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10 Mistakes Beginners Make When Transitioning to Raw

Estimated reading time: 7 min

There is a learning curve when becoming a raw feeder. Not only is the pet going through a diet transition, but the pet parent is learning a new way to feed their companion. More often than not, beginners make mistakes when transitioning their pet to a raw diet.

It’s normal to get excited and want to push forward with raw feeding. However, many experienced raw feeders encourage beginners to take the transition slowly so as not to cause any unwanted stress. More often than not, many beginners make mistakes such as:

Incomplete Homework

Did not complete enough research about raw feeding.

Rushing The Transition

Quickly rushing through the transition phases.

Feeding Enhanced Meats

Purchasing and feeding seasoned and enhanced meats.

Not Feeding Bone

Not adding any raw meaty bones to the diet.

Feeding Too Much Bone

Feeding too much raw meaty bones.

Feeding Unsafe Bones

Providing inappropriate and unsafe bones.

Introducing New Foods Too Fast

Adding too many new foods to the diet too fast.

Oversupplementing

Adding too many supplements to the diet.

Overcomplicating Things

Over complicating calculations for feeding amounts.

Becoming Overwhelmed

Becoming frustrated and overwhelmed.

Home preparing a raw diet does have a learning curve and there is a lot of information to research, read, and retain. Before jumping into raw feeding, gain the knowledge necessary to avoid the 10 mistakes beginners make when transitioning to raw feeding.

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Incomplete Homework

It is recommended not to dive into raw feeding after learning about it 30-minutes ago. Take time, gain knowledge, understand the pet’s individual needs, and find local resources before beginning the raw feeding transition. Raw feeding can only be done if the necessary homework has been completed and this means research is required before taking the plunge. Gain an understanding of raw diets, how much pets will need to eat daily, and sourcing availability.

Rushing The Transition

It’s normal to get excited and want to push forward when starting raw feeding! However, it is best to allow pets to set the pace of the raw feeding transition. Some pets take effortlessly into raw feeding, while others need more time. Do not try to recreate meals from online photos – follow the transition guide,  have a bit of patience, and the pet will be transitioned to raw in due time.

The raw feeding transition outlines a step-by-step program to transition adult dogs and cats to a raw diet. Each week was created to slowly move pets from a processed diet to a fresh food diet. Take the transition seriously and do not rush the process.

Feeding Enhanced Meats

Sodium is an important micronutrient for our pets. However, excessive amounts of sodium can result in dehydration, diarrhea, or sodium ion poisoning in extreme cases.

Many grocery store meats are injected with a sodium and nitrate solution which increases the sodium content found in raw meat. Always check the label of the raw product before purchasing. Ensure grocery store meats are 100mg sodium per 4oz (114g) serving size. Furthermore, do not buy anything that is enhanced with flavoring, seasonings, broth, sugar, or with any other additives.

Commonly enhanced meats are chicken, turkey, duck, and pork products. If a label is not provided, ask the butcher for more information on the sodium content.

Not Feeding Bone

A common misconception is that “bones are dangerous because they splinter and have no nutritional value,” and because of this myth, pet parents are scared to feed their dog or cat raw meaty bones. This is incredibly inaccurate because raw meaty bones are soft, easy to digest, and safe for pets to eat when the appropriate bones are selected for the individual pet. Bones are a major source of calcium and phosphorus for the maintenance of their skeletons. The by-product of digested raw bones is the bulk that creates firm stool.

Cooked, smoked, and dehydrated bones are dangerous. These bones are dry and brittle which causes them to splinter. This happens because the very act of cooking bones changes the structure of the bone and removes all moisture. These bones should never be fed.

Starting guideline is 10% edible bone for dogs and 6% for cats. These are starting recommendations. However, pets may need more or less bone content in order to maintain firm, consistent stools. Be sure to monitor the pet’s stool in the transition stage to get an understanding of how much bone they require.

Feeding Too Much Bone

Too much bone can cause complications ranging from constipation to undigested bone in stool and vomit. When just starting the raw feeding transition, for the first couple of days it is ok to provide slightly higher bone content than the recommended guideline. This will help with the diet change. However, it is important to decrease the amount of bone to recommended guidelines if the pet is producing dry, very hard, chalky stools.

Providing Unsafe Bones

When providing larger bones than a pet can handle, they may not actually consume the bone, but rather strip the meat off of the bone. This is fine as it does provide mental enrichment and teeth cleaning benefits. However, the pet will be missing out on the all-important nutrient bones are used for – calcium!

There is a wide variety of bones we can feed our pets. However, it is important to provide the correct options for the size of our pet and to avoid weight-bearing bones. Always provide appropriate raw meaty bones to the size of the pet. Small dogs, cats, and ferrets require soft bones from quail, Cornish hen, rabbit, and chicken. Medium to large dogs can have bones from chicken, duck, pork, and more.

Weight-bearing, wreck, or recreational bones are found in large grazing animals. These bones can cause fractures to teeth and the jaw if the pet is an aggressive chewer. Additionally, if large pieces are ingested, blockage could occur. However, if the pet is a gentle chewer, large weight-bearing bones can be fed with large amounts of meat still attached to encourage gnawing. When providing a meaty weight-bearing bone, supervision is crucial to prevent any injuries. Take away the bone when all of the meat has been removed and save the bone to make bone broth!

Examples of weight-bearing bones include femurs, tibias, marrow bones, and knee joints from large grazing animals such as beef, bison, venison, and more.

Introducing New Foods Too Fast

Once the pet is on a raw diet, finding novel proteins they have never eaten is very exciting! Some pets are sensitive to fat, while others may not tolerate specific proteins. When feeding anything new, provide a few ounces into a meal and monitor how they take to the new ingredient. If there is no sign of any negative reactions, then that is a sure sign to add more to the next meal!

Over Supplementing

Many believe feeding a raw diet is not balanced and while it certainly can be imbalanced if pet parents do not follow feeding guidelines; but this does not mean all raw diets are not balanced. This notion has pet parents believing in the need for constant supplementation and begin to provide multivitamins. Over supplementation can be just as bad as lacking nutrients. This can cause a list of issues ranging from GI upset to hypervitaminosis.

More often than not, pet parents believe they need to purchase supplements for their pet’s diet to ensure nutritional balance, but there is no need to buy multivitamins. For every amino acid, fatty acid, vitamin, and mineral a pet needs, there is a whole food that provides it! Absorption rates are low with supplements, but the body knows what to do with food. Nutrients are digested, absorbed, and metabolized at a much higher rate when provided in their natural state – fresh whole foods.

Overcomplicating Things

It is easy to get swept away in the topic of raw feeding because pet parents want the best for their pet, but raw feeding is not rocket science, nor does it have to be. This only causes frustration which could ultimately cause pet parents to give up, and then the pet loses in this situation.

The foundation of a raw diet is based on the premise of whole, wild prey. When looking at a prey animal a wild dog or cat would consume, this information can be used to provide the same diet without requiring pets to hunt for food. Prey animals consist of meat, bone, organs, and roughage from the pelt/feathers where PMR (dogs and cats) and BARF (dogs) model guidelines were created to mimic whole prey. The guidelines are not hard in stone rules, they are starting points when feeding raw. Feed the dog or cat in plain sight, and always adjust to their individual needs.

Additionally, when calculating how much to feed them, don’t get caught up in exact decimal points. This is very tedious and time-consuming – a tenth of a decimal point is not the end of the world.

Examples:
If calculations are 1.43oz of liver, round up to 1.5oz
If calculations are 42.78g of liver, round up to 43g

Becoming Overwhelmed

Research is needed to begin raw feeding, but the internet of things is a deep and vast place. Information on how to feed raw varies far and wide and it may be hard to know what advice to listen to. This in and of itself is enough to make pet parents give up on raw feeding before starting. Try not to get swept away in the overwhelming amount of information the Internet has in regards to raw feeding.

If this is just the beginning and there is a need for additional help with feeding raw, Perfectly Rawsome has a Facebook group dedicated to helping pet parents feed their pet a raw diet. Raw Feeding University (RFU) is a worldwide online community for raw feeders to ask questions, connect, and share experiences. Group members are here to help every step of the way, so do not be afraid to ask a question!

CLOSING COMMENTS

It is normal to get excited and have the want to push forward, but don’t rush the transition process. The raw feeding transition is divided into phases to slowly move adult dogs and cats from a processed diet to a fresh food diet. Simple meals are provided in the beginning and new ingredients are slowly added over the course of a few weeks to achieve a full variety diet. This means the transition meals are not balanced and should not be fed indefinitely. It is best to allow pets to set the pace and adjust to their individual needs. Some pets take effortlessly into raw, while others need more time.

Mistakes happen, but following the step-by-step transition into raw feeding will set pet parents and the pet up for success. It would be great for all dogs and cats to be on a raw diet, but pet parents need to feel confident in the process. Following the transition guide for adult dogs, feeding puppies raw guide, and the slow transition guide for picky cats is the best way to transition pets to a raw diet.