If you’re reading this you have probably heard of the rise of popularity of raw dog food and how you can transition your fur baby to a meal that nature intended. We partnered with NutriCanine, a Toronto based dog food brand, to break down what you need to know when transitioning over to raw.
In this guide, we’re going to cover everything you need to know about starting your dog’s raw diet, including:
- How to serve raw dog food meals
- How to transition your dog to a raw diet
- What to expect when switching to raw
- Feed your dog a rotational meal plan
How to Serve Raw Dog Food
Typically, you’ll want to keep your pup’s raw dog food in the freezer and move one meal to the fridge 24 hours before serving. An easy trick is to move one meal from the freezer to the fridge every day when you serve your dog the thawed one.
Before feeding your dog their first raw meal, we recommend removing it from the refrigerator and letting it sit at room temperature for 20 to 30 minutes, since some dogs may react negatively to a cold meal in the early stages of their transition to raw. To be on the safe side, we recommend feeding your dog room temperature meals for at least five days before feeding them directly from the refrigerator.
To make sure your pup loves their raw meals from day one, adding a digestive aid or goat Kefir will help them transition over. For the first few days give your dog extra time to eat (up to 15 minutes), then put any leftovers in the fridge to serve at their next mealtime.
How to Transition Your Dog to a Raw Diet
There are two different methods of switching your dog from kibble to a raw diet: the Immediate Method (recommended) and the Gradual Method.
The Immediate Method (Recommended for Dogs Over 1-Year-Old)
To see the best results in the shortest amount of time, NutriCanine recommends transitioning your dog with the Immediate Method. This involves fasting your dog for 12 to 24 hours (yes, 24 hours is preferred), then introducing their first raw meal at their next feeding.
Fasting your dog (that means no food, no treats, just water) allows their digestive system to rest and reset, and it helps to boost their immune system. After fasting, your dog will also be hungrier, more interested in eating and more adaptable to the raw diet.
The Gradual Method
Though it can be more time-consuming, the Gradual Method is an option for pet owners who prefer not to fast their dog. It involves introducing the raw diet slowly by feeding your dog small portions of raw food with their kibble or cooked meals.
To do this, mix a small amount of room-temperature raw food with your dog’s kibble. The ratio should be approximately 25% raw food and 75% kibble. After two days of successful feeding, increase the ratio to 50% raw food and 50% kibble. After two more days of successful feeding, increase to 75% raw food and 25% kibble. When two more days of successful feeding have passed, your dog is ready to eat 100% raw meals.
During the first week, pay extra attention to your dog’s stool. You will likely notice a difference in the amount and consistency. Don’t worry, this is perfectly normal. If you see more of a liquid consistency than usual, just stick with the same percentage of their old food and the raw for an extra day or two. For example, if you start to notice runny excrement on day 4, keep feeding them 50% old food and 50% raw for days 5 and 6. After a couple of days, you will see their stool get more firm as they adjust to a raw diet.
What to Expect When Switching to Raw Dog Food
The first few times that you put a bowl of raw food in front of your pet, they may seem unsure or uneasy about it. This is normal and common in dogs who are being fed a new diet. Think of a baby discovering a new vegetable – it can be unsettling at first because it’s new and different, even though vegetables are good for the baby. Your dog is the same way, brands like NutriCanine tackle this by adding flavour enhancers to their meal boxes.
Changes to Stool
One major bonus to feeding your dog a raw diet is that they will have stool that’s much firmer, smaller and has less of an odour, and it’s generally easier to pick up as a result. The reason why is simple: your dog hasn’t eaten anything it can’t process or use, resulting in very little waste. Many kibble dog food companies pack their products with carbs that are cheap, last a very long time on the shelf and help bind the other ingredients together – but dogs aren’t able to properly digest them.
During the first week of serving raw food, pay extra attention to your dog’s stool. When your pup is switching over, you will likely notice a difference in the amount, consistency and colour – especially when switching to a new protein. Don’t worry, this is perfectly normal. After a week or two, you will see their stool looking more firm as they adjust to their new diet.
Feed a Rotational Diet Plan
There are numerous benefits to a rotational diet. Serving different proteins provides a more complete approach to nutrient intake, taking into account the unique amino acids, vitamins, minerals and fatty acids found in each protein. With rotational feedings, your pup doesn’t become uninterested in their food because they are accustomed to certain textures and flavours instead it’s like a new tasty adventure is waiting for your pet every time they go to their food bowl. Lastly, a rotational meal plan reduces the risk of food allergies and intolerances.
Going through each new protein they will experience some of the initial transitioning reactions, which is perfectly normal. As stated earlier, each protein is different and perhaps new to them, but there is no reason to worry as they will only experience this once.
Raw Food Safety Tips
Following the same food safety practices, you would for yourself is key to having a safe and healthy environment with any raw meat. Once you bring the food home you will want to put it directly in the freezer. Avoid repeated thawing and refreezing meals.
When you feed your pet raw food, use stainless steel bowls and utensils that are easy to wash with warm water and soap. Be sure to wash all surfaces that come in contact with any raw meat.
Switching to raw dog food might seem like a lot of work. Even for us humans, eating healthier is more of a challenge than eating unhealthy foods. Brands like GoodFood and HelloFresh have risen in popularity because of the convenience factor. That’s why we love NutriCanine. They make transitioning to raw dog food conveniently by giving you perfectly pre-portioned meals tailored to your dog’s breed, age and weight.