When switching an adult dog to a new diet, especially one who has been on a kibble diet for many years, we recommend doing a gradual transition. The guide below will explain why a slow introduction is beneficial, provide a step by step guide on how to complete the process, and how much to feed your adult dog. Let's get started!
1. ASSESS WEIGHT BEFORE STARTING
Before your dog starts their new diet, we suggest weighing your dog first. There are two reasons for this. First the recommended feeding quantity is based on your dog’s weight. Second, it allows you to determine a baseline for their weight. When you have a baseline to start with, it makes it easier to be in tune with their weight and notice when they have gained/lost weight. Before starting raw, ask yourself: are they a healthy weight or do they need to lose/gain? Answer yourself honestly and then allow that to inform your decision when determining how much food to feed.
In addition to weighing them, you can also assess their weight with the following questions. Can their ribs be felt? Does the belly tuck up when seen from the side? Do they have a visible waist when looking from above? These are all indicators of a healthy weight. I would suggest assessing your dog regularily. Weight gain can start to creep up on us if we aren't paying attention and excessive weight gain can predispose your dog to health conditions like diabetes, arthritis, breathing issues. It is also hard on your dogs joints. Keeping your dog at a consistent, ideal weight is crucial for their quality and longevity of life.
2. DETERMINE HOW MUCH TO FEED
When deciding how much to feed your dog, think in terms of guidelines not rules. The amount you feed is dynamic and should be tailored to the phase of life your dog is in. The amounts we share here are not set in stone and should be used as a baseline to determine what is the best for for your dog right now.
Variables that would require an adjustment of food would be:
- health status
- activity levels
- Weather changes (especially if they are outdoors most of the time)
- weight loss or gain
My dog, Philly, for example, tends to fluctuate in weight ever since she had puppies. I am always watching her weight and adjusting when needed. Doozer on the other hand has been at a consistent weight since he reached adulthood.
For our food, we recommend feeding dogs over a year old 1% - 2% of a dogs body weight per day based on their activity level. This is what we find works on average for most of our clients.
Inactive - A dog that spends most of their time indoors with smaller bursts of activity and walks for maximum a half hour a day. These dogs will fall on the lower end of the scale and should start at 1%.
Average - A dog that gets an hour to a couple hours of exercise everyday can start at 1% to 1.5%.
Active - An active dog spends most of their time outside with activity filling most of their day. They are dogs who enjoy lots of hiking, biking, and playing with their humans. These dogs would have food intake at 1.5% to 2% of their weight.
For dogs who require weight loss, calculate the percentage based on their ideal weight not their current weight. Start at the higher range (2%) and see what results are yielded from that. If you don't see any changes, you may need to drop down further. Once you reach their ideal weight, make sure to adjust as needed and appropriate for their activity level.
We need to be honest about our dog’s activity level and be mindful of where they are in life, adjusting their food intake accordingly. These are the same principles we apply to our own food intake and weight management as dog owners. Feeding amounts require attention and being intentional to keep ourselves and our dogs healthy.
This recommendation is not for puppies or pregnant/nursing dogs. For how much to feed puppies, check out our Guide to Feeding Raw to Puppies.
3. INTRODUCE SLOWLY
As mentioned in the introduction, dogs over a year old and have only ever eaten kibble, should have a slow transition to the diet. While some raw feeders will tell you to never mix the two foods, I believe that in the case of transitioning it's important to in order to give your dogs body and mind time to adjust.
After eating kibble for a long period of time, your dogs body is used to a diet with high starch and low quality protein. In order for kibble to bind it needs at least 30% starch included; some have as much as 60%. This is a lot when you consider the fact that dogs have little biologic need for starch in their diet. Raw diets have as little as 0-15% starch. Raw is also made up of real sources of protein rather than protein mixed with a whole lot of plant protein. Because of the varying composition kibble and raw, the foods are digested differently in the body making it important ease into the new diet.
You also want to take into consideration that your dogs mind needs time to adjust to the new way of eating. Some dogs can be stuck in their ways and when there is a drastic change to their food, they might resist. This can cause stress for you and your dog. The transition should be a positive experience.
The graphic below is provided an outline of a slow transition over the course of six days. Use this as a guideline - some dogs may take to it quicker and others may take to it slower. Watch how your dog is doing and adjust the days as needed. Your dog may have a couple days where their poop is a little runnier than normal, this is normal. Within a week or so the poop should start to become smaller and harder which is normal for a raw fed dog.
4. START WITH ONE PROTEIN AT A TIME, THEN FEED VARIETY
To prevent overwhelming a dog's system, I recommend feeding one protein at a time with zero supplements (with the exception of the ones listed below). This also allows you the opportunity to notice any potential food intolerances from the beginning. Think of this time as a gut assess & reset for your dog.
My recommendation is to start with our Doggy Moggy Bison or Doggy Moggy Beef, feed for 2 weeks, then move on to the next protein choice. Allow about 1-2 weeks for each protein option.
Once you have offered all protein options, vary the protein on a regular basis to ensure your dog is getting as much nutrients as possible from their food. Vary as often as you are able. It can be hard to do it on a weekly basis as your freezer situation might not allow it. So determine a plan that makes the most sense for you. That could mean every month you switch. Or you buy one protein at the beginning of the month and then halfway through another protein and then switch it up daily from there. Find what works for you, the most important thing is that over time your dog is getting a variety in their diet.
5. LEAVE SUPPLEMENTS TO THE END
There are two supplements I would suggest adding in from the start of your dog's raw food journey. They are digestive enzymes
and Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV). The longer your dog has been fed a kibble diet, the more support they might need to help restore your dogs natural ability to digest bones and get the most out of the food they eat. The truth is, feeding kibble throws your dogs digestion out of balance due to the higher starch content and the cooking process.
One affect that kibble has on your dog is that it causes their PH levels to rise in their stomach making it less acidic. Your dog's PH should be around a level 2 in order to properly break down the bone they eat and better absorb the vitamins and minerals from their bone and food. ACV is one way to help restore the acid levels to a natural state. ACV has the same PH levels as when a dog is fed a raw diet from day one.
Feed 1 TSP of ACV per 50 lb bodyweight everyday from the beginning of the transition. How long you do this for is up to you. It could be just a couple of weeks, or you can do it for longer.
While a dog is able to produce their own digestive enzymes, being fed a cooked or kibble diet, limits the amount of enzymes produced. As dogs grow older their ability to produce enzymes is also reduced. Enzymes help break down their food into smaller pieces allowing them to take in their nutrients more efficiently. Supplementing with digestive enzymes
will help set your dog up for success on their new diet.
If you are someone who has decided to feed raw mixed with kibble or a cooked diet, I would suggest supplementing with ACV and/or digestive enzymes
for as long as you choose to feed that way.
Once you are through the transition period with the protein, you can start to add in more supplements. As with the protein, I believe it's important to introduce supplement slowly to watch for intolerances. Watch for digestive upset as you introduce foods. Learn more about the top supplements we recommend here.
6. FOCUS ON FOUNDATION
Once you have completed your transition, your main goal is to maintain a balance of the foundational components of a raw diet. When balance isn't achieved over time, that is when nutrient deficiencies can start to pop up.
The foundational components of a raw fed diet (the mandatory items that a dog must have every day) are muscle meat, bone, and organs. The bone in the diet provides calcium which works together with the phosphorus found in the meat. The organs are nature's multivitamin, providing a wide array of natural vitamins and minerals. All the products in our store (with the exception of the tripe and bones) includes the foundational components for your dog.
In addition to the foundation, you can choose to add supplements. The two supplements I recommend on a weekly basis 1-2 times a week are fish/fish oil and eggs.
Fish provides Omega 3 which helps balance out the Omega 6 from the meat. Omega 3 and 6 work together in the body to create a balanced immune system. My recommendation is either sardines which can be found at the grocery store (make sure it's packed in water with no other ingredients) or Green Lipped Mussel Oil.
Eggs are a complete protein source containing all of the amino acids your dog requires. Eggs are especially important if a dog has intolerances and can't be fed a variety of meat - the eggs ensure your dog is getting all their essential amino acids when meat choices are limited. If you feed the eggs with the shells, the shells provide additional calcium.
Other supplements like fruits, veggies, oils, etc. can be fed daily or 2-4x a week. Depending on your dogs requirements and phase of life they are in. There are a wide array of supplements available to you. I recommend starting with the natural basics we recommend in this blog post. As your dog grows older, you may find that they require extra support.
7. CREATE A SUPPORT NETWORK OF RAW FEEDERS & RESOURCES
Feeding our dogs, whether it's raw or kibble, can be a challenge. It seems nowadays that there is a constant need to problem solve with the rise of food intolerances, chronic skin issues, weight issues, etc. Having a support network of people to help you navigate while also providing a sense of community can help ensure long term success.
Grand Dog is always here to help you with your raw feeding journey. One of our goals is to create a library of resources to make raw feeding easier for you. We have also created a Facebook group
to build a hive mind within our community to help trouble shoot when needed.
Additional resources that we suggest are:
- Give Your Dog a Bone by Dr. Ian Billinghurst
We hope you found this guide helpful! By the end of your transition, you should start to see some benefits like smaller poops, more energy, and skin issues cleaning up. We would love to hear how your transition went - please share with us in the comments below or send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org .
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Disclaimer: All information presented on this website is for informational and/or educational purposes only and based on our experience and those shared by our clients. These statements have not been evaluated by a veterinarian. This website is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease and is not intended to be a substitute or replacement for any medical treatment. Please seek the advice of a veterinarian for your dog’s specific health concerns.