This page is about how to switch an ADULT dog (over 8 months of age unless it's a giant breed) to a raw diet. I have a separate section on switching a puppy to raw.
So, you have decided to switch your dog to a raw diet. Where do you start? I prefer the cold turkey method - or in this case the room temperature chicken method. :) You will go from feeding them kibble to raw in one day.
Here's how I switch a new adult dog to raw. First I let them miss one meal - it's sometimes easier to get a hungry dog to eat raw for the first time. I start with chicken for several reason. It's easy to find (almost every grocery store carries some type of chicken parts), it's the cheaper of the protein sources and it has the softest bones.
I start by offering the dog (who should be pretty hungry by now) a raw chicken wing. One of two things will happen. Either the dog will happily take it and start eating or they sniff it and then look at me as if to say "No, really - where's my food?"
Why do some dogs turn their nose up at raw in the beginning? Because they are used to their food SMELLING alot. Kibble is sprayed with fats and aroma.flavor enhancers so that dogs find it appealing. Raw meat has very little odor to it so some dogs don't believe it's really food at first.
Here's a couple things you can try to get your dog to try raw for the first time:
- Let them watch another dog eat the raw items
- Let them wait another hour or two - getting more and more hungry
- Toss it to them - this will make them bite down when they catch it and give them a taste
- 'Accidentally' drop it on the floor and let them grab it (stolen food is often tastier to dogs :) )
- Put it outside, wait a few minutes, then let the dog out to 'find' a treasure
For the more stubborn dogs:
- Pour a few tablespoons of olive oil in a frying pan on low heat, toss in a 1/2 clove of garlic and thenLIGHTLY cook the meat on each side
For the ultimate hold-out dog:
- Mix some ground meat in with their kibble - slowly using more meat and less kibble over about a weeks time
Alright, now we have the dog eating chicken wings. What's next? Well, you need three things in a raw diet - raw meaty bones, muscle meat and organ meats. You've got the raw meaty bones covered so add some muscle meat. Chicken breasts or ground turkey are a good start.
When switching an adult dog I stick with ONE protein source for the first week. While this is usually only necessary if your dog has allergy issues it can make the switch much easier on both you and the dog.
When I switched my pack (4 German Shepherds, a Cocker and a Corgi mix) to raw 5 of the dogs had no problems at all. And then there was Riggs. :(
He had explosive diarrhea. I tried feeding his less food. I tried feeding him more fiber. I tried several things and was almost ready to give up when I decided to try less variety. I was feeding everyone about 6 different protein sources right from the start. The other dogs could handle that ... Riggs could not.
When I switched him to JUST chicken he turned right around! After a couple weeks I added beef, then a few weeks later I added pork ... and so on. After his system had a chance to adjust to the changes he could handle new proteins without a problem.
Now some dogs can handle all sorts of variety right off the bat. And some cannot. There's no harm in starting slow and building the variety so I advocate doing just that. If it helps someone else avoid the mess I had to deal with - I'm all for it!
So the basics of switching:
- Start slow - use just one protein source for the first week or two
- Start with chicken as it's easy to find, cheap and has the softest bones
- Make sure you feed RMBs, MM AND OM - even if using just one protein source