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How to Switch Your Pets to a Raw Food Diet

By Charles Hopkins Published 01/2/2008 | Pets and Animals
Just as it is important to take the proper steps when switching between commercial pet foods, so should we switch our pets gradually to a raw diet.

General feeding guidelines


Dogs, being on the scavenger/omnivorous end of the carnivore scale, do very well on a great variety of foods. While it is not necessary, the addition of some vegetables helps to bring a wider variety of nutrients to the diet. Wild canids get their vegetables in fermented (pre-digested) form from the stomachs of their prey. Dogs have a very limited capacity for digesting raw vegetables. Most raw mixes will therefore only include blanched, frozen vegetables.

Many dogs have trouble digesting grains. For weight gain, grains can be utilized if the dog can have them, otherwise, add more fatty meats like lamb or duck. Old-fashioned rolled oats are a good choice.


Cats, by nature, are "obligate carnivores," meaning they MUST eat meat, and at least 98% of their diet SHOULD be meat. Yet, read the ingredient list of commercial cat food, and you'll find grains, fruits, vegetables, and other non-meat items. Even most of the super premium brands that tout their "best for the cat" formulations contain fillers, hard-to-digest foods and downright toxic ingredients.

There seem to be less than a handful of canned foods that actually meet the obligate carnivore requirement, and NO dry food does. No wonder so many cats suffer from conditions like irritable bowel disease (IBD) and obesity and diabetes, to name just a few!

Cats that have been fed commercial diets all their lives are often turned off by raw because it is so different and doesn't have all those flavor enhancers and fillers.

If she was eating dry food, it's best to introduce a high quality canned product first. Once she's used to the canned, start mixing in raw at the rate of a quarter to a third of the total. After a few days, increase to half. If she's eating that well, try giving all raw one meal, and canned the next. If she still refuses the raw, continue mixing and slowly increasing the raw percentage.

Be patient. It can take weeks before the light finally goes on! After that, though, you'll be able to introduce a greater variety, and watch her coat start to shine, her waist become defined, and the playful kitten return.

Switching Guidelines

Switching to raw food should be accomplished over a one to two week period. However, don't be surprised if your dog refuses his previous food after a couple of days, while the cat may take two months or more before she's completely comfortable with her new diet.

A healthy adult pet with average activity will need about 3% of his body weight in raw food. This may seem like a lot, but we're talking 70% moisture content. You'll notice a reduction in water consumption because of the high moisture in raw food.

Day 1-5: feed 75% on the old food in the morning; 25% of the new, raw in the evening. Never mix raw and kibble! The difference in digestion time can cause problems.

Day 6-10: feed 50% old food in the morning, 50% raw in the evening.

Day 11-14: 25% old in the a.m., 75% raw at night. At this point, you can start to introduce raw meaty bones (RMBs). Chicken necks are an excellent choice. Depending on the size of the dog, knuckle bones (whole or split) provide excellent chewing time, which keeps their teeth clean. Raw-fed pets rarely need teeth-cleaning. Initially limit the bone chewing time to about ten minutes; it takes a while for the dog's stomach acids to build up sufficiently to digest bones.

Raw-fed pets produce small, firm stools. However, it's not unusual to see loose, mucus-covered feces after the first few days. This, in most cases, is due to a detoxification process and should be left to run its course (no more than a day or two). Discuss more than one or two incidents of watery diarrhea with your veterinarian.

Some people report excellent results switching their dogs completely to raw after a 24 hour fast.