When I first transitioned Rodrigo, Sydney, and Blue (RIP) to raw dog food, I thought I had to do it over a period of time like we do when switching kibble brands. I fed them raw in the morning and kibble in the evening until we were out of kibble; it took nearly three months.
The benefit of transitioning our dogs to raw this way was:
- It saved money; we were feeding pre-made raw by Darwin's Pet to three big dogs and this period allowed me to budget for the change.
- J wasn't comfortable with the diet yet so he could continue to feed kibble.
- We didn't waste any food (although we could have donated the kibble to a rescue group.
I saw many health benefits within the first two weeks of feeding raw, including Rodrigo's rash clearing up without antibiotics.
When we brought home Scout and Zoey eight months later, we transitioned them immediately to raw dog food. I learned in the raw feeding groups that a transition period wasn't necessary. Scout and Zoey ate Purina in the morning (when we picked them up) and Darwin's Pet when we got the home that evening.
Over the past three years, we've been able to compare Rodrigo and Sydney's health history with that of Scout and Zoey, and there is a huge difference. While Rodrigo and Sydney suffered from various health issues, Scout and Zoey have been healthy dogs, only requiring one vet visit (other than wellness checks) for a fever of unknown origin a year ago.
How to Transition Your Rescue to Raw Dog Food
If you're an experienced raw feeder, then you don't need my help transitioning your new dog. If you're new to raw feeding, there are a few things you should know about your dog's new diet.
It's a Good Idea to Work with a Holistic Vet
If your new dog has any health concerns or diet restrictions, it's a good idea to work with a holistic veterinarian who is experienced in raw feeding. In a perfect world, raw feeding would benefit all dogs, no matter the age, breed, or health history. However, I'm not comfortable taking a chance and would plan to take my dog to the vet for a full wellness check soon after bringing him/her home.
You Can Switch Cold Turkey
We've been conditioned to slowly transition our dogs over several weeks from one kibble brand to another, however, with raw, we can switch cold turkey if that's our wish. Personally, if I were to adopt a dog tomorrow, I would get the go ahead from my veterinarian (who rocks, by the way) and I would transition our new dog to raw and include a digestive supplement to prevent any tummy issues.
I give Rodrigo FullBucket Daily Canine Powder 5 days a week, and he's doing fantastic on it – amazing, stupendous, he's a rock star! FullBucket also has a paste which is a super concentrated version of their powder. I started Rodrigo on the paste when his GI issues were at their most aggressive. I would buy both the paste and the powder – adding the powder to the food and keeping the paste on hand just in case. I'd also keep Olewo carrots on hand because it's a natural digestive supplement that all of my dogs have done well on.
I'm over cautious, I know.
Start With Premade Raw if You're a Newbie
If you're new to raw feeding, I think it's a good idea to start your dog off with a proven raw food diet. I started with Darwin's Pet, and I think they are amazing. Not only do they make a great raw dish for dogs, but they'll also walk you through the process and get you set up with the right diet for your dog and your budget.
A few premade options I currently feed to my dogs include:
- Raw Paws Pet Food (offers free consultations, free shipping, and regular discounts)
- Vital Essentials Raw
- Steve's Real Food
- Answer's Pet Food
By starting with premade raw dog food, I was able to take my time and research how to make raw meals at home, including sourcing the ingredients, picking up the equipment (extra freezer, meat grinder, mixer, chef's knives, etc.), and working out a budget.
Join a Local Raw Food Co-Op
There are a lot of raw feeders out there who I am respectfully jealous of because they're feeding ten dogs a raw food diet for less than $200 a month – and no, that's not an exaggeration. I have been able to get my budget down to less than $300 a month, but it hasn't been easy.
I buy my dogs food in bulk, which means several times a year, I stock up on raw, I keep an eye out for good deals through our local raw food co-op and other raw feeders looking to unload frozen food. You have patient and fast. This week, I've missed out on two orders of green tripe.
Keep in mind that not all raw food co-ops are created equal. Be sure to ask questions about the sourcing of their food, the brands they work with, and if they can give you an estimate of the savings. You may also have to pay an annual admin fee, which can range from $35 – $300 or more.
Be Aware of a Detox Period
None of my dogs experienced a detox period (that I noticed). The detox period is the time when their bodies start kicking out the old stuff and preparing for the great diet they're on. During a dog's detox, a few of the things you'll notice include:
- mucus on your dog's poop
- increased shedding
- dry skin
- runny eyes
If you're working a holistic veterinarian, they will prepare you for the changes and will be on hand to field any panicked calls.
Join a Raw Food Group
Consider joining a Facebook group. I used to Admin the group The Raw Feeders “Kicked Out” Club, but it wasn't my cup of tea and I realized that I'd rather be a member of a group. Here are my favorites:
Read a Few Books on Raw Feeding
I'm an analytical person by nature, and I surprise a lot of people I work with when they learn that I'm a prolific blogger (which means I have a lot to say and post daily). Sudoku puzzles are the best; logic puzzles are second best. And I love to read.
The following are the raw feeding books that have helped me the most.
- A Novice's Guide to Raw Feeding for Dogs
- Raw and Thriving: The Ultimate Guide to Getting (and Keeping!) Your Dog Healthy
- K9 Kitchen- Your Dogs' Diet: The Truth Behind the Hype
Ultimately, how you choose to feed your dog is your business. While exploring raw feeding, don't allow strangers (or friends) to pressure you into transitioning before you're ready. Use all the resources available to you – veterinarians, nutritionists, books, bloggers, and other raw feeders – to help you make the right choice for your dog.