Anytime you transition your pet to a new diet you should consult your doctor to make sure they are healthy enough to make the transition. That being said, every dog is different and will take to a new diet differently.
No matter the dog, you should always make the transition slowly and allow your dogs body to adjust to the change in nutrition.
Here are some tips for every dog owner during a food transition:
- Keep a positive attitude about the transition! Both dogs and cats react to your anxiety, so keep it positive... let your apprehension go and let your dog decide for themselves.
- Transition slowly . . . especially if your dog is older. The longer your dog has been eating kibble, the longer it will take to transition to a healthier diet.
- Even though variety is essential to a raw meat diet, keep the meats the same when transitioning, and stick with that one meat during the transition. For instance, if your kibble is chicken based then use chicken in the new raw diet. This makes it easier on your dogs digestive system.
- Try fasting your dog for 1 meal prior to adding in the new food. This will make your dog hungrier and will also allow their digestive system to rest.
- Limit your dogs treat intake during the transition, especially treats with flour/wheat.
- Always make sure your dog has access to clean drinking water.
Transitioning Puppies To Raw Food
Puppies, being young, generally have much healthier digestive systems than older dogs, so the transition should be easier. Start by substituting 1/4 of their current food with the new raw food. As long as your puppy is healthy, you can make the transition go faster, as quickly as 2 days, though I always suggest a week minimum. Slowly begin to decrease the old food and replace the difference with the new raw foods.
Healthy Adult Dogs
It's recommended to transition adult dogs slowly to a new diet, even slower for elderly dogs. As long as your dog has no signs of illness or digestive upset (loose stools, constipation, vomiting, etc.) then you should be able to make the transition in 7-10 days. A slow transition helps your dogs digestive system adapt to the new foods.
Begin by substituting about 1/8th of your dogs current food with the raw food diet. After about 2 days of this with no digestive upset, you can increase the new raw food to 1/4 substitution.
Continue this cycle as long as your dog does not experience any digestive upset until you have completely replaced all of his current food with the new raw food diet.
Transitioning Older Dogs and Picky Eaters
Smell and texture can be some of the biggest obstacles in transitioning a diet for an older dog or a picky eater.
Make sure to remove treats to make your pup hungry and add some flavorful bribes to entice your pup to eat. You can add egg, cheese, even cooked chicken on top of the new food to engage them in eating the new food.
Changes You May Notice In Your Dog When Transitioning To A Raw Food Diet (according to Darwin's Raw Pet Food)
"Stools from raw-fed dogs tend to be smaller and firmer, as the dog is absorbing more nutrients from its food. Some dogs will strain slightly at the hard stools. This is ok, and even beneficial, as the harder stools help the dog express its anal glands, reducing the likelihood of infection."
"There may be some variation in the consistency of your dog’s stool. This is also ok, although you should consult with your veterinarian if your dog experiences prolonged diarrhea (soft stool is not diarrhea)."
"You may also occasionally see a film around your dog’s stool, especially during transition. This is ok as it is evidence of your dog’s body cleansings and detoxifying itself of harmful toxins."
"Detoxification: Getting “Unsick”
"When switching your dog to a healthier, raw food diet, some dogs – especially older ones who have been eating kibble for a long time – may experience a detoxification process."
"This condition may be a bit unnerving – you may see mucus coating your dog’s stool, excess shedding, dry skin, runny eyes, or other symptoms. Chronic or periodic skin conditions may briefly worsen. These symptoms do not mean that your pet is sick – in fact, they are signs that it is getting “unsick”, as the dog’s body purges itself of the various toxins that have built up over time."
"The situation will resolve itself, usually in a week or two, but it could take a couple months in some cases, as new cells must replace old ones in order for the detox process to be completed. You may be able to speed up the process with increased exercise, and by having plenty of fresh filtered water available. Dogs may also occasionally choose to fast as their body completes this process."
"Note: Dogs that have been on steroids, antibiotics, or other long-term drugs, may experience prolonged detoxification periods. You should always consult with your veterinarian if you believe your dog is manifesting severe problems connected to the diet change."