Transition to Raw
How do I make the transition?
The ideal for all dogs and cats, is that the transition is trouble free and there are no periods of excessive wind, diarrhoea, or constipation. In order to achieve this, the best way to transition dogs and cats from a high carbohydrate processed diet to a low carbohydrate, high protein raw meat and bone diet, is to do a gradual transition over 7-10 days.
Day 1 - This is the exciting start! Take a spoon, the size of which will depend on the size of your dog or cat. For example a teaspoon is recommended for a toy breed and a tablespoon for a large breed. Taking that spoon, replace a spoonful of your dog or cat’s current food with a spoonful of raw at each mealtime.
Day 2 – Following on from day 1, continue to gradually increase the amount of spoonfuls of raw and decrease the amount of current food until your pet’s feeding bowl is full of yummy raw food!
Good to know…
If your dog or cat has a loose stool at any stage, we recommend reducing the amount of raw food for three days to stabilise the stool before returning to increasing the raw food levels.
If your pet is elderly or dealing with any complex chronic disease e.g. end stage cancers, is on antacids or high levels of immune-suppressive drug therapy, then we would not recommend you begin the transition onto a raw diet without expert help from your vet.
For the first month of feeding raw, digestive enzymes and probiotics can be added to the diet for dogs or cats that have any dietary issues or that have been prone to diarrhoea or constipation. Natural Instinct's Zoolac Propaste is great for this!
Can I change to raw food immediately?
Whilst some dogs and cats will tolerate an immediate transition from one type of diet to another, there are several reasons why we recommend a gradual transition over a 7 to 10 day period avoiding any unnecessary stomach upsets for your pet.
The enzymes required to break down a high protein, raw meat and bone diet differ to those required to break down a high carbohydrate processed diet such as kibble. The pancreas must adapt to both the amount and type of enzymes that it produces when the diet is changed from one to the other.
The gut flora is different for dogs and cats fed on a predominantly meat and bone diet, compared to a high starch and carbohydrate based diet. It takes several weeks for the gut flora to restabilise following a major diet change. These gut bacteria are responsible for the production of certain key nutrients and are also responsible for the production of gas in the bowel.
The pH of the stomach is generally higher (more alkaline) in dogs and cats that are fed on a high carbohydrate processed diet compared with dogs and cats fed on a predominantly raw meat, high protein diet, which results in a strong acid stomach.
It is not only the process, but also the speed in which the food types are digested which differ considerably. Raw meat and bone is digested a lot faster than processed food, which is high in carbohydrates.
When can I introduce treats and bones?
For any dog or cat that has never eaten raw meat before, we recommend allowing a month to adjust to their new diet before introducing any additional bones. The reason for this is to allow the gut to stabilise and adapt to handling the breakdown of bone in their new raw meat and bone diet. Excessive bone in their diet can lead to constipation.
Dogs need to learn how to chew bones. When introducing a bone to an adult dog that has never learnt how to handle bones it is better to give a bone with sinew and fascia attached in larger pieces that cannot be swallowed whole e.g. Natural Instinct Chicken Carcass. The dogs learn to use their back crushing teeth to break down the bone before swallowing.
Puppies should not be fed a Natural Instinct play bone until they have all their adult teeth.
My dog seems hungrier on the raw diet then they did before, what can I do?
For some dogs who have been on a high carbohydrate diet for a long time, if the switch over to a higher protein low carbohydrate diet is made too quickly they can initially appear hungry as their bodies have adapted to digest carbohydrate as the main source of instant calories. Try adding a small amount of additional carbohydrate initially in the form of sweet potato. Soluble fibre foods can also help by making your dog feel fuller. The addition of slices of butternut squash or a few carrot sticks between meals can help. You should avoid adding grain based carbohydrates such as rice or pasta.
To provide the same number of calories as raw food, many kibbles will have been fed in relatively large volumes. In the early days of transition, the smaller volume can leave some dogs not feeling full enough. This is where feeding raw bones, once the dog has settled on raw food, can keep them occupied and help while the stomach volume adapts.
It is important to be careful at this point, that you are not misinterpreting a dog who now relishes his food as hunger. With many kibble diets, dogs do not rush to the bowl and eat with relish. This can be very different when feeding your dog a high quality raw natural diet like Natural Instinct.
Make sure you monitor your dog’s weight in the early months of feeding raw, to be sure that you have the amount right. Our Feeding Guides are just that, a guide only and the amount you feed will always depend on numerous factors.
Once the transition is made can I feed kibble with raw ongoing?
We do not advocate feeding raw as well as a processed kibble, except during the 7 to 10 day transition period. This is because of the different ways the diets are digested which in turn, will compromise your pet’s digestion.
If you feed a high carbohydrate food such as kibble alongside a high protein diet, any excess calories will be readily converted to fat and thus can lead to obesity.
Kibble is not necessary in either a cat or dog’s diet. In nature, both dogs and cats have a variety in the texture of their food and have a means of maintaining healthier teeth. This variety in texture is not however achieved with starchy, grain based kibble, but with crunching and chewing on raw meaty bones, just as nature intended.
Fussy Feline? We can help!
Generally speaking, the transition for our canine friends is easier than that for our feline friends who can be slightly fussier about changing food.
If you free feed your cat dry food, stop immediately! This does not necessarily mean you need to stop feeding dry with immediate effect, but certainly pick up the bowl so your cat cannot eat it whenever they feel like it.
Dried kibble differs massively in taste and texture to a raw food diet. It is advisable to switch to tinned food as a very short interim step. This will get your cat accustomed to a meatier consistency to their meals. Try feeding half of their normal dry food with half tinned, then gradually reduce the amount of dried kibble over a few days.
When you have weaned your cat onto a tinned diet, apply the same principles when transitioning to raw. Feed half and half and gradually reduce the amount of tinned food over the course of a few days.
Never starve a cat to encourage them to eat. Whilst dogs are fine to skip meals, cats must eat regularly in order to avoid hepatic lipidosis, a severe and sometimes fatal liver impairment.
Go at your cat’s pace. Do not be afraid to back track a step or two if it means your cat will eat.
Bribe your cat! We would recommend sprinkling some of our tasty treats on your cat's regular food so that your cat begins to associate the smell of treats with their food. Then gradually add the raw – it’s all about the smell association!
Try splashing some warm water over the food before serving as this could help to bring out the flavours.
Cats tend to ‘imprint’ on their food and recognise their favourites by sight and smell. It is important to shop for variety from the outset so that you can find your cat’s favourite meal.
Most importantly, exercise a little patience. A change of diet is not something that happens overnight. Persevere, and your cat will thank you in the long run!