Are you thinking about switching your dog from dry Kibble to a raw diet? Wondering how the heck do you actually do it without making your dog sick, or worse still experiencing a case of what I call Poonami (explosive diarrhoea that means loads and loads of washing and cleaning up or worse still a trip to the vet) Read on, I’ll go through the sure-fire steps to help you transition the safe and mess-free way!
You’ve heard that a raw diet might be a better option than dry kibble, but, what are the benefits and why should you go to the effort to switch? Why is it a better option for your dog than the most expensive best quality Complete and Balanced Kibble you are currently feeding your dog? Look, Kibble is convenient, that’s why it was invented., Let’s face it, you open a bag and pour it into their bowl, it’s easy. Surely the products stating that they’re Complete and Balanced are enough for your dog? Well, I’m going to take a pin and pop that marketing hype bubble!
The list of reasons to switch are well researched, documented and verified by Scientists, Holistic Vets and Animal Nutritionists. These studies aren’t trying to sell you anything, in fact most of them are funded by people just like me and you, animal lovers that want answers and the knowledge to make better choices for their animals. They are not the BS that is marketed by the big pharmaceutical companies that want to sell more products. And there are world wide studies underway right now, on increased longevity, reduced cancer rates, better dental health - the list is long and in my opinion absolutely wonderful. But, really, the proof will be right in front of you. Your dog will be healthier, with obvious signs that you can not deny.
What Benefits are there when switching from Kibble to Raw Food?
What are these signs you doogo will send you that they are healthier once you switch?
Their coats will be shinier, thicker & shed less. Darker colour coats will literally gleam in the sun.
Their Teeth will be cleaner, plaque free & never require yearly dental work at the vet (& how much would this save you?)
Their breath won’t smell (more kisses for you)
They won’t have a funky dog smell (my dogs simply don’t smell unless they’ve been out rolling in something)
They will poop less - smaller firmer poop that doesn’t smell really bad
A lot of Skin allergies simply are fixed with the removal of highly processed kibble
It’s easier to maintain a healthy weight
Your dog will drink less water - a raw diet contains about 75% moisture where as a dry food diet contains around 10% moisture causing them to be in a constant state of dehydration, putting enormous strain on their kidneys. Less potty breaks!
How to you Switch from Kibble to Raw Food?
Okay. I hear you saying you’re in, lets get down to the safest and easiest way to switch. Switching is something you need to do very slowly and you need to plan. If your dog is older than 6 months of age and has eaten Kibble for his entire life this is is how you can transition him. This meal plan is for adult dogs, puppies need to switch a little differently. If you don’t do it properly, you’ll end up with Poonami and no one wants that, least of all you doggo!
Switching from Kibble to Raw Dog Food: there are a couple of ways to make the transition, but this is the sure-fire way I have found to work really well for most doggos.
The most important thing to remember is slow and steady, this process will take you anywhere from 2 weeks to a month, each dogs microbiome is different and each dog will react differently. Age and overall health will make a difference to the time it takes, just don’t get discouraged!
The Basics of Digestion in Dogs
Before I go how does your dog actually digest food? One of the main differences between kibble and raw food is the amount of starch (or carbohydrate) they contain. While most raw foods contain 0 to 15% carbohydrate (with none of it starch), kibble need starch to hold them together in those little kibble forms. In fact, they need to be at least 30% starch for this to happen … and many kibbles are even 60% starch. And if you’re feeding a grain-free kibble, don’t be fooled … those foods still need starch and it will just be in a different form. So instead of rice or corn, they’ll contain the same amount of peas or potatoes.
Kibble Changes Gut pH. Kibble (or the starch it contains) will increase the pH of the stomach that means it is less Acidic. The same would happen if you fed your raw meals with sweet potatoes or other starchy foods. An enzyme called pepsin is responsible for breaking the protein in your dog’s meal into its individual building blocks, amino acids. When the pH of the gut is increased (less acidic), then pathogenic bacteria like E coli and salmonella are more likely to survive and cause digestive upset or illness in your dog. Remember, the acidic environment in his gut protects your dog against these pathogens. Dogs and other carnivores have evolved to handle the bacteria in raw meats … but if we change the pH in their digestive tract by feeding a food that’s not appropriate for them (starch), some of that protection is lost. So, in a nutshell we have to change the acidity levels in their gut before we can feed raw without any tummy upsets.
Week one of the Switch
So what’s the first step? Changing the Gut pH level to be more acidic, and it’s as simple as adding between 1 Teaspoon to 1 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar for every 10 kilos of body weight to their drinking water or bowl of kibble. Keep doing this for the first week or 2.
The next tip is to add to their kibble a cooked casserole mix containing lots of vegetables like pumpkin and lots of leafy greens. Simply cook this veggie mix up with some minced Turkey or Chicken - use a white meat and make the mix a 50/50 split - half veg and half meat.
Take out one quarter of their kibble and replace it with one quarter of the cooked casserole. After watching your dog carefully to make sure there isn’t any upset after a couple of days offer your dog a couple of raw pieces of boneless white meat like chicken, Turkey or Rabbit - only a very small amount - use them as treats. Watch and check for any signs of that dreaded poonami. Slightly softer poops are normal but the insoluble fiber in the veggie mix should hold it all together. As I mentioned the object of this first stage is to alter their gut acidity levels from the alkaline level (caused by the starches in the kibble) and make the transition easier.
Week two of the Switch
Now it’s time to slowly add more raw meat and slowly remove the kibble from their bowl. I recommend using a quality pre made raw meal mix as it will ensure your dog is getting enough vitamins and minerals. These frozen meals are readily available from your local pet store. Day one of this second week their bowl should look like this - 3 quarters kibble and 1 quarter cooked casserole mix. Take out another quarter of the kibble and replace it with the pre made raw mix. The bowl should look like this, half kibble and 1 quarter casserole, 1 quarter raw meat. Feed this ratio for the next couple of days and check their poops to make sure they’re firm. In 2 or 3 days time remove another quarter of the kibble and replace it with the pre made meal mix. Your bowl should look like this, 1 quarter kibble, 1 quarter cooked casserole and half raw meat.
Not all Dogs will Transition to a Raw Food Diet quickly
Now the timeline changes depending on how your individual dog is doing. Are his poops firm? Not being sick? Is he bright and happy? If you’ve answered yes to all these then you are doing really well, and you can continue to change the ratio of kibble and increase the amount of raw meat in his bowl until there is no more kibble left over the next week or so.
If your dog has diarrhoea , has been vomiting, is eating grass or generally looks unwell, slow it right down - the idea is the same - you just need to make the switch more gradually. Of course if your dog is very unwell take him to the vet!
Now, the cooked casserole mix can be removed altogether now if you wish, but my recommendation is to leave it - just make sure it’s a 50/50 meat to vegetable mix & it makes up no more than one quarter of their meal. I feed my dogs this mix pretty much every single day as it adds many vitamins & minerals not found in many pre made raw mixes & my dogs actually love it.
Raw Meaty Bones are Vital for Dogs Overall Health
If you’ve reached the end of week two and you’ve removed all their kibble completely, now it’s time to add some raw meaty bones. Start with chicken necks or feet or a chicken frame. Alway supervise your dog when eating bones, especially if they have not eating them before. At the beginning you might need to teach him how to actually chew them properly - after all they are very different that those uniform little pellets he was used to eating! To do this simply hold the neck in your hand - use a kitchen paper towel if it’s slippery - and let him have a little gnaw. He’ll soon get the idea after lots of praise from you ‘good boy, nice chewing!’
It does not matter how many weeks it takes to completely remove the kibble from their diets, remember - slow and steady wins the race! If you’re finally there after 4 weeks, you will need to introduce these raw meaty bones as well. Their gut microbiome and acidity levels will be able to handle them without any upset.
Now you may notice something that might alarm you - they will be drinking far less water. Don’t worry! A raw meat based diet comprises around 75% moisture, in comparison dry kibble contains less than 10%, so of course they will drink far more after a bowl of kibble! The other major change you will notice is their poops will be far smaller and smell far less than before -this is because their body is processing and using almost all of the nutrients the raw meat provides just one of the many benefits of a raw diet in my opinion!
Well there you have it, the easiest way to transition your dogs diet avoiding the dreaded poonami! If you’d like to learn about making your own dogs meals or adding different types of foods to their daily meals check out our online course Fortifying the Food Bowl.