You might be considering a raw diet for your dog because of potential health benefits, such as a stronger heart, lower cancer risks, and healthier cells. If you've decided a raw diet is the right one for Buster, you can't just quit feeding him kibble and start right in with the raw. Even if it is nutritionally better for him, the abrupt change in diet can cause tummy problems like gas, vomiting and diarrhea.
Some dogs may be able to handle a change in diet more quickly than others, but it will be easier on Buster's system if you gradually transition him from his old food to his new raw diet. Start off by feeding him mostly the food he's used to, with just a little of the new raw diet, then slowly change the ratio of new to old. Begin with 1/3 raw food and 2/3 kibble for about a week, then increase the portions to 50/50. After another week has passed, decrease the kibble to 1/3 and increase the raw to 2/3, and at the beginning of the fourth week, Buster should be eating an entirely raw diet.
Raw Isn't for Everyone
As you transition Buster from kibble to a raw diet, watch for signs that the new food doesn't agree with him. In her book "The Raw Food Lifestyle: The Philosophy and Nutrition Behind Raw and Live Foods" Ruthann Russo notes that some dogs thrive on raw food while others require that their food be cooked. Additionally, some dogs may not be able to process all types of raw meat. If Buster gets gassy, throws up his dinner or develops diarrhea, those are signs that raw food isn't sitting well with his digestive system. Stop feeding the raw diet immediately if these symptoms occur.
Raw Feeding Cautions
The danger of bones and bacteria are the most common concerns with a raw diet. In "Raw Dog Food: Make it Easy for You and Your Dog" Carina Beth Macdonald cautions pet parents to never feed their pooches cooked bones because they splinter easier than raw bones and cannot be digested as well. Macdonald also recommends holding one end of your dog's food to encourage him to eat it slowly, or to feed him frozen or partially frozen bones because he'll have to take more time to chew them down to manageable size. Alternatively you could smash or grind bones to reduce the chances of choking. Always practicing sanitary hygiene in the kitchen is a useful rule for both you and Buster. Thoroughly wash your hands, counters and utensils that come in contact with raw meat. Use non-porous dishes, and keep the antibacterial wipes handy.
Consult Your Vet
Keep in contact with your vet before, during and after a transition from kibble to a raw diet. It's always wise to consult an experienced veterinarian regarding the health and treatment of your pet. Your vet will be able to help you devise a diet and recommend supplements, if necessary, to ensure that the raw diet provides Buster with balanced nutrition. She can also take a blood sample before you switch your dog over and then again six months after to make sure that the raw diet is the healthiest option for Buster. It should be noted that the American Veterinary Medical Association does not recommend feeding pets raw or undercooked animal-source protein.
- Raw and Natural Nutrition for Dogs: The Definitive Guide to Homemade Meals; Lew Olson
- ASPCA: Diarrhea
- Vet On Call: The Best Home Remedies for Keeping Your Dog Healthy; Edited by Matthew Hoffman and The Editors of Pets: Part of the Family
- The Raw Food Lifestyle: The Philosophy and Nutrition Behind Raw and Live Foods; Ruthann Russo
- Raw Dog Food: Make it Easy for You and Your Dog; Carina Beth Macdonald
- Poodles for Dummies; Susan M. Ewing
- Unlocking the Canine Ancestral Diet: Healthier Dog Food the ABC Way; Steve Brown
- The Howell Book of Dogs: The Definitive Reference to 300 Breeds and Varieties; Liz Palika
- The Doctors Book of Home Remedies for Dogs and Cats; Editors of Prevention Health Books
- Martin Poole/Digital Vision/Getty Images