Updated: Feb 6, 2020
Feeding raw doesn't have to be hard, but understanding what is involved will make all the difference.
So you wanna feed raw? Where to start? There is so much information out there about the transition to feeding raw. What to do, what not to do, everything under the sun. But, does it really have to be that difficult? I like to keep things simple. I have four dogs of my own, run a training, daycare and boarding facility, as well as a dog nutrition center and boutique. No one has the time for things to be complicated. So here we go, my advice, just do it. Make the switch!
Go cold turkey (or chicken), literally. Fast your dog for 24 hours and make the switch! And don’t feel bad! This fasting time is giving your pups’ stomach some time to rest before making the switch. And will make less of a mess for you in the detoxing phase!
If your kibble fed dog lives to be 10 years old and eats 2 cups of kibble per day, they are consuming 7,300 meals of the same exact thing!
In the last several decades, we as a society have taken a turn for the worse when it comes to the well-being of our dogs. We are no longer fulfilling them on a biological level. They weren’t restrained by leashes or tethers. They roamed the neighborhoods, exercised, played and even hunted, but then they returned home for dinner. Dinner which consisted of whatever was for dinner, not the same dry processed food out of a bag day in and day out. Imagine eating the same meal for your entire life. Kibble fed dogs are typically fed the same food day in and day out because hey “they like it, right?” wrong.. Just like us, our dogs need variety. If your dog eats 2 cups/day and lives to be 10 years old, that’s 7,300 meals of the same thing! Not only is it repetitive and boring, but they are missing out on the nutrients and benefits of other proteins and produce. Ironically, feeding the same bag and protein will actually develop allergens and protein specific intolerance's. But, we can change all that. We can feed our dogs what they were biologically designed to eat, a raw diet.
The work has been done for you!
If you’ve been researching raw, I’m sure you’ve seen articles upon articles of how many days you should feed a particular protein and when to add in bone and when to add in organ, to stay away from premade diets, what to do with picky eaters. Here’s the thing, most of the issues in the transition phase are due to a lack of education and false research on the process. Again, I like to keep it simple and I will pay for the knowledge and expertise that goes behind a high end premade raw diet. You’ll fall in love with it! And then.. You’ll want to make your own, but there is no need to start there. There are several awesome premade raw brands and many not so great.
It's all about the poop!
When starting off, the dreaded detox phase and fear of diarrhea for days scares off many, but one of the main things I have found helpful that will go against everything you’ve heard, is to include bone. I’m not talking about a full limb, but a premade mixture with ground bone in it. As you’ll learn, the bone content while feeding raw is extremely important and can be judged by your dogs’ stool. If it’s loose and runny, you need to up the bone content, if it’s hard or sandy you need to lower it. In the initial detox phase of switching to raw, loose stool is a major component. Why not help your dog out a bit by adding some ground bone. Even though the pH in their stomachs will not be able to digest it in the first couple days, the content will help to firm up their stool. On rare occasions some dogs will pick out the ground bone from the premade mixes. If you find this to be the case, I would look for an option that has montmorillonite clay included.
I’m sure as you are reading this you are now concerned with the organ contained in premade mixes causing an upset stomach. Yes, it is true. Different types of offal take some time to get used to. Liver, especially, can be very nutrient dense upsetting for most dogs initially. What I have discovered over the years is whether or not my intentions are to feed BARF or PREY, I always begin with a premade BARF model. Reason being, these mixes are using less offal than PREY model diets. Produce and vitamins are being used in addition to offal to make these diets complete and balanced.
Bacteria, Salmonella, E Coli - Oh My!
Many people struggle with the idea of feeding raw in general. They are worried about their dog getting diseases from the raw meat and themselves handling raw meat. The honest truth is that dogs saliva and stomach acid has a different pH than ours and it is capable of not only handling these bad bacteria, but thriving on the good bacteria. If you as an owner are hesitant in handling the raw meat, no problem! There are several amazing packaging options available. I typically start all dogs off on a slider or kibble sized scoop and serve. These are going to be your priciest options, but for a starter it is well worth the extra cash. Not only are you paying for convenience here, you are paying for a smoother transition and less wasted food. Let’s be honest, raw slabs of chicken can be gross. Initially your dogs may think so too! They may not know it’s food. They may think the texture is weird. Who knows what else they might think, but I do know that I have had many dogs refuse a raw chicken breast initially and few to none turn down kibble looking premade raw and you don't have to touch it!
Tie it all together and GET STARTED!
After fasting for 24 hours (unless you have a puppy) my first meal will typically be turkey. I will monitor their poop daily to make note of any diarrhea or constipation. It is normal for their poop to change in color and texture. They will be absorbing more nutrients and moisture and therefore they will poop smaller amounts and drink less water. After a couple days, if all looks good, I begin to make changes relatively quickly. Within the first week I make sure to feed at least 2 different proteins, usually a chicken and a turkey option, both for about three days. By the beginning of the second week I am already feeding red meat, usually beef. Although I prefer rotating more than three proteins a week, by following this guideline by the start of week two you are good to go on your raw journey. Have fun with it! I know your dogs will!