10 Tips for Switching Your Pet to Raw Diet

by Sarah Griffiths, DCH in Feeding Tips, Dogs, Cats
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Written by Sarah Griffiths, DCH and Inna Shekhtman

February 1, 2018

At Red Dog Blue Kat, we want everyone to have the best experience possible as they introduce raw food to their pet. This week, we’ve put together a guide of all the tips and tricks to pave the way for a safe and successful transition. Here are our top 10 tips for a successful switch to raw diet:

1. Probiotics!

We recommend to start your pet on a live liquid probiotic supplement 2-4 weeks prior to the switch. During any food switch, there is a natural adjustment to your pet’s gut microbiome. This can sometimes cause a brief period of digestive unrest. Probiotics will help to support and maintain a healthy microbiome in the gut and prepare them for new foods. This is especially important for animals that have seemingly “sensitive tummies.”

Here are two of our favourite probiotics:

2. Bone Broth

Adding a home-made or store-bought low sodium bone broth to the current diet will help to hydrate your pet, provide gut-supportive nutrients (including L-glutamine) and pave the way for an easy switch. Start soaking dry food at least 1 week prior to adding raw foods to the diet. For dry foods, use 1 cup of kibble per 1 cup of broth and soak for 15 minutes prior to feeding. Replace water with broth for dehydrated diets as per food package instructions. Canned and home-cooked meals can also get a ½ to ¾ cup of broth per 1 lb of food. Check out our bone broth blog which includes a great home-cooked stock recipe here.

3. Switch Slowly

A gradual switch is generally the best option for introducing the raw diet. Allow for 5-10 days for your dog to transition, and longer for cats. A few options for switching are:

  • If your pet is on canned, you can start mixing in small portions of raw in the canned. Gradually increase the amount of raw and reduce the amount of canned proportionally, until your pet is fully on raw.
  • Remove kibble completely and start by lightly poaching a boneless raw meal. Reduce the poaching time each day until feeding raw.
  • If you want to finish up your kibble you can either introduce an extra meal with raw, or replace one of your pets’ meals with a raw meal. Offer more raw meals and less dry meals until fully transitioned.

4. Avoid Mixing Dry With Raw

It’s best to keep dry meals and raw meals separate during the switch. This helps to maximize digestion of both types of food. To get the most out the raw diet, we recommend eliminating dry food completely (if possible) once your dog is on raw.

5. One New Food At A Time

Focus on feeding one protein source while you are making the switch. Later, you will want to diversify. It makes the transition easier for your pet and for you! Once your dog is fully on his new diet, check out our blog on how to vary the raw diet for the best results here. We suggest starting with chicken, turkey or beef, whichever your pet likes best.

6. Use Your Observational Skills

Start the transition on a weekend or when you have some time off to observe your pet during the switch. Make mental notes about your pets’ appetite, thirst, urination, stool and energy level. Be mindful of any changes that you notice. This will allow you to adjust things in a timely fashion if it looks like you might be switching too fast. Changes that are considered normal during a switch from dry food to raw food: Your pet’s water consumption will naturally decrease. Stools should be smaller and may be lighter in color. These are normal changes.

7. Serve Food With Confidence

Put the new food down confidently and walk away. Let your pet explore it without you looking over their shoulder. Your pet can sense your attitude about the new addition. If you’re excited, they will be too!

8. Stop The Grazing

If your pet currently grazes on dry food all day, you will need to create set meal times (eg. 9am and 5pm) so that your pet develops more of an appetite at meal times. Unlike cows who are designed to graze, dogs and cats are designed to have long periods of rest between meals. Free-feeding can be unhealthy, especially for cats and will make transitioning difficult.

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9. If Your Pet Is Picky

For dogs, fasting for a short period (12-24 hours) is an option. Cats do not do well with fasting so avoid this method with kitties.

  • Cooking boneless raw food meals can make it more aromatic and appetizing. If your pet is not interested raw meat, he may not recognise it as food yet. Try searing it in a pan for a minute or two to release more of a scent to entice the appetite.
  • Cats naturally habituate on their food it can be challenging to get them to try something new. Try wiping a bit of raw on their paw – your cat will have to lick it off and will start to familiarize wit the new flavor
  • Serve the food at room temperature.
  • Put the food on a plate, not a bowl. This is especially helpful for cats, because their whiskers are very sensitive.
  • Thaw the food in small portions so you are always serving it fresh. This is especially important for cats who don’t like old food.

10. For Sensitive Tummies

Pets with a history of intolerance to new foods or something more serious such as irritable bowel disease or pancreatitis may require veterinary assistance if issues arise during the switch. A slow, steady switch with bone broth and probiotics is essential for pets dealing with gut-related health problems. These two simple additions can make for a life-changing transformation!

***FOR SPECIFIC HEALTH ISSUES

If your pet has a health issue, then any food changes should be done with the help of your holistic veterinarian , especially in cases of diabetes and other forms metabolic disease. Lab work and/or medication changes may be required to monitor your pets’ progress so it’s very important your vet is a part of the process. Holistic veterinarians are often a well-educated when it comes to raw diets and can provide great support for you and your pet.

For additional information on raw diet, please contact us. Happy switching!