"Transitioning Your Dog To A Raw Diet"
By Dr Jeannie (Jeanette) Thomason
There are two schools of thought on transitioning your dog (or cat) to a raw diet:
1) Switching cold turkey
2) Gradually introducing the raw food over time
In the majority of dogs, irregardless of age, the transition to a raw diet is best done immediately. Many have come to find that throwing out the kibble one day and introducing raw food the next day causes no issues whatsoever. To avoid the little bit of gastric upset a dog might go though, I recommend that you fast the dog (do not ever fast a puppy under a year of age) for at least 12 hours prior to feeding it's first raw meal. Happily, most dogs do very well switching to raw "cold turkey".
The other school of thought is to gradually introduce the raw food into whatever the dog is currently eating over about a one to two week period of time. While some dogs have extremely sensitive digestive tracts due to a long life of being fed kibble and over-exposure to chemicals, changing from any food to another type of food may very well cause at least minor GI upset. By gradually introducing the new raw food into the dog's diet, these dogs are slowly exposed to new foods without as much risk of gastric irritation. This is sometimes the best way to introduce dogs to the nutrient dense raw diet who are currently dealing with chronic illness or are senior dogs.
It is important to note here however that you NEVER want to add raw meat to a kibble or cooked food meal. Raw meat and bones are digested very quickly by the dog, in fact, in many cases within only a few hours. On the other hand, processed kibble or cooked foods which are not natural to the dog's digestive system have to remain in the digestive tract to further ferment and break down so the body can try to obtain some nutrition from it. It can take 12 to 24 hours for processed or cooked foods digest. If you mix the two at the same meal you are just asking for digestive upsets.
If you want to slowly transition your dog, then feed the kibble or cooked food meal by its self in the morning and the raw meal in the evening - giving the kibble or cooked meal some time to digest and hopefully be out of the dog's system.
Regardless of which method you choose to transition your dog, I personally recommend that you stick to one protein source for a couple of months, until your dog has fully transitioned and cleansed or detoxed. By only feeding one protein source, it simplifies things, By adding a variety of different protein sources slowly/gradually, we can ensure that a dog is doing well with the addition of each new food item. For dogs, most clients begin by using poultry. Organic, antibiotic and hormone free is always best if at all possible. Poultry is low in fat and usually very easy to digest. If you can not find or afford organic then it is important for you to find a brand that does not contain salt/sodium or other enhancements.
* Dr Jeannie recommends feeding fresh, whole, raw meaty bones over a prepared, frozen ground raw meat based diet. However, some pet owners still have a fear of their dog's choking or not eating the whole pieces of animal (chicken leg quarter, etc.) and will often start out with a ground diet for their own fear's sake. This is fine for a while or for older dogs that are missing a lot of their teeth and would not be able to crush the bones to eat them in the first place, however, please be aware that there are a number of reasons to completely avoid ground foods in your dog's diet. But one of the most important reasons for this has to do with the dog's teeth.
As you look into your dog's mouth, you notice those huge impressive teeth (or tiny needle sharp teeth). These are designed for grabbing, ripping, tearing, shredding, and shearing meat. They are NOT equipped with large flat molars. Their premolars are pointed and situated in a scissors bite (along with the rest of their teeth) that powerfully disposes of meat, bone, and hide. And those teeth are set in a very powerful pair of jaws, meant to be used for ripping, tearing and shearing through whole raw foods. A dog's teeth are for processing chunks of raw meat, and crushing edible bones into hunks small enough to be consumed.
It is a totally natural use of their teeth to gnaw apart whole raw carcasses, including meaty bones and organs. What is unnatural is for them to be fed food that has been reduced from its whole, unadulterated state into a soppy pile of mush!
Besides the issue of oral health with regards to whole vs. ground foods, is the matter of digestion. Feeding ground food encourages speedy gulping, because virtually no effort, and so very little time, is needed to consume it. Quickly inhaling ground food causes it to arrive so rapidly into the dog's stomach, that often there's no time for necessary digestive acids to be fully excreted. Such meals may end up causing irritation or indigestion, which can mean a greater chance of them either being vomited up, or coming out the other end in a less than desirable form.
On the other hand, one of the great benefits of feeding whole raw food is that it requires some work on the part of the jaws and teeth to hack away at fleshy fibers and bones, and this takes some time. The time it takes to gnaw away at whole meaty bones to the point where swallow-able sized hunks have been torn off, gives the gut time to activate its gastric juices so that when the food finally does hit the stomach, it has a much better chance of being properly digested.
How Much Do I Feed?
As a general guideline I suggest that you feed your adult animal 2% of his "ideal" body weight daily until you can see if the dog is gaining, losing or maintaining its weight. This amount can be fed once a day (preferred and most healthy way) or divided in half and fed twice a day. Keep in mind that your individual pet's needs will depend on things like his age, activity level, health, metabolism, and breed.
Growing Puppies & Kittens require 4-6% of their body weight daily and overweight Pets require only 1- 1 1/2% of their body weight daily until they have reached their optimal weight.
If your dog is elderly or already in a dis-eased state it is recommended that you transition your dog under the guidance and support of a knowledgeable veterinary naturopath or holistic veterinarian. They will be able to help you to help your senior friend to dextox and rebuild his immune system as you begin him on the raw diet.
It can be normal for some transitioning animals to experience diarrhea and or a small amount of vomiting of undigested food. This is because it can take a little while for the good bacteria to build up in an animals digestive tract especially if he has always been on dry food or for a very long period of time. Dogs (and cats) recovering from junk pet food malnourishment and chemical toxicity will often experience a healing crisis or detox during the transition to a more healthful diet.
You should consult your veterinary naturopath or holistic veterinarian if you have never transitioned a pet to a raw diet before or if your pet experiences diarrhea for more than two days, is vomiting large amounts of liquid, is acting lethargic, running a fever, and/or has blood in his stools.
Copyright 2006 - 2012 The Whole Dog, Whole Dog News Blog, Dr Jeannie Thomason, All rights reserved. No part of this article may be reproduced in any form without the written consent of the Author. This article is for educational purposes only. The decision to use, or not to use, any information is the sole responsibility of the reader.
DISCLAIMER: All information contained here on The Whole Dog is intended for educational purposes only. It is not provided in order to diagnose, prevent or treat any disease, illness or injured condition of the body or pets and the author, publisher, and contributors accept no responsibility for such use. The statements herein have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration and the AVMA (American Veterinary Medical Association).