How to transition your dog or cat from dry pellets, to raw food.

Adult Dogs

Most dogs transition from kibble/pellets to raw dog food without any issues.  Some dogs, however, may have an upset tummy (vomiting and/or diarrhoea) during the transition. This is due to the change in diet and does not mean there’s something wrong with the food. The trick is to make the transition as easy as possible on the GI system. Here’s how we recommend you approach the change:

  • If you’re currently leaving dry food out for your dog/s all day, remove this 24/7 pellet buffet and start introducing mealtimes.
  • Feed the raw food on its own, not mixed with pellets or any grain-based carbs, introducing a little at a time – give it like a treat at least 2 hours after his/her last meal.
  • Protein needs an acid environment to digest, and carbs an alkaline environment. Giving both at the same time can cause digestive confusion resulting in an upset tummy.
  • Introduce a single protein source and stick to it until the tummy has settled. This means not using our Potluck meal, which contains 4 different proteins (chicken, beef, ostrich and venison). Our 4 core variants (chicken, beef, ostrich & venison) are pure, that is, each only contains a single protein.
  • Once your dog is used to the raw food, remove the kibble completely and feed only raw. We recommend feeding twice per day.
  • Also, once your dog is used to the raw food, we recommend feeding different variants, or a variety of proteins to ensure they get a balanced amino acid profile.
  • Dogs usually love our meals, but if your dog won’t try it add a bit of his favourite meat sauce, or tinned sardines if that’s what he likes, to entice him to try it. Be careful not to make this the norm though, or he’ll be training you how he wants his meal served. 😊

If you’re interested in more detail,  we highly recommend this video  by Dr Karen Becker, well known veterinarian who did extensive research into pet nutrition. In this video she discusses the transition from kibble to raw in a very practical and helpful manner – if you want to skip straight to the transition, it is 1:43 min into the video.

Puppies

Puppies can start eating raw food as soon as they are beginning to eat solids. Dana Scott from Dogs Naturally Magazine writes an excellent article on how to get puppies started on raw and maintaining nutritional balance.

Cats & kittens

Robert and raine cats

Cats are known to be fussy eaters and can be more difficult to convert, also because they can get quite set in their food ways. Kittens are a breeze to transition and take to raw cat food like ducks to water. They eat pretty much the same diet as older cats, but as Margaret Gates explains, just more of it and more often. Kittens need about twice as much per ounce of body weight as an adult. All that growing to do! Their stomachs are small, so they need to eat more often than adults, about every 4 to 6 hours. If you’re getting a kitten(s), start them off right and you won’t have to worry about transitioning them. Also, kittens should be introduced to raw meaty bones, so they learn to eat them when they are young. Most kittens will readily tackle a chicken wing if offered. If you already have an older cat that will eat raw meaty bones, be sure to let the kittens learn from their older housemate. The kittens will copy the behaviours of the obligate carnivores around them.

What are obligate carnivores? Cats are no different to other meat-eating predators, in fact all of these animals became obligate carnivores as a result of their ancestral diets. Because eating a meat-only diet provides some vitamins and fatty acids in their pre-formed state, cats and many other obligate carnivores have lost the ability to make these amino acids and vitamins in their own bodies the way herbivores or omnivores do. They don’t need to since the animals they are eating have already done it for them. For example, cats require vitamin A in its pre-formed state, but can’t make it from beta-carotene the way humans or dogs or rabbits can.

Simply put, cats must eat meat to live. And there is no such thing as a vegan cat!

So what to do about those fussy, set-in-their-ways adult cats?

  • As with dogs, the first step would be to close down the 24/7 dry food buffet, if you have this on offer, and start introducing mealtimes, twice a day.
  • Offer a small amount before breakfast or dinner and see what your cat does with it. If they won’t touch it, try adding a little wet food you know she likes, perhaps tinned tuna or sardines.
  • If she still won’t eat (allow at least half hour), offer her usual food. While dogs do well to have a regular fast day, cats should never be fasted.

For those who won’t eat the raw food, best to transition them as follows:

  • From dry to tinned food or pouches
  • From tins/pouches to raw
  • Then introduce bones (e.g. chicken or duck necks)
  • Patience is key!

We highly recommend an excellent article Margaret Gates (founder of the Feline Nutrition Foundation) has written with loads of tips and tricks on how to transition even the most difficult of cats.

What else must I know when transitioning my pets from kibble to raw?

Raw Dog Food

There are two important nutritional components to include when feeding a raw diet to ensure optimum health and balanced nutrition for kittens and adult cats, puppies and adult dogs alike.

  1. It is important to add an Omega 3 component as this is not typically part of a raw diet. We do state this clearly on our tub labels. Dogs and cats cannot produce Omega 3 on their own, it can only come from the food you feed them. We recommend feeding fish at least once a week – fresh if you can get, tinned if necessary. Fish provides the most easily absorb-able form of Omega 3 for dogs and cats.
  2. In addition, we recommend feeding raw, meaty bones at least once a week. Never cooked bones. Our dog meals already contain minced bone (chicken), or bone crunch (ostrich & venison), but both puppies and adult dogs will benefit from having a bone to chew on.
  3. For cats and kittens, this could be chicken or duck necks or wings, if they don’t have access to an outside area where they could hunt for the likes of mice and birds.

Important safety notice: Bones can be dangerous for dogs if we don’t understand the different types of bones and what could be potentially dangerous. We highly recommend you read the blog/articles below that you may understand important safety protocols.

  • Blog on our website regarding the safety of bones for domestic animals.
  • Article by Jodie Gruenstern, DVM, CVA, published on the Innovative Veterinary Care website.
  • Article by Dana Scott from Dogs Naturally Magazine