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Transitioning your dog or cat to a raw diet

Transitioning your pet from traditional commercial pet food to a raw, balanced diet is a great way to set them on a healthy path that can help reduce a plethora of long-term problems such as obesity, arthritis, allergies, rotten teeth and gums, diabetes and kidney failure. However, if your pet is used to highly processed food, you may experience a transition period as they adapt to their new, nutritious, diet. This transition doesn’t need to be traumatic and by following these tips you can have your pet embracing their daily feeds of perfectly blended meat, bones, cereal and vegetable matter, plus vitamins and minerals, in no time.

Tip 1: Expect resistance: Pets are like children – leave them to decide what they would want to eat and they’ll opt for the animal equivalent of burgers, pizza and chocolate every time! If they’ve developed a taste for the artificial flavours in some commercial pet foods you’ll need to wean them off their ‘junk’ food addiction and onto a balanced fresh meat diet.

Tip 2: If your pet has never had fresh, raw meat in their diet, start by getting them used to the taste and texture by mixing a combination of their new food with the diet they’re used to, so there are some familiar tastes in the bowl. Gradually increase the amount of the new food and decrease the amount of their old pet food until you’ve completely converted them. This can take a matter of days for some dogs or even one or two months for others. In fact a slower transition, particularly from a low quality, processed food to a balanced, raw diet can help their digestive system adapt too.

Tip 3: Serve your pet their Complete Mix at room temperature, or even a little warmer. Food served straight from the fridge can be a turn off, especially for cats.

Tip 4: Don’t feed too much or too frequently. If your pet is a bit “picky” about its food, it is probably because it is being offered too much, too often, and with too much variety, so they don’t develop a healthy appetite for the next meal. And don’t give into feline or canine blackmail! Rest assured – your dog will not allow themselves to starve! If they’re hungry enough they will eat. Note: you cannot use hunger or fasting in cats as they can quickly develop liver problems (fatty liver syndrome) in response to prolonged anorexia. Slow and steady is the way to go with cats and it can take weeks to months to fully transition them to raw food, but once converted they never look back.

Tip 5: Experiment a little – its important to offer consistency to help your pet get used to a new food but if its really not working some experimentation can help. Adding some of their favourite treats or even mixing in bone broth can turn a meal they were initially suspicious of into one they love. You can also try out different protein sources to see which they most prefer. Chicken is often the most popular but smellier foods like fish and tripe can be a runaway hit with some dogs.

Once your pet develops a taste for its new, balanced, raw meat diet, the rest is easy. If you persevere, any pet can be re-educated to enjoy a natural diet, and the associated boost in health, energy, stamina, and longevity that comes with it.

Dr Bruce Syme BVSc (Hons), Founder of Vets All Natural.

Dr Bruce Syme is a practicing vet and expert in natural pet nutrition, has spoken at the Australian Veterinary Association Annual Conference, and provides regular comment on TV and Radio.

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Disclaimer: The entire contents of this article are based upon the opinions of Dr. Bruce Syme, unless otherwise noted. The information is not intended as medical advice, it simply shares the knowledge and information from the research and experience of Dr. Bruce and his community. Pet health care decisions should be based upon your research and in partnership with a qualified pet health care professional.
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