Updated: Jun 16
While we support thousands of dog and cat owners everyday across Canada with their own raw feeding journeys, we are also raw-feeding pet owners ourselves and know firsthand how daunting such a decision may seem in the beginning. Switching your dogs or cats to the diet that they were born to eat requires research and dedication. The abundance of information, theories, opinions and raw feeding myths swirling around the internet regarding species-appropriate raw diets make it easy to want to give up and reach for the most convenient bag of food on the shelf. But if you have made it to this article, give yourself a pat on the back because identifying the problem with these processed ingredients in your pets food is half the battle!
Our in-house raw feeding experts compiled the following list of easy first steps you can take to set you and your pet up for raw feeding success (and a longer and healthier life). Whether your pet is a puppy, a picky eater, has a food allergy, or simply has no issues at all, following these tips will make for an easy and safe transition to raw.
Here are our top 10 tips for a successful transition to a raw diet that will help your pet to live a longer and healthier life:
10 Transitioning Tips for Switching Your Pet to a Raw Diet
1. Use Probiotics
We recommend starting 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 (the microorganisms that live in your pet’s digestive tract). This can sometimes cause a brief period of digestive unrest in the form of loose poops or vomiting. 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. Add Bone Broth Into Their Diet
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 your pet’s dry food at least 1 week prior to adding raw foods to their 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 5 Ways it Improves Your Pets Health article which includes a great home-cooked stock recipe.
Although bone broth is easily made at home, many people don’t have the time! That’s why we started making our famous Broothie, which contains buffalo bone broth, vegetables and blueberries, and is intended to make life easier for all dog and cat owners.
3. Switch Slowly
A gradual switch is generally the best option for introducing pets to a raw diet. Allow for 5-10 days for your dog to transition, and longer for cats (up to 2 weeks). A few options for switching are:
If your pet is on canned food, 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 entirely 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 as raw foods are digested within 1 - 3 hours, compared to kibble that takes up to between 7 - 9 hours to be fully digested. As a result, it’s best to feed raw in the morning, and kibble at night. However, to get the most out of the raw diet we recommend eliminating dry food completely (if possible) once your pet is on raw.
5. Try One New Food At A Time
Focus on feeding one protein source while you are making the switch. Later, you will want to diversify. Sticking with one type of protein makes the transition easier for your pet and for you! Once your pet is fully on his/her new diet, check out our blog on how to vary the raw diet for the best results Complete & Balanced: What Does It Mean?. 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 are:
Your pet’s water consumption will naturally decrease.
Stools should be smaller and may be lighter in color.
7. Serve Food With Confidence
Put the new food down confidently and walk away. This will give your pet space to explore 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 the specified 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. Furthermore, it is important to not keep raw food out for extended periods of time!
9. What To Do If Your Pet Is Picky Eater
For dogs, fasting for a short period (12-24 hours) is an option. However, cats do not do well with fasting so avoid this method with kitties. Here are some suggestions to encourage your finicky pet to eat:
Cooking boneless raw food meals can make it more aromatic and appetizing. If your pet is not interested in raw meat, he may not recognize 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 with 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.
Learn more about feeding picky pets: A Guide to Feeding Your Picky Cat (Works for Dogs Too)
10. What To Do If Your Pet Has A Sensitive Tummy
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!
BONUS: For Specific Health Issues
If your pet has a health issue, then any food changes should be done with the help of a professional, especially in cases of diabetes and other forms metabolic disease. Your veterinarian may need to be involved since 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.
We’re Here For You
We offer a free feeding guide to help you calculate your pets recommended daily raw food portion or book a consultation with our animal nutrition specialist to help you get your pet on the best fresh food diet for them. We are also able to work with your veterinarian if needed. For more information, view our services page!
If you need any additional information on raw diets or still have questions, please contact us. Happy switching!