Switching to a Raw Diet

The commercial pet food industry is a scary business. From questionable ingredients that can make your dog sick to misleading marketing tactics, navigating the shelves to choose a healthy and affordable food is a daunting task.

We consulted canine nutrition expert Sabine Contreras, author of The Dog Food Project, to find out what’s really in commercial dog food and now, we’re going raw.

The health benefits of a raw diet made it a no-brainer.

The Honest Kitchen dehydrated chicken food

“It’s species-appropriate and addresses many health concerns, including dental care, digestive health, skin problems, allergies, obesity, and more,” Contreras says. “I don’t recommend it for immune-compromised animals and it’s important to be careful with dogs who don’t tolerate much fat, but the average dog will benefit greatly from eating a raw diet instead of processed kibble.”

Some folks may have the time to whip up homemade food for their pets, but I’m not one of them. I want to give my dogs the best but I need convenience, too. So we decided on The Honest Kitchen’s dehydrated food, which Contreras assures is quite a step up from kibble.

“The closer you can get to foods in their fresh, whole state, the better,” Contreras explains. “This doesn’t mean you absolutely have to feed a raw diet that you prepare at home but recognize your dog needs ‘real’ food just as much as you do—and the more, the better.”

My biggest concern with switching to the dehydrated food was convincing my husband the extra cost would be worth it! But amazingly, The Honest Kitchen is actually cheaper than the Blue Wilderness kibble we were buying!

A 10-pound box of chicken THRIVE yields 40 pounds of food for $74.99 but with Pet Food Express’ “Buy 3, Get 1 Free” discount, we end up paying just $56.24 a box, cheaper than a 24-pound bag of our kibble at PETCO.

Even if you can’t get the discount, the dehydrated food is still cheaper; regularly-priced THRIVE is $1.87 per pound while Blue Wilderness salmon kibble is $2.67 per pound. And THK offers a rebate program with most retailers—buy ten, get one free!

We wondered if The Honest Kitchen was a complete diet or if we had to add any supplemental food or vitamins.

“As long as you choose a food—kibble, dehydrated or raw—that shows the statement that it meets AAFCO requirements for either one particular or all life stages, they are balanced under the same industry guidelines,” Contreras says. “Fresher foods tend to rely less on added supplement mixes, which is great because it’s less processed stuff the manufacturer has to add.”

Remember, it’s important to wean your dog slowly onto any new food, including raw food.

“Most dogs don’t need a lot of transition time and can be switched within two or three days,” Contreras says. “Let your dog be your guide. If there are no adverse side effects except some loose stool, you can move right along. If the dog has a more difficult time, take it slowly and replace only a small amount of the old food with the new, or even take a step back.”

As always, it’s probably a good idea to consult your vet to see if this switch makes sense for your dog.

Our Trial Switch

Yellow Dog, Sundown and Mocha simply love the new food. They wait anxiously as I rehydrate the food with warm water, allowing it to sit three minutes and thicken up.

foodcollage

Yellow Dog waits for The Honest Kitchen dehydrated chicken raw food

Yellow Dog, Sundown and Mocha just can’t wait to get their paws on the new raw food. They’ve been gobbling it up since we started the switch.

As we wean them onto the food, we mix it with some of their old kibble. Here is how we adjusted their food: 3/4 old food + 1/4 new food until the dog adjusts, then 1/2 and 1/2, then 1/4 old + 3/4 new, then all new food. Each dog is different though, and you may need to go slower with the weaning process.

Kibble mixed with The Honest Kitchen THRIVE Chicken dehydrated food.

It’s important to wean your dog onto any new food; mix some of the old in with the new.

Here comes the gross part: pay attention to your dog’s bowel movements when switching them to any new food. Make sure to consult your vet on what’s normal and what’s not.

The thing we like best about The Honest Kitchen: once your dog is adjusted, their food is designed so you can change proteins without a weaning period. So we can move between chicken and beef and turkey without any problems.

Have you thought about switching your dog to raw food? Let us know what you think!

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