How to Transition Your Dog to a Raw Diet
Updated: 4 days ago
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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 to transition your dog to a raw diet and the important thing to realise is that isn't a 'one size fits all' approach.
Ultimately you have two methods available to change your dog's diet from wet or dry food to a raw diet - Immediate or Gradual. Let's explore each option in turn so you can decide which suits you and your dog best.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
1. 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.
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. 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 2 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. Don’t mix the raw and dry foods together 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. Changes to Expect
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. Handling with Raw Dog Food
Defrost each tub or bag of dog food in the fridge. The packaging will be airtight and leak-proof but as an extra precaution, place the raw dog food in the base of the fridge.
Once defrosted, never refreeze.
As the food defrosts, some liquid may appear in the packaging, always give these 'thaw juices' to your dog as they will be full of nutrients.
If you have any concerns about handling raw dog food, take a look at this guide produced by PFMA (Pet Food Manufacturers Association)
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.
Better still, some even offer transition hampers or bundles made up of pre-selected raw dog foods to help with a smooth transition.
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 - Paleo Ridge, ProDog Raw, Bella & Duke and Natures Menu.
Trust your instinct, you know your dog best, so choose a transition method which suits you and your dog.