Switch)
Unlike the Rapid Switch, the Gradual Switch gradually introduces raw food into a dog’s current diet. This method usually takes three days to two weeks to make the full transition, depending on your dog’s age, weight, and activity level.
The Gradual Switch is the ideal method for senior dogs and dogs with sensitive digestive tracts or chronic illnesses. Since senior dogs have been feeding on kibble all their lives, a sudden change of diet often results in gastrointestinal upset. But if the transition is gradual, these dogs are slowly introduced to a new kind of food without causing digestive irritation.
How to do the Gradual Switch
Start the transition by gradually replacing its usual food servings with raw food day by day, until its diet consists of 100% raw food. Note, however, that it’s essential to keep each feeding separate. Never combine both raw with kibble in one meal, since they are consumed and processed at different rates. When following this transition method, your dog’s stool is a good indication of whether or not to increase the raw-to-kibble feeding ratio. If your dog’s stool is mostly firm, then you can include more raw food into the diet and reduce the kibble or your pet’s regular food. On the contrary, if your dog is experiencing diarrhea, you have to wait a few days before increasing the amount of raw food in the diet.
Advantages & Disadvantages
Since the Gradual Switch method slowly introduces raw food into a dog’s system, it decreases the risk of any GI upset. However, it requires more patience than the Cold Turkey method, since the entire transition process usually takes days or even weeks for some dogs.
Raw Dog Food Feeding Tips
Whether you are doing Rapid Switch or Gradual Switch, it is crucial to keep in mind the following tips that will help ensure a smooth transition period for your dog:
We recommend fasting your dogs for 12-24 hours before feeding them with raw food for the first time. Doing this will allow time for their bodies to digest any leftover food and clear out their GI tract.
You can use poultry protein, such as chicken, duck, or turkey, or rabbit, since these will help make the transition quicker and easier. Once your dog is used to this type of raw food, you can introduce a different kind of meat next.
Your dog’s first raw meal should be at room temperature and not icy cold. Serving it fresh from the refrigerator can make your dog throw up. Allow raw food to sit at room temperature for 30 minutes before serving to increase desirability and enhance the aroma.
Serve the first half and wait for 10 to 20 minutes before giving the remaining portion of the meal. Doing this will prevent your dog from eating too fast and regurgitating the food.
How about probiotics? Are they necessary when feeding your dog raw food?
Probiotics or digestive enzyme supplements are helpful, particularly to dogs that have been on a kibble diet for a long time or those who have a history of sensitive stomachs. These supplements help support a dog’s gut flora, resulting in enhanced digestion, better nutrient absorption and boosted immune system.
What to Expect After the Switch
Any time during the transition phase, your dog may experience one or many forms of gastrointestinal upset, including gas, or vomiting yellow or white phlegm. That is normal since the digestive system is still adjusting to a raw diet. One way to alleviate such discomforts is by adding digestive enzymes or raw goat milk to your dog’s first raw meal.
After switching to raw feeding, you may notice that your dog has decreased water consumption since raw food contains lots of moisture.
Also, there will most likely be changes in your dog’s stools almost immediately. The stools will be smaller and less frequent. Though, in some cases, especially for dogs with sensitive stomachs, the transition period results in temporary loose stools because the enzymes in the dog’s stomach are still adapting to raw food.
Some older or senior dogs may require a longer time to transition to a raw dog food diet fully. Allocate at least 14 days (2 weeks) for these dogs to stick with raw food for their bodies to adjust their taste buds gradually and fully adapt to this new diet.