During my time as a vet I’ve seen balanced fresh meat diets make a huge improvement in everyday dog health and help prevent and reduce a multitude of long-term health problems including obesity, dental issues, allergies and diabetes.
Ideally you should feed your dog a raw diet from when they are a puppy, but I also see numerous cases where an older dog suffering from chronic allergies or irritable bowel makes a remarkable recovery once switched from processed, cooked pet foods to a raw and/or grain and gluten-free diet.
Generally the transition to a raw diet is relatively pain-free. After all, our dogs’ ancestors didn’t have access to highly processed and cooked meal options; they hunted their own prey and ate it, gut-content, (some) bones and all. So, when you’re switching your pet from processed to raw feeding, the chance of an adverse gastrointestinal reaction is pretty unlikely. However, if your pet does experience an adverse reaction such as diarrhea or vomiting you should – as you would normally in these circumstances – consult your vet.
In my experience, if your dog has any kind of reaction to this transition, it’s more likely to be psychological than physiological. Pets are a bit like kids, if they become accustomed to a diet of ‘junk’ food, there is going to be some initial resistance to transitioning them to a balanced, natural diet. Nothing that is insurmountable with patience and perseverance though…
Here are my tips for making the transition as smooth as possible….
If your dog is used to a highly processed diet some resistance is completely normal, particularly in older dogs with more established habits and routines. Start to wean them off the taste of the familiar artificial flavours by mixing a small amount of raw meat (I recommend kangaroo meat as an organic, unique protein) in with your dog's regular pet food. Day by day increase the amount of raw food and decrease the amount of their former diet until you’ve completed the transition and you’re feeding 100 per cent raw. This process should take between seven to 10 days.
Make sure your dog is hungry for each meal by feeding them at a set time each day. Animals who are fed too often and with too much variety can become selective about what they eat. If your dog has fussy tendencies, try putting the food down, then give them five to 10 minutes maximum to eat it. If they don’t eat it, put in back in the fridge and offer the food again in 12 to 24 hours and repeat this process until they start to eat.
NB: While fasting can be good way to encourage dogs to develop a healthy appetite this method is NOT suitable with cats as fasting can lead to liver problems (such as fatty liver syndrome). Slow and steady is the key when transitioning cats and it can take between weeks and months to fully transition a fussy cat to a raw food diet.
Serve your pet their new diet at room temperature or warmer. Cold food straight from the fridge can be a turn-off.
Whether you’re puppy to a raw diet for the first time, or you have an older pet with some firmly ingrained tastes and habits, it is possible to successfully transition your dog to a raw food diet. With time and perseverance they’ll grow to love their new nutrient-dense, balanced diet of fresh meat, they’ll enjoy a range of health benefits, and you’re likely to benefit too with fewer vets visits in your pet’s future.
Dr Bruce Syme BVSc (Hons) is a qualified veterinarian and the founder of Vets All Natural. He has developed this range of foods and supplements purely from his desire to heal more, and a wider range of animals than those seen in his clinic everyday.