Transitioning Your Dog or Puppy to a Raw Diet

January 3, 2022

There are two popular methods when transitioning dogs from dog kibble to a raw diet. The “cold turkey” switch, which implies changing your dogs food immediately, or a gradual transition, which slowly replaces your existing kibble with raw food. Although both methods are common, we recommend a gradual transition, no matter the age or breed of your dog, for the best possible results.

This is because a gradual transition is far safer for your dog and reduces the chance of them getting diarrhea or vomiting. Raw diets are made up of far higher amounts of protein and fat than a typical kibble. which typically contains less than 30% protein/fat sources, and suddenly switching your dog from a diet based mostly on carbohydrates to a diet of fresh, raw, protein would drastically change their blood sugar levels and gut biome. Not only would this make your dog sick if done too quickly, it could exacerbate certain conditions like pancreatitis, and presents a choking risk if your dog has never eaten raw food before.

When to Transition

When you've gone through about half of your dogs normal food, you can begin a slow transition to raw food by giving your dog a very small amount of raw food mixed with their usual meal. For most dog owners, this could be as small as a 1-2 spoonfuls of ground raw meat mixed into kibble per day to start.

Even if you feed primarily wet food, the same rules of gradual transitioning apply. While wet food may look like slices of meat in a can of gravy, it is usually a mix of ground corn, potato, wheat and tapioca starches with very little actual protein, so your dogs body will need the same time to adjust.

How to Transition

To safely transition your dog to a raw diet, gradually replace your dogs existing food with ground meat over 1-week intervals, increasing the amount of ground meat at each interval until the kibble is completely replaced. This process can take a few weeks or months depending on your dog, but generally looks something like:

  • Week 1: 25% raw diet, 75% kibble
  • Week 2: 50% raw diet, 50% kibble
  • Week 3: 75% raw diet, 25% kibble
  • Week 4: 100% raw diet, 0 kibble

You can work in even smaller intervals if your dog is especially sensitive, or if you suspect food-related allergens. Transitions can happen as slowly as 10-15% each week and typically starts with only *one* source of protein. This means that even if your goal is to feed a diet with a lot of variety, you will probably only start by mixing a single meat source, like ground beef or chicken to start.

You can rely on your existing kibble to fill in any nutritional gaps while you gradually increase the amount of raw food and variety of meats that you feed at each meal. Just like transitioning your dog from kibble to raw, you can begin adding more variety into your dogs meal week over week. If you started the first week by only giving your dog ground chicken for example, in the second week you can start introducing your second protein source (if applicable) like ground beef, uncooked, bone-in chicken, egg, or even organ.

You can also introduce raw food as a treat before adding it to any of your dogs meals at all. Chunks of frozen ground beef, raw meaty bones, or chunked chicken used during training or throughout the day as a reward provides the same great introduction to raw feeding.

Transitioning Tips

It's overall better to transition your dog to a raw diet over a slower, longer period of time than a rapid one. Although many raw feeding guides advise transitioning from 0% raw food to 100% raw food in about 7 days, your dog will likely need closer to 2-4 weeks to adjust to the new diet without gastrointestinal upset, especially if they are older than 12 weeks of age.

It's also safer to start with a single source of boneless, ground, or diced protein even if you have a very large dog. This is because many dogs that have only ever been fed kibble actually have to learn to chew raw food, and offering bone-in meat too soon presents a choking risk. You can safely introduce bone by offering it in small pieces, such as in the form of wing tips, cut up, bone-in chicken, or cut up, bone-in rabbit.

Some dog owners also add a probiotic supplement to their dogs meals to help with digestion, such as raw goats milk.

Feeding your dog their food at room temperature, or only lightly cooled, is the best way to start transitioning at home. Food that is too cold could make your dog throw up, and also doesn't have the same aromas and taste as food that is fully dethawed and served at or just above room temperature.

If you're getting started with raw feeding for the first time, it's also a great idea to get involved in raw feeding communities on social media as there are many people out there who feed raw and provide recipes and meal guides that can be extremely helpful when you're starting out.

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