Whether you have an adult dog in need of a health boost or a rambunctious puppy looking to have a healthy life from the start; a raw diet is for young and old canines alike. As for cats, well, it’s very much the same. We want our animals healthy from as early as possible and for as long as possible.
Switching from Kibble to Raw
The switch for dogs and puppies is best done cold turkey. Feeding both kibble and raw is not recommended because of their different digestive requirements. Feed your last kibble meal one night and start feeding raw the next day and never look back.
The process of switching a dog or a cat can be started basically the same the way. It is once
you have made the switch and see how your individual dog or cat reacts that you may need to adapt the diet to work best. There are no standard rules; however, I have seen a number of dogs started on a similar plan as below.
First Meals/Week: Chicken and turkey are bland and very easy to digest with great soft edible bone. When first introducing the raw diet some dogs are ravenous for it while other have a hard time recognizing the meat as food as they have been conditioned to dry cereal. Warning. You must watch your dog in the beginning to see how he chews. Some dogs gulp and hardly chew which can be very hazardous. Bully breeds tend to be gulpers so perhaps ground meats or larger frozen pieces are a better choice. Depending on the size of your dog, some popular cuts to feed include: bone in chicken breasts, chicken quarters, carcass, turkey necks, turkey wings etc.
Here are a few techniques used to help convince a stubborn cat or dog to enjoy their new
- Searing organs in a screaming hot pan to brown the meat (never cook bones)
- Bashing up bones with a hammer;
- Fake “dropping” their meat on the floor in the
- Feed from frozen to avoid gulping;
- Cut slices into skin to expose flesh;
- Remove kibble, they can smell it!
- Dog won’t eat? Fast a meal to create some hunger, a
healthy dog will not starve himself.
Once you have noticed consistently firm stools and don’t experience any RAW DIET DISTRESS then you can add a second protein. I like to add pork next as an affordable, good red meat. Pork tongue, hearts, roasts and ribs all can be introduced, but SLOWLY. Remember the body has just gotten used to the new way of digesting so do not overdo it by adding too much variety too soon. The idea is a raw diet balances over time, not in one day, unlike so – called “balanced” kibble. If your dog took a while to get firmer stools, you may want to add the new protein in intervals. Add ¼ new proteins with ¾ chicken, or something they digest easily. As they adapt to this protein you may add new variety for as long as you can source out! **Remember white and crumbly stool is too much bone, dark and loose is not enough bone.
The amount you feed depends on the ADULT weight of the cat or dog; however, you adjust for energy levels, activity levels and whether your dog needs to loose or gain weight. As a rule of thumb you would feed approximately 2-3% of your dog’s adult weight, so if you have a 100lb dog you can expect to feed 2-3lbs of raw meat- again adjust to fit your dog. Some Boxers tend to eat on the higher end while some Bernese may eat on the lighter end. Feed young puppies from 6 weeks to approximately 6 months 3-4 times daily, splitting the total amount over the day. From 6 months – 1 year you can transition to 2 times daily, at this point you can either continue to feed 2 times daily or switch to 1 feed, whatever
works for your dog. Moose will throw up if he doesn’t have food in his stomach in the morning so I feed him ¼lb to help keep him satisfied until dinner, where I give him the bulk of his food. I know of dogs that need to eat once a day as they will bury it in the yard for later as they don’t feel the need or hunger to eat.
When people acquire a new bundle of fur-baby joy they generally want to do what is best for Fido. This includes feeding a dog to ensure a long healthy life. As a reformed commercial dog food feeder, I spent a countless amount of time in the Pet Store reading the 45+ ingredients on the back of packaging made “special for puppies” trying to provide the best “diet” fancy packaging could get me. All the while not realizing that I should have wanted FEWER ingredients … and there they were, in my freezer, all the ingredients needed to “make” dog food.
If you have a new puppy and would ultimately like to feed a raw diet, I tell everyone the
same: the sooner the better. Young puppies have baby teeth meant for eating flesh and bones and can do so as young as 6 weeks old. You can find many breeders who naturally rear their litters from mother’s milk to a raw diet, never eating kibble. However, should your puppy be fed kibble at the breeder I would prepare for the diet switch on day 1 of your puppies’ new life with you. There is no “transition phase.”
Young – Senior Dogs
People often ask me “how long after I start feeding raw will I notice the benefits?” My
response to that is it depends on your dog’s age, health factors, medications and other variables. However, one thing remains consistent, and that is the sooner you make the switch the better. Whether your dog has existing health issues or is elderly there are many people who have successfully switched their dogs to a raw diet. Dewalt, one of my senior rescues was 12 years old when he switched to raw and had no issues what so ever. My advice is to switch cold turkey. If your dog isn’t much of an eater then you may consider fasting the last meal before attempting to switch. If your dog has bad teeth or is missing teeth then you can bash up bones with a hammer, or source out a raw food supplier who sells ground meat, bone in. However, it is more than possible for a dog with fewer teeth than nature gave him to enjoy meats bone-in that aren’t ground. I would recommend going slower in adding new proteins and organ cuts and become an avid poop watcher so you know how the diet is affecting your dog.
Younger kittens tend to be a bit easier to switch to the raw diet than older cats. Cats tend to be addicted to kibble more so than dogs and I have heard of people spending months trying to “transition” a cat to a raw diet. The idea with cats is to always provide food. First step is to get them off dry kibble. Cats tend to like the salty crunchy chew of the kibble so this phase can be the hardest in stubborn cats. I phase out kibble and replace with regular canned cat food. Once they take to the canned food I add some ground chicken or turkey from the grocery store. When I switched Frankenstein to raw at 6 months old I would pour tuna juice and bits of canned tuna onto his meat. He now devours whole fish and quail.
Cats really cannot fast the same way dogs can and it can be dangerous for a cat to go without food longer than 24 hours, so do what you can to make the food unrecognizable until they get used to the texture and taste.
One difference between cats and dogs on a raw diet is that cats do not have the ability to produce the amino acid taurine like dogs can. For that reason cats can lack taurine and this can cause serious issues (heart & eyes). But there is great news! Taurine is found in a lot of meat, especially heart. I feed my cat a beef heart meal once a week and never grind or cook it. This is because the more the heart is altered the amount of natural occurring taurine that is available to the cat decreases. Should you have an extreme case where you cat MUST eat ground meats, then you can supplement the taurine.
Cats also eat about 2-3% of their ideal weight which can be split into 1 or 2 meals a day
(feed kittens as much as 4 times a day and cut back). My cat is a bit of a cow and eats just over ¼lb a day, sometimes more. Again, watch their weight and energy levels and adjust accordingly.
Cat won’t eat bones? Could their teeth hurt? Are their gums inflamed? Sometimes oral
disease can discourage an animal to enjoy their diet fully. If you suspect tooth and gum disease contact your Veterinarian to discuss an intervention method.