Getting Started

No one truly knows what complete and balanced is for a dog. We haven't even figured it out for humans yet! But the general idea is that balance can occur over time just as it does with the human diet. Each meal for a dog or human does not need to be completely balanced in and of its self as long as the nutritional needs are met over the long term. There is just no such thing as a "single" perfect food for either them, or us not in real food, or synthetic food. You likely don’t calculate the exact percentages of protein and carbohydrates or the exact amount of vitamins and minerals in each of your own meals, and you don’t have to do it with your dog’s meals either. If you feed a variety of proteins and organ meats, then balance will come with time.

Balance includes variety. It is recommended that a rotation with a minimum of at least three different proteins be incorporated into the diet, changing the protein at least once per month, if not more. Not only is this good for nutritional balance, but it prevents boredom and the potential for developing allergies and intolerances.

Try not to feel overwhelmed, although after years of just measuring out dried pellets and putting them into your dog's bowl, this might sound like a lot of work, it really is merely just a lot of just common sense. Take things slowly and you'll get there quicker than you think – it is a marathon, not a race. Rather than being daunted, try and take heart in the fact that your pet will be much healthier and happier with the change to a raw diet.

READY TO GET STARTED?

It is a commonly believed myth that dogs switching to a raw diet will experience diarrhea in the first few days or weeks. This happens rarely but can occur from moving too quickly with the switch, which can cause diarrhea and/or constipation as your pet's GI tract struggles to adjust to the change. Some dogs, such as former street dogs, can usually handle just about any raw food that is given to them, yet other dogs, particularly those that have been on kibble for several years, or who may have an underlying medical condition, need a gentler approach.

I. What Proteins to Start With:

Choose a meat type to start off with - usually something that is easy to obtain and an acceptable price to you, such as chicken. Chicken is the easiest protein for the dog to digest but is also known to be an allergen – if your dog suffers from ear infections, anal issues, hot spots or excessive licking, chicken may not be a protein option. Turkey might be a better start for those dogs.

II. How to Introduce the New Food:

Imagine you have been on a desert island for as many years as your dog has been alive and you have lived on a diet of berries. You get off the desert island and are offered your first meal – a meal of nothing but healthy, plain food. You will no doubt enjoy the meal going down, but you are very likely to experience vomiting, diarrhea, pain and discomfort shortly thereafter because your digestive system has lost the memory and ability to digest anything but berries. This is what it might be like for your dog switching from what they have always eaten to something that they haven’t. It doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with the food or that it isn’t good for them, but merely that they haven’t had a chance to adapt.

With this in mind, you know your dog best so please pick the approach that you think will work best. Here are some suggestions:

A) Picky Eaters / Delicate Stomachs

The Gentle approach to getting started:

Serve the food at room temperature for the first 5 days, after which it can be served straight from the fridge or even frozen on occasion* (*excluding dogs with pancreatitis: food should always be at room temperature for these dogs).

Introduce the food gradually: ¼ serving raw to ¾ serving of the food the dog has been eating to this point. Repeat for two meals, if all seems ok, increase to ½ serving raw and ½ serving of old food. Repeat for two meals, if all seems ok, increase to ¾ serving raw and ¼ serving of old food. Repeat for two meals, if all seems ok, you can now feed 100% raw.

This may be too quick for some dogs. Adapt this approach to going a little slower if you think your dog falls into this category.

Food Transitioning Example: 4-10 Day Transition for a 50 lb. Dog
Current Food New Food Total Lbs. to Feed
First 2 Meals or First 3 Days
% to Feed 75% 25%
Lbs. to Feed (based on 50 lb. dog) 0.75 0.725 1
Second Set of 2 Meals or Days 4 to 6
% to Feed 50% 50%
Lbs. to Feed (based on 50 lb. dog) 0.5 0.5 1
Third Set of 2 Meals or Days 7 to 9
% to Feed 25% 75%
Lbs. to Feed (based on 50 lb. dog) 0.25 0.25 1
Final
% to Feed 0% 100%
Lbs. to Feed (based on 50 lb. dog) 0 1 1

B) Dogs Who Love Food / Have Had Lots of Variety in Their Diet / Will Eat Anything with No History of Digestive Issues

The Moderate approach to getting started:

Fast the dog for 24 hours, and then serve the next meal with 100% of the raw food.

Serve the food at room temperature for the first 5 days, after which it can be served straight from the fridge or even frozen on occasion* (*excluding dogs with pancreatitis: food should always be at room temperature for these dogs).

The Aggressive approach to getting started:

100% Raw for next meal, preferably making the last meal of what you were feeding before the night before and the first raw meal the next morning.

Serve the food at room temperature for at least the first 5 days, after which it can be served straight from the fridge or even frozen if necessary* (excluding dogs with pancreatitis: food should always be at room temperature for these dogs).

We don’t want the dog to have any issues or diarrhea by moving too quickly, so please carefully consider these options.

III. What You Will Experience Right Away:

1) The dog will drink a lot less water - this is not a cause for concern. Raw food by its very nature has high moisture content so the dog is getting a lot of the daily hydration required from the food itself. If switching from kibble, a lot of water would have been needed on a daily basis to break down the kibble in the gut.

2) Poops will be quite a bit smaller and chalkier. The “chalky” is from the bone content and the fact that the poop is so much smaller is because the dog, like humans, only excretes what the body can’t use. For some, this shows that a kibble poop vs. a raw food poop is proof that kibble is not as healthy a choice.

3) Some say the dog is less hungry between meals – this may because they are not consuming empty calories such as carbs. There is no known carb requirement for dogs, yet it is cheaper to use carbs for energy than the protein and fat that the dogs do require. Many kibbles have upwards of 65% carbohydrates.

4) Your dog may go thru a period of detoxification once on a real food diet, as the body now has the nutritional fortitude to right itself by purging toxins that have built up over time. Signs of detox: itchy skin, runny ears, runny eyes (please read on if you experience signs of detox).

IV. General Suggestions:

  • the main meal can be either morning or evening – small adult dogs should be fed 2x per day but large adult dogs can be fed 1x per day or 2x per day
  • only change the menu if stools are ok, if not, keep to the same menu until they are ok, before proceeding.
  • when introducing any new meat, test with small amounts first, and check stools before slowly increasing.
  • when introducing egg, test with a small amount of beaten egg first, and check stools before increasing to a whole egg. Eggs can be served whole, and used as a complicated meal where they have to figure out how to get at the contents. Sometimes you may want to make a tiny hole in the shell so they can smell the egg inside and figure it out. We prefer eggs other than chicken.
  • serve the meal at room temperature for the first week, after that, it can be served right from the fridge or frozen on occasion.
  • try and serve food at room temperature as often as possible.
  • NEVER COOK OR MICROWAVE THE FOOD: ground bone contained in the food can become brittle and splinter once cooked which can become a choking hazard.
  • if you find you need to pump up the smell factor, pan sear or broil for less than a minute.
  • adopt the same care and techniques you use when preparing any meat for human consumption
HOW MUCH TO FEED

Most dogs eat around 2 to 3% of their ideal adult weight per day.

Initially, when switching your pet to raw, we recommend starting with 2% of body weight as follows:
Adult Dogs

Over one year of age: at least two meals a day are recommended for toy breeds, but some experts feel it is better for the digestion of a non-toy breed to have only one meal per day. If switching from two to one meal per day, do so after two or three weeks on raw where you are seeing good stools. Always try and feed your dog at a time when they are at least two hours away from running and high activity.

If your dog regularly does not eat all of his meal in one go, then you know you are feeding too much and should adjust the amount you are feeding accordingly. Once established on raw, you can increase the amount of food to 2.5% or 3% of adult body weight if required. If your dog is very active, you may need to feed a little more than 3%, or if your dog is more of a couch potato, you may need to feed a little less than 2% - every dog is different.

The best way to tell if you are feeding the right amount is to run your hands over your dog’s ribs. If you can feel the ribs, your dog is at a good weight. Or, if you can see the ribs but not count them, your dog is at a good weight.

To help with the math, please visit the feeding calculator on our website: