Transitioning a Dog to a Raw Diet
If you are transitioning your cat or dog for the first time, here are some tips and tricks from those who have gone before:
First, you shouldn’t go home and just throw out their kibble and replace it with raw. If the dog has stomach issues or trouble with switching foods, this can backfire and some people will blame the food, not their ignorance, and become distrustful that Raw can benefit. So be aware that you should take anywhere from 1-6 weeks to fully transition your pet. The length of time will depend on a few things:
- How sensitive the animal’s stomach is
- The quality of food they have been feeding
- The age of the pet
- The pet’s interest in food variety
If the animal has a sensitive stomach, IBD, or otherwise has trouble with changes in their diets, you will want to transition nice and slowly. For a sensitive dog, it can be good to have them start with the very basics – with our gentle goat milk yogurt. A little of that introduced to the stomach can go far in preparing the body to handle stronger foods.
If you have been feeding a low-quality food, your animal’s stomach may go a little berserk when they find out what they have been missing. You will want to take it slowly, so they don’t cause any diarrhea or stomach upset.
The general recommendation is to start with ¼ of Steve’s Real Food and ¾ of their regular food. Then you should monitor the stools of your companions, and as long as the poop stays nice and firm and no diarrhea is present, you can continue to slowly add more Steve’s and reduce the amount of theold food until the process is complete. For dogs, this can take anywhere from a few days to 6 weeks, and for cats it can take up to a year (finicky little dears).
We know that raw pet parents are the most conscientious pet parents out there, and we know you can be pretty hard on yourselves, being the type of people who like everything to be just-so. So realize that the transitioning guidelines are general rules. It’s ok if your dog gets a little too much and has some diarrhea, it’s not going to hurt anything. It is also ok, if, like my husky, the dog refuses to transition – my husky wouldn’t touch Steve’s for about two weeks, so I made her a home-cooked raw meal to get her used to the idea. When she did suddenly try it one day, there was no going back. She would not go near the kibble she brought with her, and she transitioned in less than 24 hours. She was 100% fine but had I done that with my terrier, it wouldn’t have worked so well. So a lot depends on the animal, and no one knows your pet better than you do. Listen to your pet. You will get it figured out together.
TRANSITIONING PICKY DOGS:
Most dogs transition to a raw diet very smoothly. The high meat content in the food makes it a tasty treat, and they rarely hesitate to eat it. However, older dogs or dogs that have been on a kibble diet with no variety may experience some stomach upset and loose stools – this is to be expected. If you only ever ate pizza, ramen, and bagels your whole life and then tried to switch to a super healthy diet based on fruits and vegetables, you might have some stomach upset, too.
If you are helping a dog that is a little more temperamental, here are some tricks to entice them:
- Add our goat milk yogurt. It is highly palatable and is thick enough to coat the food so they can not eat around it.
- Beef bone broth can also be enticing. If adding it to the defrosted food it makes a very soupy texture.
- Add a raw egg, organic fish oil, or some crushed anchovies so they are more tempted and realize it is food.
- Try both thawed and frozen to see if they prefer one way or the other.
- Continue offering it to them even if they turn their nose up at it. Sometimes it takes a few weeks for them to feel comfortable trying it.
- Feel free to start feeding them raw chicken necks, vegetables, and other human food (that are safe for pets).
- The human’s attitude helps, too. They shouldn’t go for a tough love approach; they should be positive and encouraging to help their dog know the new food is a good thing!
It may take a little time, so be patient and open to trying new tactics. Dogs are like toddlers – they are about as obedient, a little cleaner, and easy to trick into eating what’s good for them. And with the right attitude, in time, they will love what’s good for them, too!
TRANSITIONING PICKY CATS:
Cats who have eaten nothing but dry foods are often a challenge to switch to fresh food. They are very opinionated and imprint on food at an early age. Cats who already eat other foods (real meat, fruits, vegetables & cheese) will be much less of a project. It might take days, or it might take months, but it’s worth the effort! The most important thing to remember with cats is that you CANNOT use the tough love approach. Cats will starve themselves, and some severe conditions can occur if cats do not eat for an extended period.
The “Slow and successful method”
If you are feeding only dry kibble, introduce canned and reduce the dry. Have specific meal times rather than leaving the food out for them to eat whenever they want – if they are hungry, they are more willing to try something new. Take some Steve’s Real Food and mix in the regular canned food you know your cat will eat. Test it on your kitty and increase the canned food until they are willing to eat it. Every time you feed, do this, and you will find you can gradually add more raw though again it might take several months. In the meantime, Offer bits of other kinds of fresh food they like to eat – bacon, milk, salmon, etc. This slow method has proven to be the most successful for cats. However, if you have a cat that needs a little more work, consider the following tricks:
Expect it to take awhile. Fully transitioning a cat can take anywhere from a week to a year.
- Stop leaving the kibble out for them to eat whenever they want. Have mealtimes, so they can start getting hungry enough to be willing to branch out.
- Leave raw (or canned as a transition step) out for them all the time to try, but only offer kibble during their specified meal times. If they want a snack, they have to try the raw food.
- DON’T just take away their kibble and play hardball, thinking that once they get hungry, enough they will eat. Cats can starve themselves or go into shock that can turn fatal before they dare try something new, so this is not a good idea.
- Have one meal available as kibble and one as raw, to see if they will be hungry enough without it getting dangerous.
- Try different proteins to see if they like chicken over beef, etc.
- Take freeze-dried raw food and hide it around the house, or put it in places the cat is not usually allowed. Cats like to feel that they have pulled one over on you, and they like to hunt.
- Start with the goat milk yogurt.
- Place the food in their usual feeding spot, or some other place they consider safe or theirs, like their bed or by their cat toys.
- Take a stopper and (kindly) force a bit of raw meat into their mouth. Sometimes cats will try it once you have jolted their taste buds.
- Tie a freeze-dried nugget to a cat toy and make them play with it. That gets them to put their mouth on it.
- Mix in a tiny crumbly bit of freeze dry product in with their regular kibble – not enough that they will notice it, but enough that they can’t work around it. Once they have started eating it as a nuisance, slowly increase and make sure they are still eating their food.
- Warm the food in a container with warm water. Cats like food to be at a warmer temperature, and it releases the smell.
- Use a flat dish, cats don’t like their whiskers touching the side of their bowl.
- Mix in our freeze-dried product with some milk and some wet food, as little as the cat needs to be still interested in eating. Slowly decrease the amount of wet food. Often you can have a larger percentage of Steve’s if you place a small spoonful of unmixed wet food on the edge of the food, the cat will eat what they like and then just keep going into the mixed food.
- Offer other types of fresh food and meats to help them recognize they don’t have to eat just kibble. Let them eat other foods off of your plates such as salmon, bacon, chicken, or creamy milk products – you could even try putting a nugget of Steve’s on your plate to trick them into thinking they have pulled one over on you by stealing it.
- Re-hydrate the Freeze Dried with something tasty like tuna juice, beef broth, or chicken broth.
You will begin to see improvements right away as your cat begins to receive digestive enzymes and a species-appropriate diet. Be patient, your efforts will pay off as you extend the life and vitality of your feline companions.