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
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 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.