Raw foods are getting a tremendous following now, just as we are trying to eat healthier, letting our pets eat healthier just makes sense. No nutritionist in the world would tell you that you need to eat processed and chemically treated foods. Why, then, are we told that’s what we should feed our pets? If there was a package on a shelf labeled “Kid Chow”, would you even consider buying it?
One of the biggest challenges we face in changing the way we feed our pets from a processed food to a more natural offering is that the pet doesn’t understand that the new offering is actually food.
Taste, temperature and texture are variables that we have to address in transitioning between modes of food. We all have certain foods that we just don’t like the texture of, and foods we can’t eat cold. And taste, my golly, so many things people don’t like the taste of. Some people like caviar. There’s a taste, temperature and texture trifecta that is a delicacy, albeit it might be an “acquired taste”.
Most dogs, especially the larger ones, take to the change without any fuss. If they don’t convert right away, we can use fasting to encourage them to eat. Stop offering the dry food altogether, and put out the raw for 15 minutes. If they don’t eat, put it back in the fridge and offer it for the next meal. If they don’t eat it after a second offering, dispose of it and use a fresh meal for the next try. Two or three skipped meals, and they will usually dig right in. We can’t use this fasting technique for smaller dogs and especially cats, which can present a problem.
Small dogs and cats have dietary needs that require multiple feedings per day, every day. If left too long without food, they can be at risk of developing hepatic lipidosis, a very dangerous condition. Eliminating their regular food is not an option in this case, but reducing its availability can encourage them to seek nutrition elsewhere, because they will still be hungry. And that is the opportunity we need to get them to try a new food.
For the most difficult pets, we can do a two stage transition, from a dry kibble to a grainfree canned food, and then from the can to the raw. By changing more gradually, we can get past some of the finickiness of our precious little ones. Reduce the dry kibble portions to about half, and introduce the canned food. They may turn the nose up the first few days, but eventually hunger will make them seek out the canned food, and most, once they have a taste of it, move over to eating it first.
Once they are used to a hydrated food, changing to raw gets easier. The textures are similar, and the temperature as well. We can even warm up a raw food by putting it in a baggie and then put that in some warm water or even just adding a tablespoon of hot tap water to the food. Never microwave or cook to warm it, it not only defeats the idea, but also can make the bone content dangerous.
Taste, however, can be quite different in a cooked canned food versus a raw food. To compensate for that, we can add in something stinky the pet may love. A little Parmesan cheese, some bonito flakes, some liquid from water packed tuna/salmon, or even some cooked hamburger or seared liver can attract them. Or, if they have developed a love for the canned food, you can add a little of that into the raw. Once they start eating the raw, you can wean out the flavourings, and give them just the food.
While Stitch, our French Bulldog, converted instantly, it took me a little while to convert our cat, Streaky, over to raw. He wanted nothing to do with it, so I put half his meals worth of canned in his dish, and on the other side, half a meal’s worth of raw. The raw went untouched for a while, and then one day, everything was eaten. Once that happened, I stopped putting the canned in, and he never looked back. He’s never been healthier or happier, and for me, the litter box is no longer the stinky chore it used to be.