Simple Tips for Transitioning to a Raw Diet for Dogs

Healthy Dogs |  October 11, 2018

Mud Bay recommends a raw diet for dogs because it offers a wide variety of benefits to them. One of the biggest benefits is the amount of moisture that raw food can add to your dog’s diet. A frozen raw diet contains intercellular moisture locked into every bite, while freeze-dried and air-dried foods can easily be rehydrated on an as-needed basis.

To find out more about raw diets and transitioning to raw foods, we talked to Allison Strange. Allison is currently one of our community outreach coordinators, but before that, she worked at the Seattle Humane Mudlet helping owners talk about the nutritional needs of their new animals. She’s also the proud owner of Sadie Starship, a six-year-old Goldendoodle, who eats raw food.

MB: While a whole raw diet is highly beneficial to many dogs, it’s not necessary to commit to 100 percent raw. What amount do you recommend for dog owners who are just considering raw food?

AS: Any amount of raw food is going to be beneficial, but Mud Bay recommends 25 percent raw food combined with 75 percent of kibble as a good starting point. Even at that amount, you can see a difference in your dog’s coat and energy level. Plus, their poops are smaller and less stinky.

MB: What do you think is the easiest type of raw food to feed your dog?

AS: I find that most people prefer to use air-dried or freeze-dried raw food because of the convenience. With these types of foods, there’s very little prep involved. You just should mix in the appropriate amount of raw food into your dog’s other food, and then add your preferred liquid to the dish. Wait fifteen minutes, and then you can serve it.

This type of raw food is also really similar in appearance to kibble, so it’s an easier transition for you. And once you hydrate the air-dried or freeze-dried raw food, it has a similar texture and appearance to canned food, which many dogs love. Just make sure if you’re using a raw food that isn’t raw frozen, that you’re also adding that moisture back into the food.

MB: So, what do you like to use to rehydrate raw foods?

AS: I usually rehydrate with water to keep things simple. However, if my dog is super lucky, I’ll also use bone broth or goat’s milk. Actually, my dog’s absolute favorite things are goat’s milk or goat’s kefir, which can rehydrate raw food.

MB: Some dog owners are worried about the cost of raw food. Do you have any tips for them?

AS: First, just try to add 25 percent to your dog’s meal and supplement with 75 percent kibble. The increase in price will be minimal, but there are significant health benefits.

But if you want a cheaper option, Sojos makes a really good air-dried food that is fairly economical, but it’s still really easy to feed your dog.

If price is your primary concern, Northwest Naturals makes frozen raw food in chubs and bar format. There’s a little more prep work involved, but you can buy the food in bulk and it lowers the overall price.

MB: Frozen raw dog food has a significant benefit over other forms because it contains the intercellular moisture in the food. So, do you have any recommendations for people who want to feed this type of raw diet to their dogs?

AS: A frozen raw diet for dogs is a little different because you’re handling raw meat so it can be intimidating for some dog owners. It’s important to keep in mind that you should follow safe food handling practices for all raw food.

But to make it easy to feed raw food, I like to pre-portion the food and put it into a glass, ceramic, stainless steel or another container in the freezer. Then, I keep a few of the measured portions in my fridge until I’m ready to feed her. The raw food should thaw overnight in the fridge and be ready to eat the next morning.

MB: How do you recommend starting a raw food transition for your dog?

AS: Dogs that are kibble-fed benefit from a slower transition period. You want to take at least two weeks to make the transition.

I just start with about 10 percent air-dried or freeze-dried food and mix it into the kibble. Then, when you’ve added the amount of raw food you’d like to feed your dog, start adding a liquid to hydrate the food. The entire process should take at least 14 days.

Then, if you want to feed your dog frozen raw, it might be easier to start with the raw food as a topper on your dog’s existing kibble. Just remember to keep the total calories per meal the same—you don’t want to accidentally overfeed your dog. If you want to feed your dog 100 percent frozen raw, it should take you at least 14 days if that’s your goal.

However, if your dog is known to have a sensitive stomach, I recommend adding Optagest or another digestive enzyme to your dog’s meal. You can also double the transition period to 28 days.

Keep in mind that you should watch for loose stool, excess gas, vomiting or diarrhea. If you see any of those symptoms, stop feeding raw and give your dog’s system a chance to recover. You may want to fast them for 24 hours, and then reintroduce food in the form of a bland diet. Then, start the transition from where you stopped and try again.

MB: Any further tips for people starting the raw food transition?

AS: My biggest tip is to make it easy for everyone involved. There are a lot of great raw products that you can mix directly into your dog’s kibble, and then add additional liquid if necessary. I’ve also noticed that some people prefer to feed their dog kibble in the morning and raw food at night.

I feel whatever works for you will work for your dog if you give your pet enough time to adjust. And adding bone broth, raw food, goat’s milk, kefir or another moisture-rich food to your dog’s meal is a great boost to your dog’s health.***

Cat gazing at a panting black and white dog

Allison Strange has worked at Mud Bay for nearly four years. You might recognize her from the Mercer Island Mud Bay or Seattle Humane’s Mudlet. Now she’s a community outreach coordinator who you’ll see at numerous events throughout Puget Sound. When she’s not at a Mud Bay, you might spot her hiking with her pink-haired Goldendoodle, Sadie Starship.

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