top of page dog food trial
Forthglade dog food exclusive discount
  • Writer's pictureSmart Bark

How to Switch to Raw Dog Food

Updated: Jul 10

Smart Bark is supported by its audience. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more

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


dog paw graphic

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)

dog paw graphic


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 ?

While you can technically cook raw dog food, it's generally not recommended for a few reasons:

  • Nutrient Loss: Cooking food alters its nutritional makeup. Raw dog food is formulated to be complete and balanced in its raw state. Cooking can destroy some of the beneficial enzymes, vitamins, and healthy fats present in the raw ingredients.

  • Bone Safety:  Raw dog food often includes bones, which are safe for dogs to eat raw. However, cooked bones become brittle and can splinter, posing a choking hazard or potential internal injuries.

  • Digestion:  Dog's digestive systems are naturally adapted to handle raw food. Cooking may alter the ingredients in a way that makes them harder for your dog to digest.

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.

Do I need a lot of freezer storage ?

We would suggest that you consider investing in a small freezer just for raw dog food.

It may initially seem like an extravagance, but by taking advantage of the larger order volumes you can save a considerable amount of money - offsetting the initial cost of the freezer.

What's more, if you are concerned about the hygiene issues surrounding raw food, storing your dog food separately from your own fresh food would make sense.

Do raw fed dogs poop less ?

Absolutely. As dogs are able to absorb far more of the ingredients in raw food, there is considerably less waste. Less waste, less poop to scoop.

We also found the poop was solid and more compact making it so much easier to pick up.

Can puppies eat raw dog food?

Puppies can thrive on raw food and all the companies we tested offer a specific 'Puppy' range of raw dog food (apart from Paleo Ridge). They all have lots of information about feeding puppy a raw diet to make sure they flourish during that all important first year.

Do raw fed dogs drink less water ?

Raw dog food contains a higher moisture level than kibble based dog foods. Dogs are therefore much more hydrated and need less additional water. Of course they'll always prefer a nice muddy puddle to drink from rather than their own water bowl !

Will my dog lose weight on raw ?

We found this to be the case. As raw has a lot less carbohydrates and bulking ingredients, it is possible that your dog will gradually lose weight.

You know your dog best, keep an eye on the amount you are feeding and your scales and adjust the food portions as necessary. Freddie lost some excess weight and looked trimmer and healthier.

dog paw graphic

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.

dog paw graphic

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



More Articles...
Editor's Pick
luther bennett dog car seat.jpg

For pet parents who prioritise ultimate comfort and style during travel, Luther Bennett's Travel Pods are a fantastic choice.

Intrigued? Click Here to Discover Why We Love Luther Bennett!

bottom of page