The central principal of a raw diet is feeding a variety of different foods, to provide a balanced diet over time. However, during the transition period you should start by feeding each meat source, one at a time, for a period of a week or more. This allows you to determine which meats work best for your dog and it may help identify any allergies. For the first week of the transition, we recommend a high quality game meat meal that does not contain bones, such as buffalo, to help with digestibility. Once they’ve had a chance to try each protein source, you can rotate foods every day or few days, as desired. Remember that variety is achieved over a period of a few weeks – not every day.
There are two general approaches to switching dogs to raw foods – rapid and slow. With healthy young dogs, the rapid method is typically the simplest and most successful. However, for older pets that have been eating commercial foods all their life or dogs with gastrointestinal problems, a slower transition is recommended.
Rapid Switch. Most puppies, young and healthy dogs can switch to raw overnight using the “rapid” method. That is, yesterday you fed them kibble or canned food, and today you begin feeding them raw food.
Slow Switch. The most successful slow transition method to a raw food diet is to begin switching your dog gradually over 7 day period. You may find your dog may need anywhere from 3 days to 2 weeks to make the full transition, depending on age, weight and activity level. Start the process by providing one feeding of their regular diet to one feeding of theraw diet of your choice. Be sure to keep each feeding separate as both products are consumed and processed at different rates and should never be mixed. Over the course of a few days gradually decrease the amount of dry food and increase the amount of raw until your pets diet consists of 100% raw food. If you are noticing loose stools early in the process, cut back on the amount of raw food being fed and increase it at a slower rate. The final result should be small and firm stool consistency, which is a direct result of better nutrient absorption.
Make sure the meat you are feeding is fresh and good quality!
Another transition method is to switch directly from kibble by offering one meal of raw food followed by one meal of kibble, and gradually reducing the number of kibble meals. Because of the difference in digestive times between raw and kibble, we do not recommend mixing the two foods.
Senior Dogs. For older dogs that have been fed commercial foods most of their lives, adding a probiotic and digestive enzymes to their new food can help ease the transition to their new diet.
Cooking Food. Alternatively, you can start by cooking the food slightly to help with the transition and pique the interest of those finicky dogs that are reluctant to try the new diet. Start by cooking the food halfway through and cook it less and less over a week until it is completely raw. Please not that most pre-packaged ground chicken meals contain chicken bones, and should not be cooked!!!
Some dogs that are suffering from immune deficiencies or gastrointestinal problems
may need to continue having their food lightly cooked.
Transition for Cats
Cats are creatures of habit and will often resist changes made in their routine. It is natural for kittens to become fixated on the main food they receive during their first year of life. In nature this behaviour ensures that the young cat will know what to hunt and eat when the time comes to become independent from their mother. However, in a domestic setting it means that reviving your cat’s natural taste preference can therefore be quite a challenge.
When transitioning your cat from kibble to raw, you should anticipate some reluctance on the part of your cat in accepting their new diet. For this reason, it is important that you, as the caregiver, are comfortable and confident with the new diet and enforce the changes despite any protests. Cats are very sensitive to picking up our anxieties and other emotions so it is essential that any new food is offered with a confident and positive attitude
Establish a schedule of set mealtimes. During each mealtime, you should leave the food out for 30 minutes only. Cover any leftover food and refrigerate for later use.
- Present your cat with a small portion of the raw food at the next mealtime. If your cat is fond of the new food, then you are on your way … otherwise, continue to the next step.
- Continue offering your cat small amounts of raw food at scheduled mealtimes. This means your cat may fast for a couple of days – this is not unusual in nature and will not do any harm.
- For cats that continue to be hesitant about the new food after a few days, you can try sprinkling a bit of the crumbled kibble on top of a small amount of raw food. Another option is to try switching them to a canned wet food. Once the switch to canned food is made, you can start adding small amounts of raw food to the canned food, and increase the portions of raw food as your cat becomes more accepting of the change.
Here are some tips for easing the transition for you and your feline
- The whole process may take as much or as little time as dictated by the cat – be patient and flexible.
- The favourite meat choice for transitioning cats is chicken or turkey. Begin with ground meat before trying bones or chunks.
- Serve the food at room temperature.
- Freeze the food in small amounts during the transition stages so that you can take out small amounts for thawing and offer fresh food without too much waste.
- Cats prefer food to be as fresh as possible, so discard any food that hasn’t been eaten after a couple of days.
What to Expect After Switching
- After switching your dog or cat to raw, you should notice a decrease in water consumption because the raw food contains a large amount of moisture that they can easily be utilized. Continue making fresh water available at all times.
- You will likely notice changes in their stool almost immediately. The increased water content in the meat and vegetables may make the stools softer than usual. You will also notice that your animals stools are smaller and less frequent. It should be noted that when feeding bones such as chicken backs and necks or whole Cornish hen the stool can be a very firm consistency.
Detoxification is a natural process in which the body releases toxins through the exterior of the body as a way of cleansing internal organs and tissue. Some dogs and cats may go through a period of detoxification, where their system clears the toxins accumulated from their former diet. During this period they may experience some loose or mucous stool, runny eyes, and excretions through their ears. In some cases, they may lose some of their coat – to make room for a healthier new one; all of these are positive signs that the body is ridding itself of toxins. Each detox period should last for a few days, after which your dog or cat should look and feel much better. If symptoms persist for more than a few days, please contact you vet and have them checked over for other medical problems.