The most important thing to grasp is that transitioning to raw dog food does not have a “one size fits all” approach. Each dog may handle the following options in a different manner. But we’ll discuss everything you need to know so you can determine the best option for you. You have two choices:
A cold turkey sandwich
Compare this to smoking or eating junk food. Should you wean off the potato chips or throw out the bag and start fresh? The latter is how many dog owners feel. Granted, it can be more complicated than that. But once their eyes are opened to the shortcomings of processed pet food, these dog owners chuck the old food. They march straight to the store, buy prepackaged raw dog food (or set out to make their own) and never look back. No instruction is needed. Throw out (or donate) your old food and start with raw ASAP.
A gradual switch
You transition to raw dog food, gradually. For most dogs, this is a one – two-week period. But for others, it can last up to 4 weeks or even 6 months, depending on the circumstances. Understand, some dogs have sensitive GI tracts. Changing from one food to another may cause minor to severe GI upset. This could be caused by age, disease, or a life of kibble and overexposure to chemicals and toxins.
What’s more, most dogs on processed diets have: poor gut bacteria and diversity, suppressed digestive enzymes, weakened immune system. Many dogs need time to get their system up and running again.
By slowly introducing new foods, you can decrease the risk of GI upset. What’s more, a slow switch helps you gauge your dog’s personal preference for certain foods and helps you determine if any food intolerances exist.
Your dog may experience a detoxification period. This will occur mainly through the bowels and skin. During detox, your dog will act normal, be happy, bright and alert. But you may notice the following symptoms:
- Runny Eyes
- Earwax or debris produced from the ear
- Dry skin
- Excess shedding
- Chronic or periodic skin conditions may briefly worsen
- Mucus coating your dog’s stool
Don't panic. This is normal. In reality, you should celebrate. Your dog is on the right track.
In the raw feeding community, we call this getting “unsick.” While it may seem unnerving, understand your dog is not sick. In fact these are signs your dog’s body is purging itself of the various toxins that have built up over time. The detox process may resolve in a week or two. But it could take a couple of months, as new cells replace old ones. Dogs that have been on antibiotics, steroids or other long-term drugs may experience longer detox periods. Consult your vet if detox symptoms don’t go away or if you believe your dogs is experiencing severe issues from the diet change.
One more thing - don't stop halfway! Some dogs never make the switch completely. Many pet parents leave their dogs suspended between kibble and raw.
Perhaps they are:
- Still uncomfortable with the idea of raw foods
- Alarmed by digestive upset and detox symptoms
- Afraid they’ll leave important nutrients out
Unless you can’t afford to feed 100% raw, avoid this. Too many dog owners start the transition; make it halfway and remain there. Sure, some fresh foods are better than none. But you’ll see the most benefit if you transition your dog to a complete raw diet.