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Dogs in a Lords & Labrador dog bed
  • Writer's pictureSmart Bark

How to Switch to Raw Dog Food

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So you've taken the plunge and decided to switch your dog to a raw food diet.

There are various theories about how best to transition your dog to a raw diet and the important thing to realise is that isn't a 'one size fits all' approach.

It needn't be any different from swapping from one dry food to another, but there a number of issues to consider to ensure a smooth transition for your dog with no short term side-effects.

a dog on a raw diet

Ultimately there are two methods available to you if you are switching from wet/dry dog food to a raw diet - Immediate or Gradual.

We explore each option in turn, laying out the pros and cons so you can decide which suits you and your dog best. We also take a look at how to handle raw dog food safely and some FAQ's.

Raw dog bone


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How to Switch to Raw Dog Food

1. Raw Dog Food : Immediate Transition

The Cold Turkey Approach

Firstly, let's look at the immediate approach.

An immediate transition is perfect for puppies and young dogs with a young healthy digestive system. Most dogs transitioning on to a raw diet find that they have very few short-term side effects.

raw and dried dog foods side by side

Many experts advocate a straight and immediate swap of foods.

As feeding both dry and raw foods together can put unnecessary strain on your dog’s digestive system, an immediate swap can be the simplest solution.

But it's worth keep a diary of any noticeable differences including weight changes, changes in stools, bad breath and possibly some vomiting.

Persevere, as it may take a few days for your dog to adjust to their new diet. Of course, contact your vet if you are concerned.

2. Raw Dog Food : Gradual Transition

Slow and steady wins the race

The second option is to transition gradually over a period of time.

The gradual transition is perfect for older dogs who have been fed commercial dry foods their whole lives. Their age may make them more susceptible to dietary changes.

This method can take anything from a few days to a couple of weeks. Start by calculating your dog's daily raw food amount using a website feeding calculator.

For the first week, offer your dog 50% of their existing food and 50% of their new raw food in separate meals.

Wilsons raw dog food

Don’t mix the raw and dry foods together in the same dog bowl as they are digested differently. Dry dog food can take up to 16 hours to digest while raw dog food only takes 4-6 hours.

Feeding both together should be avoided. So feed the 50% existing food and 50% new raw food meals as far apart as possible (ideally 12 hours apart), to help digestion (maybe one for breakfast and one for tea).

If after a few days your dog's digestive system is happy with the raw food, gradually increase the percentage of raw food.

After a week you should be feeding 100% raw for each meal but the transition period can be extended if you feel you need to.

3. Raw Dog Food : Changes to Expect

What's new ?

dog drinking less water

You should notice a couple of fundamental changes :

Dogs drink less

Dogs are able to absorb far more moisture from a raw diet than a dried kibble diet so you may well notice that your dog drinks less. This is normal just ensure that you continue to provide fresh water at all times.

Dogs poop less

As raw dog food is more digestible there is minimal waste, so less poos. Also they can often be smaller so much less scooping the poop.

4. Raw Dog Food : Handling

Health & Hygiene

Although the packaging may well be airtight and leak-proof, we'd suggest decanting the raw food into a airtight container as an extra precaution.

Defrost each tub or bag of dog food in the fridge and always place the raw dog food in the base of the fridge as you would with raw chicken.

Once defrosted, never refreeze raw dog food. We wouldn't recommend microwaving raw dog food as it can easily lead to 'hot spots' in the food.

As the food defrosts, some liquid may appear, always give these 'thaw juices' to your dog as they will be full of nutrients.

Washing up dog food bowl

Thoroughly wash all utensils and bowls immediately after use.

If you have any concerns about handling raw dog food, take a look at this Guide produced by UK PET FOOD ( previously Pet Food Manufacturers Association)

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Is raw dog food regulated in the UK ?

UK Pet Food have set up a Raw Pet Food Certification. This is a world-leading certification scheme for commercial raw pet food producers to support the safe production of raw pet food

The certification scheme is based on a comprehensive standard, encompassing all aspects of hygiene and feed safety. It applies to the entire process from the selection of raw materials to the finished products.

Can I cook raw dog food ?

We wouldn't recommend cooking raw dog food. Your dog will get the most nutritional benefit from the food without cooking.

Definitely don't be tempted to cook any food which may have bones present.

How long will the raw food keep for ?

If frozen and unopened, the raw food will be fine in a household freezer for 9 months. Once opened and defrosted it will keep in the fridge for up to 3 days. Never refreeze defrosted food.

Paleo Ridge dog food in freezer

Which recipes are best for switching to raw ?

Most dog food companies offer transition packs or bundles made up of pre-selected raw dog foods to help with a smooth transition.

All four raw dog food suppliers we tested and reviewed provide detailed transition guides and advice and are always happy to answer questions if you give them call.

RECOMMENDED READ Best Raw Dog Foods Review

If you're interested, check out our full and in-depth review of four of the best Raw Dog Food companies in the UK today - Naturaw, Paleo Ridge, ProDog Raw and Wilsons.

All four raw dog food suppliers we tested and reviewed provide detailed transition guides and advice and are always happy to answer questions if you give them call.

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Trust your instinct, you know your dog best, so choose a transition method which suits you and your dog.


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