If you were to offer a wolf, that has never eaten processed food, raw meat or a bowl of kibble, what would the wolf instinctively eat? It goes without saying that the wolf would undoubtedly choose the raw meat. Now let’s use your own dog for example - would your dog who is used to eating a dry, processed kibble choose the raw meat option over the bowl of kibble? There’s a chance, but a slim chance. That may sound crazy because if you thought about it, you would assume any dog would choose fresh food over extruded pellets of kibble. But, majority of kibble companies, if not all kibble companies, lace their food with fat, sugar and salt… sounds delicious!
That’s why making the switch to raw food from kibble can be troublesome to pet parents. But have no fear! Despite the fact that junk food is much more appealing to most dogs (and humans) than fresh, healthy food, it is absolutely possible for your pup to get on the right track with a species-appropriate diet.
Why make the switch to raw in the first place? Check out Priscilla’s article on the buzz about raw!
There are two ways to go about transitioning your pup from kibble to fresh food - cold turkey or a gradual switch. It’s important to note that the transitioning process can and will be different for all dogs. My husky Koda was about 2 years old when I made the switch to a raw diet, I chose the cold turkey method and he did great! I had to clean up only one pile of vomit and a few runny stools, so I added in probiotics and got him fully transitioned within 2 weeks! My new addition to the family, Blue, is a 5 month old German Shepherd who I had to gradually switch to raw food after the cold turkey method was not suiting her. She was fed IAMS, french fries and fried rice before I rescued her, and because all of those foods are packed with salt and carbohydrates, I believe that played a part in the issues with switching cold turkey. It took about a month for Blue’s gradual switch!
I will cover everything you need to know when making the switch for your own furry friend, so let’s tackle both ways of transitioning.
Day One-Day Two
This seems to be the method for the pet owners that want to just “get it over with”, which is totally fine, I was so eager to switch my pups over as well! However it is important to interpret if your dog is equipped for such a sudden diet change. Here is a few things to note when switching cold turkey:
Is your dog a senior? Switching a senior dog to raw after he has been on kibble his whole life can be a dramatic change for him. I would recommend a gradual switch for senior dogs to be on the safe side.
Are you aware of the detox process? I will go further into the detox process in this article, but some common side effects of detoxing from kibble to raw is diarrhea, gas and even some occasional pukes. If you aren’t confident enough to believe that this is totally normal when detoxing, the gradual switch will be a better option for you. The last thing I want is for you to give up too quickly and return to kibble without seeing the true benefits of fresh food!
The Gradual Switch
This is the much slower process! This is ideal mostly for senior dogs, although you can gradually switch a puppy as well. The gradual switch method can be as quick as 1 week or as long as 6 months, just all depends on your dog and how he takes to this diet change. Dogs that have eaten kibble most of their lives tend to have a compromised immune system when compared to a raw fed dog. In addition to a compromised immune system, kibble fed dogs commonly have poor gut bacteria as their body constantly breaks down carbohydrates, salt, sugar and fat. So, go ahead and go slow! Give your pup some time to take in this awesome new switch while ruling out any food intolerances he may have. Here’s a few methods on how to gradually introduce raw food.
Try it as a treat! Treat the raw food you would like to feed your pup as a treat. Each day, increase the amount of raw food you are feeding as treats while monitoring your dog’s stools. If your dog’s stools are looking healthy by day 5, try replacing one meal with all raw food and monitor his stools afterwards. By day 7, if there has been no serious stomach upset or diarrhea, switch to raw completely. Voila!
Lightly cook it! Lightly cooking the raw food before feeding is not so common unless your dog is already used to eating cooked foods, is very picky, has an illness or a compromised immune system, or is a senior dog. Start with the raw food cooked completely on day 1, then decrease the amount you cook the food up until day 6 so that by day 7 your dog is officially eating raw.
Combine the raw and kibble! This is the most common way of gradually switching. According to Chelsea Kent who has been in the pet industry for 16 years, “start by making his meal 75% old food and 25% new food - you will know when to increase your dog’s ratio of new food when he has solid stool.”
Feed the raw and kibble separate! This method is identical to the “combine the raw and kibble”, except just feeding the kibble and raw completely separate. There’s a few false reasons on why people believe raw and kibble should not be combined, however they are just myths. This study proves that by adding fresh foods, dogs are at less risk for cancer. There is even data showing that raw digests slower than kibble, which makes sense. And although raw and kibble do in fact digest at different rates, pet parents experience little to no problems. It’s crucial to understand that with any sudden diet change, there can be GI upset. That’s why monitoring your dog’s stool and adding probiotics in will help with the transitioning process!
Separate meals from Primal Pooch
The Detox Process
After your dog has been on a raw diet, generally between 1 and 3 months is when his body will start to detox. This is going to be something to celebrate as you will notice changes for the better!
Earwax and Eye Boogers: Noticing some earwax or eye booger build up? Nothing to worry about, clean out your pup’s ears and eyes with a warm, wet cloth.
Mucus in Stool: This may look alarming if you have never seen mucus in your dog’s stool before, but this is just part of the detox process and is normal!
Drinking Less Water: Dogs who eat fresh, raw food are much more hydrated than the dogs who eat dry, processed kibble. You may notice your dog is drinking less water now that he is transitioned to a raw diet and that is a great thing! If you are worried you can always add a bit of water to your dog’s raw meals.
Shedding: You may notice your dog starting to shed a bit more than average through this detox process, but this is a good thing and completely normal! Your dog is shedding his old, dead fur and will begin growing a thick, shiny coat in no time!
Losing Weight? If your dog is appearing thinner, that is normal! My dog lost a total of 6 pounds from his transition. I never thought my dog was overweight, but it makes sense that he lost weight since kibble is full of starchy carbohydrates. Just keep an eye on the weight change to ensure he does not get too thin.
The Scoop on Poop: Something very exciting about the detox process is the way your furry friend’s new stools will now look and smell! Yes, we are going there. Kibble poops tend to be much larger, softer and stinkier than raw fed poops. Raw fed poops appear smaller, harder and less stinkier! Occasionally you may come across hard, white poops which sometimes can indicate your dog is getting too much bone (calcium) so ensure you are feeding the correct amount.
Imagine how frustrating it can be when you are so excited for this transition from kibble to raw only to find your pup isn’t as thrilled as you are. I mentioned previously that kibble is laced with fat, sugar and salt making it sometimes hard to resist when put next to a bowl of raw food. I am here to tell you to stay calm, stay patient and don’t budge. This is where you, the alpha, comes in. Put the bowl of raw down and give your dog some time to process what is in front of him. At first the raw food may not smell good to him, he may be confused by the cold temperature and the softer texture, but he will get used to it. The best way to get him used to this new change is by providing him the food until he simply eats it. Your dog will not die from starvation or malnourishment. Since dogs are 99.9% related to wolves, instinctually they would not eat twice a day every day - wolves only eat when they catch prey.
DO NOT GIVE IN! When it’s been a full 24 hours and your dog still won’t eat the meat, don’t give in and provide other food. No treats, chews, bones, or table scraps because that will create a picky dog. Remember, you are Alpha, and you decide when it’s mealtime. You are providing your dog with food that your dog is choosing not to eat! Your furry friend will thank you later after he finally gets a taste of raw and is feeling and looking much better.
DO NOT MAKE A FUSS! Do not try to hand feed your dog or baby talk him into eating. He will expect that at every meal time, and that is just ridiculous.
Hang in there! Making the switch from kibble to raw is the best decision you can make for your dog. You are your dog’s nutritionist and you are responsible for their health, happiness and well-being. This is a milestone that you and your furry friend get to experience together!