Transitioning to a Raw Diet

How to Transition your Adult Dog to a Raw Diet

While us owners are usually more than ready to take the plunge into our fresh food journeys, our dogs’ digestive systems aren’t always as accommodating. When you first begin your adult dog’s transition to raw, you will want to go slowly to minimize digestive upset. The majority of so-called “detox symptoms” are simply because the owner pushed the dog through the transition too quickly. There are several factors that can affect the speed at which you can progress through a diet transition. Your dog’s age, what food he or she was eating before, damaged gut flora, and any history of a “sensitive stomach” should all be taken into consideration.

I recommend following one of these guides, but they are only guides. You may need to make tweaks in the time frame of these steps to fit your dog’s needs. 

Throughout the transition process, gut health foods can be added in small amounts. These include probiotics; prebiotics in the form of certain fruits and vegetables; kefir; fermented or raw goat’s milk; or fermented vegetables (not appropriate for dogs especially sensitive to histamines). 

Note: Clients will receive more individualized guides, should the dog require it. 

FROM KIBBLE/CANNED TO NRC RAW OR COOKED: SLOW & STEADY

This transition will take approximately 10-14 days and is recommended for older and/or sensitive dogs. Younger dogs may also benefit, but if stools are solid and normal, you would be able to progress more quickly. NOTE: This transition is geared towards boneless recipes.

Day 1: Replace 25% of the canned food/kibble for the day with the new diet (meat + carb).

Day 2: Repeat. If major change in stools, go down to 10% of new diet foods.

Day 3: Repeat. If stools are okay, proceed with day 4 instructions. If stools are still loose, continue with only 10-25% of diet as the new food items.

Day 4: Replace 50% of the canned food/kibble for the day with the new diet (meat + carb + half portion of organ).

Day 5: Repeat. If major change in stools, go down to 25% of new diet foods.

Day 6: Repeat. If stools are okay, proceed with day 7 instructions. If stools are still loose, continue with only 25-50% of diet as the new food items.

Day 7: Replace 75% of the canned food/kibble for the day with the new diet (meat + carb + full portion of organ).

Day 8: Repeat. If major change in stools, go down to 50% of new diet foods and reduce the amount of raw organ.

Day 9: Repeat. If stools are okay, proceed with day 10 instructions. If stools are still loose, continue with only 50-75% of diet as new food items.

Day 10: Replace 100% of the canned food/kibble with the new diet (meat + carb + full portion of organ + half portion of second organ if applicable).

Day 11: Repeat. If major change in stools, go down to 75% of new diet foods and remove the second organ.

Day 12: Repeat. If stools are okay, proceed with day 13 instructions.

Day 13: Feed 100% new diet including full portions of both organs (if applicable.

Day 14: Congratulations on switching your dog to their new diet!

FROM KIBBLE/CANNED TO NRC RAW OR COOKED: A LITTLE FASTER!

This transition will take approximately 7 days and is the “typical” length of time needed for an easy transition for the average dog. 

Day 1: Replace 25% of the canned food/kibble for the day with the new diet.

Day 2: Repeat. 

Day 3: Replace 50% of the canned/kibble food for the day with the new diet.

Day 4: Repeat.

Day 5: Replace 75% of the canned/kibble food for the day with the new diet.

Day 6: Repeat.

Day 7: Feed 100% of the new diet. Good job!

FROM KIBBLE/CANNED TO PMR+: COLD TURKEY

This transition will take approximately four weeks and is a general recommended for any dog switching to a PMR+ diet.

Weeks 1-2: Raw white meat and bone only.

White meat options: Chicken, rabbit, quail, turkey, etc.

Introduce your dog to raw white meat, which will be easiest on their digestive tract.

Commonly used and sourced options for these bony meals: chicken feet, necks, wings, drumsticks, thighs, and quarters. Pick items that match your dog’s size: obviously, a Bernese mountain dog would be better off with chicken thighs or quarters, while a chihuahua would do best with chicken feet or necks.

Continue feeding only your bone-in chicken items for 1-2 weeks, until your dog has consistently solid stool. If mucus or diarrhea occurs, start by removing the skin and/or fat off of the items. If need be, slippery elm bark and/or digestive enzymes can be added during this stage.

Once your dog is having consistently firm stool for one week, decrease your bone percentage to 10%, and continue.

Weeks 2-3: Raw bone-in white meat + red meat.

Red meat options: Pork, beef, goat, lamb, etc.

As you might remember, a raw diet requires red meat- red meat has nutrients that just aren’t found in white meat. Choose a red meat and continue adding in small amounts while maintaining 10% bone in your meals.

Once your dog is having consistently firm stool with the addition of a red meat, continue on.

Weeks 3-4: Raw bone-in white meat + red meat + 50% of your liver ratio.

If your dog’s stool is loose and dark, reduce the amount of liver until it stabilizes, then slowly work back up. You may find you need to temporarily increase the amount of daily bone content. Some dogs handle the addition of organs very well; others take time! Organs are extremely rich.

Weeks 4-5: Raw bone-in chicken + red meat + 50% of liver ratio + 50% of other secreting organ ratio.

Just like last week, decrease the amount of second secreting organ if your dog’s stool loosens (or becomes explosive diarrhea), then slowly work back up. Once your dog is having consistently firm stools (dark, firm stools are okay), then continue on.

Weeks 5-6: Raw bone-in white meat + 1st red meat + 100% daily liver ratio + 100% daily other secreting organ ratio + 2nd red meat.

Choose a second red meat from the list of red meats, and start adding it alongside your full daily ratios of organ! At this point, you’re probably a Certified Poop Inspector. Congratulations! Keep up the good work. You know what to do- if something in this step triggered a bout of loose stool, dial it back. Feed a little less organ, or add a smaller amount of that second red meat.

Once your dog is handling new protein sources and full organ ratios well, the world is your oyster. For PMR+, three proteins are needed at minimum, and at least 50% (or ⅔, if only feeding three) of those proteins need to be considered red meat. Make sure to follow your dog’s individual ratio requirements, and be aware of what you’re feeding so that you know how and what to supplement to ensure your dog is receiving a well-rounded and truly balanced diet. Once this transition period is over, the “extras” of PMR+ can be added- one at a time, please!