Congratulations on deciding to feed your dog fresh food. You’re inspired by all of the bowls you’ve seen other raw feeders feed, and you’re ready to jump right in.
If your dog is healthy, you can start to feed them raw right away via the cold turkey transition. This is my preferred method (cold turkey) because then your dog is eating balanced meals right away.
Also, note gradual transitions are NOT FOR PUPPIES. Puppies need to eat complete and balanced meals every single time.
The longer it takes to transition, the longer your dog is eating an unbalanced diet.
But if your dog has a history of an upset tummy or allergies, you may want to go slower. For example, if you’re trying to pinpoint – what ingredient your dog is allergic to – then adding ingredients in gradually will uncover that.
So here are some tips to get you started on the right foot.
Fast your dog for twenty-four to forty-eight hours first
Fasting your dog for a short period of time is ideal when transitioning to a new food. That means no food, no treats, just water.
Break the fast by giving your do some raw goat’s milk or kefir. This prepares their stomach for their new home-cooked or raw meal.
Fasting also means they will have a healthy appetite to dive right into fresh food.
After a few hours of breaking the fast, you can introduce their new food.
Choose a starter meat that your dog thrives on. If they have been exposed to chicken and do great on it, then make that your first meat to feed raw (or cooked).
In my case with my dogs, they didn’t do well on chicken so I chose beef as their starter meat to eat.
Some dog parents will choose turkey. There isn’t a hard rule – select the meat that you think your dog will do well on.
During the first half of the week, you’re ONLY feeding meat. No edible bones, organs, secreting organs, fish, seafood, or fiber.
Why? Do you ask?
So that you can properly assess if the meat you’re feeding (raw or cooked) agrees with your dog. It also gives their stomach time to adjust to this new way of eating.
Admittedly this diet during the gradual transition is not nutritionally complete. It’s lacking the vitamins and minerals that your dog needs. Your two choices are to just skip the gradual transition altogether and just start feeding complete meals, or learn how to feed with supplements for this short period of time.
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Monitor your dog’s health markers
Is your dog thriving? Are their eyes bright? Do they have energy? Are they excited to eat?
And how is their stool? Is it firm? If the answer is yes and it’s consistent then you can proceed to the next step in the transition.
This is also a good time to develop the habit of journaling. Write down what you are feeding your dog, and how their body and energy respond to it.
Feed digestive enzymes and/or probiotics
Feeding your dog supportive enzymes and probiotics can help make the transition easier. I like the two brands Mercola and Four Leaf Rover – pick one and rotate to the other after your bottle or jar is finished.
Keep slippery elm on hand
Slippery elm is a raw feeder’s best friend.
You can even add a small amount to feed with each new meat, bone, or organ or…. only feed if you need to when stools are soft.
You can find slippery elm on AMAZON or most health food stores.
Don’t overfeed fiber
Diarrhea is caused by the three Fs. Too much food. Too much fat. Or too much fiber.
During this time you’re acclimating your dog to this new way of feeding. You don’t want to over-complicate it by feeding too much fiber.
What’s fiber? Vegetables and fruit.
And while vegetables can be a great source of fiber, and help feed your dog’s microbiome, not all dogs do well on it.
Supplement with purpose
I firmly believe that dogs can get the nutrients they need when its fed from whole food sources.
Leave the supplements in the pantry. You want to keep meals simple. You want to transition to complete meals. You want your dog to have time to adjust.
Only when they have completely adjusted would I look at supplements again.
Rotate your food sources
Rotation and variety are core pillars in home-cooked and raw-fed diets.
During the transition time, you stick with one protein choice each week. Rotate between the white meat, the red meat, your edible bone choices, your liver choices, your secreting organs, fish, and fiber.
Once you’re completely transitioned you want to be able to constantly be trying different food combinations. Remember variety is the spice of life and the reason you left the one size fits all approach when your dog used to eat kibble.
Talk to your mentor
Hopefully, by now, you have a friend, a mentor who can help you as you start your own home-cooked or raw feeding journey.
If you don’t have one and need a little help, you can also reach out to me. I have a variety of packages to help you along the way.
Transitioning your dog can be daunting.
If you’re lucky the transition will be a breeze!
Some of you might hit some road bumps. A few gurgles, some loose stools. Some of your dogs might even throw up or reject their food.
Take a deep breath and a step back and observe:
- What caused the behavior
- What might you need to remove or adjust from their diet? (Maybe swith the meat, bone, fiber, or simply reduce the amount).
- What might you need to add? (Maybe slippery elm).
After you’ve made the adjustments you observe your dog once again and see how they are progressing.
I can assure you that if you do your homework, and are well prepared as well as closely monitor your dog the transition won’t be as hard as you might have imagined.
To you and your dog’s health and fresh food success!