Transition Method + Step by Step Guide
The easiest way to get a typical adult dog transitioned over to raw is by using (temporarily for caloric feeders) ratio feeding math at 2%-2.5% of their total body weight. Once they are transitioned; then you decide if you are going to be a ratio feeder or a calorie feeder.
About halfway down this page is a step by step guide about how to transition your typical adult dog over to a fully raw diet. It’s important to read all of the information on the page to make transitioning as easy on your dog and yourself as possible.
How do you know how much food to feed and what the ratios of that amount are?
Depending on your dog’s breed, its life stage + activity level and also considering its metabolism; you may need to feed more or less during transition. The PMR Foundation Ratios Calculator will give you the ratios for your specific dog. You can click/press the link here or visit the calculators section on the menu. You can use the information the calculator gives you to build your dog’s transition diet with.
SCRFD doesn’t recommend a strict PMR stand alone diet for typical adult canines beyond the initial transition meals.
As time goes on, we learn more about canines and what they need to thrive and as such, we need to adjust how we feed and offer them what we learn they may be missing if being fed only PMR.
PMR is the foundation we build from whether its feeding via ratios or via calories, the PMR foods are the base we want to build with, not the totality of the meal.
When transitioning an adult dog to a raw diet, it is best to start by feeding individual foods one at a time. By introducing foods this way, you will be able to more accurately determine what items your dog may or may not do well on.
SoCal Raw Fed Dogs doesn’t recommend using pre-made blends when transitioning a typical adult dog to a raw food diet; as you will be unable to judge what items your dog does or does not do well on.
This does not apply to puppies as we do not transition pups. They are swiftly moved from dry to raw and the new raw diet must be properly balanced for their age; with gut support provided.
You can learn about raw feeding puppies in a few places on the site, starting here. If you are a large breed puppy owner then you should definitely read the article Appropriate Nutrient Levels for Skeletal Development in Large & Giant Breed Puppies.
While the end goal is to provide a fully balanced diet, you don’t want to rush straight into a broadly varying diet. It is imperative to allow your dog to become accustomed to the new foods they are being fed one at a time.
Note: Again, this does not hold true for puppies as they need a balanced diet from the start to ensure proper health and growth.
Which Protein to Start With
While some feeders prefer to start with chicken, SoCal Raw Fed Dogs suggests starting with turkey because chicken is a protein that is commonly problematic for dogs. Since transitioning to any new food can be stressful, it’s best to set a dog up for success and avoid the potential complications of a common protein intolerance in the first days of transition. It is a good idea to introduce chicken after your dog has three established base proteins that they tolerate well. One of which is a red meat, such as beef. Other base proteins besides turkey are rabbit and pheasant.
*Note: Duck is a red meat but it is an often well-tolerated red meat, so if your dog is doing well you can incorporate duck during week two, removing all the excess fat before feeding.
For the first few meals of the transition period, you will want to stick with one protein source. This gives your dog’s stomach time to adjust and gives you ample time to see how they tolerate said protein. If you pick turkey then stick with turkey for at least three meals. Then change it for another protein, like rabbit.
Step by Step Guide
It’s best to start with boneless white meat not a calcium free meal as they are easy for dogs to digest. You’ll feed your dog calcium but you won’t give it in the form of raw bones. If your dog is coming off of kibble then make breakfast the last kibble meal and for dinner feed a boneless white meat with gut support that includes a digestive support gruel (shown below), probiotics, and also calcium in the form of eggshell powder or calcium carbonate. People often ask which eggshell powder or which brand of calcium carbonate to use if they don’t have the time or desire to make it themselves. This is the eggshell powder I like: Pet’s Friend Eggshellent Calcium. If you opt for a calcium carbonate, then NOW Pure Calcium Carbonate Powder is a lab tested and proven brand that many dogs do well with.
Work towards feeding a bone-in white meat or adding a bone component to your boneless meat such as chicken or duck feet (I prefer duck feet) after one to three meals. Don’t feel pressured to rush your dog to eat bones at the first meal, it’s okay to move towards bones during the first few feedings. The above calcium sources are pure calcium and will be bioavailable to your dog for use.
On about meal four of the transition, if the first three meals of the boneless white meat have gone fine, then it is a good idea to introduce a mildly oily fish that contains a good amount of vitamin D3. Vitamin D is needed for optimal calcium and phosphorous absorption. Since you are giving a calcium source to your transitioning dog in the form of powder, it is important that you introduce vitamin D3 into the diet and do so by using a food that also offers other key nutrients that your dog needs. Like salmon.
Salmon is a source of D3 and omega 3. Feeding a white meat only for a few meals does have your dog sitting at a higher omega 6 : omega 3 ratio so introducing a salmon brings in D3 for calcium phosphorous absorption and omega 3 for an omega balancer. At meal four, introduce a small amount of cooked salmon not to exceed 1% of the meal.
Raw Tip: Canned salmon is cooked so this can be easily used.
Information about why you should cook salmon for dogs is discussed in a section further down the guide.
On about meal six of the transition, you may want to introduce a small amount of carb that is in form of fiber and offers vitamin A and also beta-carotene. Sweet potato is an excellent choice with pumpkin being a good second. Pumpkin can sometimes cause GI distress in some dogs so sweet potato is preferred. Sweet potato offers bioavailable vitamin A, beta-carotene, and simple sugars that provide your dog with energy that they may be low in since they’re not yet eating a fully balanced diet. Sweet potato offers these types of vital micro-nutrients while contributing to the overall macro-nutrients in carbohydrate form. The fiber it offers helps ‘sweep’ your dog and allows for a bulkier stool. Raw feeding produces small stools and when the dog is in the early phase of transitioning, it may not poop at all if there isn’t fiber present in the diet.
Meal six should have been dinner of day three, during week one, if you feed twice a day. If you feed once a day normally, then that is fine once your dog is transitioned but for the transition period, it is best to feed twice a day or even three times a day if your schedule permits. Smaller, frequent meals helps your dog’s digestive system get used to the change in food.
We’ll pause in the guide here to discuss cooking salmon • eggshell powder • digestive support gruel. All the things you need to know for the above week and then we’ll move to week two, and most often, the final week of the transition.
About Salmon & Why You Need to Deep Freeze it and Why You Should Cook It
Salmon is an excellent choice of fish to offer dogs who can eat it. The caveat to feeding salmon is, it ought to be cooked. Yep. You read that right. When raw feeding your domesticated dog, you should cook their salmon. The salmon is a fish that is prone to infection of a parasite called Nanophyetus salmincola. It has been found that the parasite itself is not the issue for dogs but rather the Neorickettsia helminthoeca, which is a microorganism that causes salmon poisoning. The correct temperature range to freeze salmon to the point needed to effectively kill this, is -4°F to -20°F. This temperature range is considered a deep freeze. Most household freezers attached to refrigerators do not get that cold. Generally dedicated freezers can achieve this low temperature range if they have a deep freeze option but many raw feeders do not have dedicated freezers (or they don’t at first) and so therefore, it is a good idea to also cook the salmon to ensure that your dog is not at risk for salmon poisoning. SCRFD recommends to still cook/bake your salmon even if you deep freeze it. Freezer time: 21-30 days. Dogs are the only species susceptible to salmon poisoning.
Eggshell Powder Info
This information is not to be used as nutritionist provided direct advise. It is a general guideline. In order to calculate the precise amount of eggshell powder your dogs needs, a full look at that meal’s recipe is required.
You can wipe and clean the empty shells and allow them to dry; add them to a high powered blender such as a Vitamix and turn them to powder. Or you can bake them on 250-300 for about 5 mins and then turn them to powder. If you buy different color eggs, your powder will be different colors. A pure white powder doesn’t equate to a “better” calcium powder.
1/4 teaspoon of eggshell powder contains around 1800 mg calcium carbonate. Following this estimate you would use US measurements:
1/8 teaspoon per 4 oz of meat • 1/4 teaspoon per 8 oz of meat • 1/2 teaspoon per 16 oz of meat
Transitioning Tip: The egg is loaded with beneficial nutrients for your raw fed dog. Feed the raw egg and keep the shell for your calcium.
If your dog experiences any gastrointestinal incidents you can make a herbal digestive gruel very easily and quickly using organic (of each herb) slippery elm bark, marshmallow root, and licorice root. Add 1 tsp of each herb to 1/2 cup of boiled water. The key is not to make it too thick. You can add water if it seems to be more of a paste than a gruel. Cool before serving.
Week Two – Three (some dogs need a third week)
If your dog is doing well on the single protein/bone sources you have introduced so far and is having good bowel movements, it is time to start feeding a red meat to your dog.
Red meats are rich in essential amino acids, vitamins, and nutrients that our dogs need to thrive. Duck, pork, beef, lamb, and goat are all great red meat options to choose from. You want to introduce the next protein source in small amounts over the period of a few days. Note: adding red meats may cause your dog’s stool to become slightly darker, this is totally normal.
Transitioning Tip: Goat is a hot protein so if your dog tends to run warm, this would not be a good fit for your dog.
As your dog proves to handle their new foods well, you can continue to introduce new protein/bone sources. Remember, it is vital to slowly introduce each new protein and keep an eye on your dog’s bowel movements to help judge how they handle each one. Don’t rush. You can introduce two different red meats during the first part of week two. Chose one red meat and feed it for the first four meals of the week and then move to a second red meat and feed it the next four meals of the week. This means the fourth meal of protein two was fed at dinner on day four of week two.
Transitioning Note: Red meat will cause your dog’s stool to become darker, but as long as it is well-formed this is ok.
Take note if your dog becomes itchy, rashy, or gassy after eating a new protein. While your dog may not be allergic to these proteins they may be intolerant to them and it best to remove said protein from their diet. After your dog is eating three proteins to include one white and two red meats, you can continue on the organ phase of the transition.
Introducing Organs Into The Diet
It is now time to introduce liver. Liver is a very rich source of essential nutrients and vitamins, giving too much too fast can cause a digestive upset. Liver is classified as a secreting organ. It is an organ that should ideally be in every bowl you serve your dog once your dog is eating fully raw.
Liver, kidneys, spleen, sweetbreads, brains, pancreas, and eyes are all to be fed secreting organs. Note: while commonly confused with secreting organs, hearts, gizzards, stomachs, and lungs are to be fed as Muscle Meats. While yes, these are organs, they are part of the muscular system.
Start with a small amount of liver and gradually increasing the amount over a period of a few days until you reach their recommended amounts. *Remember, if you’re going to be a caloric feeder then your amount of liver will vary based on the rest of the recipe. For now, we are approaching it with a transitional ratio approach until your dog is fully transitioned. Ideal liver choices are beef, turkey, & duck.
If your dog experiences loose stool: reduce the amount of organ you are giving temporarily and give the dog the digestive gruel discussed above about five minutes before you feed. Please note: The ratio feeding method calls for 5% of the diet to be liver but in most cases that is a high amount of vitamin A and sometimes copper coming into the dog’s diet. For this reason, it is recommended to feed via the caloric method using the recommended nutrient guidelines for dogs once your dog is fully transitioned to raw.
Once your dog is eating and handling a liver source well you can start to introduce other secreting organs (OSO).
After this base transition period, your dog should be eating at least 3 different protein sources, soft edible bones, liver and at least one other secreting organ.
From this point forward, you want to feed a balanced diet daily, offering fiber and antioxidant sources in forms of vegetables, fruits, and other food grade food sources such as natural vitamin E. It is important to remember to introduce any new foods one at a time and observe how your dog handles them.
Provide your dog with gut support by feeding probiotics. You can do this in form of homemade kefir or via a commercial probiotic powder. There is a synergy between pre and pro biotics so feeding both to your dog is ideal.
If you opt for kefir, it is best to make it yourself to accurately control what it’s made from and it’s fermentation period. Homemade kefir offers more diverse bacteria than store bought because kefir sold in stores has to adhere to pasteurizing policies among other things and the kefir is impacted.
Kefir is a natural probiotic and bring many benefits to your dog’s bowl. Simplified: It is a natural gut soother and yeast fighter.
Note —> Not all dogs do well on kefir so a dog with histamine issues may or may not be impacted. That would depend on the kefir, how it was fermented, and the individual dog.
Be sure to bring in important vitamins, minerals, trace minerals and fatty acids through foods or whole food supplements.
Sea plants such as organic kelp and spirulina are important. Moringa is another.
Ensuring Vitamin E is in the diet in an appropriate amount is key
How much vitamin E? That all depends on your dog. A PMR diet tends to be deficient in vitamin E so it’s imperative it is put into the bowl either via bioavailable foods or via a food-grade supplement.
Watch the values of what you feed. Meaning, if one food is extremely high in a specific nutrient then don’t feed another food with it that is extremely high in that same nutrient. You want to balance your dog’s meals.
Iodine in the diet needs to be at an optimal level
Kelp and green lipped mussels are two iodine rich sources you can feed your dog, with green lipped mussel powder or oil being most concentrated and allows for you to feed your dog a lesser amount than if you fed green lipped mussels. Kelp is heavy in minerals (as discussed in other sections of the site) and so while it is a stellar source of iodine, it can also bring undesirable pollutants to a dog when fed too much and too often Kelp is a staple food that should be fed in rotation with other sources of iodine. Iodine is a mineral that should be fed to your dog at an amount of 220 ug (0.22 mg) per 1,000 kcals. Iodine is a nutrient that is important to not overfeed or underfeed. <— An excellent example of why ratio diets aren’t ideal.
Zinc is relatively low in a raw diet of just meat, bones, and organs so we need to bring the zinc level up to where it needs to be for the adult dog and also account for a dog’s particular breed needs. On paper, the recommended zinc level for adult dogs is 15 mg per 1,000 kcals. Please note, your breed may need a different amount so it is important to know your breed.
Remember each dog is an individual and while one dog may do great on a food another may not.
Citation for Salmon Poisoning: Greiman, Stephen & Kent, Michael & Betts, John & Cochell, Deborah & Sigler, Tiah & Tkach, Vasyl. (2016). Nanophyetus salmincola, vector of the salmon poisoning disease agent Neorickettsia helminthoeca, harbors a second pathogenic Neorickettsia species. Veterinary Parasitology. 229. 10.1016/j.vetpar.2016.10.003.