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.
Depending on your dog’s breed, it’s 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.
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 blend 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.
It’s best to start with boneless white meat for the first meal as they are easy for dogs to digest. 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. Then, work towards feeding a bone-in white meat. You can provide your transitioning dog with calcium via eggshell for the first couple of meals but ideally you want to offer your dog raw meaty bones as a calcium source if they can eat them. Information on using eggshell as a calcium source can be found below. Feed an egg without the shell if you use the eggshell powder as you will have the correct amount of calcium being provided via the powder.
What you’ll need for the first meal:
Boneless White Meat
Digestive Support Gruel
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.
Which Protein to Start With
While some feeders prefer to start with chicken, SoCal Raw Fed Dogs suggests starting with turkey or rabbit 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. Another base protein besides turkey and rabbit is 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.
Back to the bone: If your dog is handling their boneless raw protein well for the first couple of meals, you can then start to introduce an edible bone source. Rabbit bone and duck bones are good bone sources to start with. Most small poultry bones and rabbit are good edible bones you can offer your dog. Once a bone is introduced, you should notice your dog’s bowel movements becoming better formed, smaller, and a bit lighter in color if they weren’t already with the eggshell powder.
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.
Transitioning Tip: Bring in an oily fish after the second meal if all has gone well with your dog’s bowel movements up to that point.
About oily fish: Sardines, mackerel, and anchovies; are all valuable for the Omega 3 fatty acids they offer. Salmon is another fish that is an excellent choice. 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. Dogs are the only species susceptible to salmon poisoning.
Weeks 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.
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-four proteins and bone sources, including a red meat, 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. Organ meat will cause your dog’s stool to become darker, but as long as it is well-formed this is ok.
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.
Don’t rush & feed the full amount of liver too quickly.
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. You may wish to introduce whole prey, and offer vegetables, fruits, and other whole food. 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 in higher CFUs than store bought becuase 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.
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.