Weaning new puppy from raw meat diet
October 5, 2013 9:20 AM   Subscribe

My sister is taking home a new puppy from a breeder who feeds her dogs raw meat purchased from a local butcher. Sis does not want to continue this practice but is concerned the transition to commercial dog food might be hard on the pup. Does anyone have advice for weaning the dog from raw to conventional dog food without causing significant distress?
posted by jamjames to Pets & Animals (13 answers total)
Did the breeder have any suggestions?
posted by inigo2 at 9:29 AM on October 5, 2013

Usually the way to avoid digestion issues when switching foods is to gradually increase the ratio of the new food to the old food - ie, start by feeding raw food and gradually mix in more and more commercial stuff, over the period of a few weeks.
posted by muddgirl at 9:34 AM on October 5, 2013 [2 favorites]

If it was an adult dog, and I didn't want to feed raw food at all, I'd be tempted to fast the dog for 24 hours, then feed a full meal of rice, then gradually mix in more and more commercial dog food. But I am not a vet and I would be really really hesitant to try this with a puppy.
posted by muddgirl at 9:35 AM on October 5, 2013

The best way to do this is slowly. So start with a meal of raw meat and maybe a small spoonfull of the new food. See how the puppys digestion handles this, if no sign of diarrhea for a day or 2 of this ration, increase the ratio of new food to old. Do it slowly and keep and eye out for tummy upsets, puppys can get sick very quickly if they get diarrhea. If you are moving onto dry food I would also suggest moistening the food at and making sure of cause to use a food for puppies. The food exchange should happen over weeks not days.
posted by wwax at 10:33 AM on October 5, 2013

Best answer: Muddgirl is correct about gradually transitioning to a more commercial food. In addition, due to the high protein content of the raw meats, I would highly recommend picking up a better then average dog food until you can establish a base line on the dog's health, their eating habits, and how they react to different dog food. Certain breeds need or have better results with a higher protein content then the main stream foods bring for optimal nutrition, but for a breeder to do it - I'm guessing the dog is a purebred and was bred by higher quality parents i.e. AKC certified? So my recommendation is the same as Muddgirl's - phase it out in bits where week one it might be a 75% raw meat / 25% dog food and then reduce it over the next few days/weeks depending on the dog's health, paying attention to the dog's stool (a very loose stool may indicate that the dog is not transitioning smoothly, so you may need to up the raw meat or if they are eating their poo (although this could be an unrelated, but common behavior issue))

For the dog food, I would highly recommend Taste of the Wild. We had the best results with it over Purina One and one of the Iam's blends when our dog had to pack on some weight and wasn't reacting well to the lower protein blends. Good luck!
posted by lpcxa0 at 10:38 AM on October 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

If thr dog is a giant breed like a great dane you still want to supplement the commercial food with raw while its growing. They need an astonishing amount of protein to develop properly. You can feed a base of kibble but are virtually guaranteed bone amd joint problems later on without proper supplementation.
posted by fshgrl at 11:11 AM on October 5, 2013

Response by poster: The puppy is a labradoodle, expected to grow to about 40 lbs IIRC. The breeder is a strong proponent of the raw diet and requests that new owners stick with it, so there won't be much support from her. My sister's main concerns with the weaning process were addressed by Ipcxa0, which include the effects of transitioning from such a high protein diet, and the puppy's age.
posted by jamjames at 12:00 PM on October 5, 2013

If it was an adult dog, and I didn't want to feed raw food at all, I'd be tempted to fast the dog for 24 hours, then feed a full meal of rice, then gradually mix in more and more commercial dog food. But I am not a vet and I would be really really hesitant to try this with a puppy.

Depending on the breed, this advice could result in epic levels of gastrointestinal distress requiring a vet visit. It is far better to follow the advice of mudgirl, lpcxa0 and wwax.
posted by winna at 3:18 PM on October 5, 2013 [3 favorites]

Honestly, I thought about it more - if it was my puppy that I just bought off a breeder, I would most likely keep them on a raw meat diet for at least a week, maybe 2 to establish the baseline and help the pup get comfortable in their new surroundings. I have experience with young (few months old) dogs but never had a brand spankin new puppy. Loose stools and other behavior issues can very easily be attributed to the stress of a new surroundings and being away from the mother and pack for the first time so I wouldn't expect miracles the first few weeks.

Raw food diets can be made cheaper by buying cheap cuts of meat from Costco's or Sam's but I've never been a huge believer that the diet is a miracle worker and unless you're planning on getting up to the elite levels of dog competitions - I highly, highly doubt you are going to see benefits that justify the costs associated with it. The same $50 that feeds your dog for a month of high quality dog food will feed maybe 2 weeks on a raw food diet.
posted by lpcxa0 at 5:24 PM on October 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

Hate to say it, but the puppy will need to be eating some raw food during the transition. Sudden diet changes can cause physical and behavioral problems even in adult dogs, and with puppies there are so many things going on already that I would hesitate to make any drastic diet change during those first few weeks home. I agree with the posters who recommend mixing foods to make the transition. You can add a little water to dry dog food to soften it up a bit if the puppy seems to eat around it.

I don't agree with any implication that switching to a high quality dog food is only necessary for the transition; based on everything I've read and learned from dog breeders, one should buy the highest quality dog food one can afford for the dog's entire life. That means, absent any illness or allergies, high protein and grain free. Where I live it's easiest to find Canidae, but there are a number of options that can be sussed out with a little Google research.

For anyone reading this thread who is thinking of buying a puppy from a breeder: find out what your breeder feeds puppies before you sign the contract. It's something that a lot of people, especially first time dog owners, never think about, and breeders can be quite vehement about their feeding policies and what effect not following them will have if the puppy needs to be returned for any reason.
posted by xyzzy at 8:05 PM on October 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

Supplementing giant breed puppies as suggested (or even just large breed like a labradoodle) can cause problems like panosteitis. You are going to need a veterinarian anyway, so I would find one that you like and ask them about the best way to transition. I would say gradual transition (over 3-4 days) to a large breed puppy food, but I am still in school and don't have my license yet.

Ask a veterinarian. It's part of the job.
posted by bolognius maximus at 12:53 AM on October 6, 2013

lpcxa0: The same $50 that feeds your dog for a month of high quality dog food will feed maybe 2 weeks on a raw food diet.

Dexter eats well on $1.50/day, or less than $50/month. 70 lbs; very active.
posted by IAmBroom at 11:14 AM on October 6, 2013

As a suggestion for your sister's new dog ... Genetically dogs are adapted to eat a variety of foods, as working alongside humans they have always received the human scraps. When our first dog, Bandit, adopted us, he refused to eat any kibble we put in front of him. He is stubborn, so I started researching dog nutrition. In the end, we basically ended up following Patricia McConnell's approach to feeding her dogs.

We mix up a variety of pre-prepared, high-end healthy dogs foods (Sojo's, Honest Kitchen, a local dog food, a variety of kibble, dog food "rolls" and canned foods) and typically add in a variety of meats, fish, veggies, fruits, eggs, cheese, yogurt, pumpkin, and other goodies. The results? Both Bandit and Smokey Rose can eat all sorts of meals with no digestive upset, we have a great resource for getting rid of surplus foods in the house, and they glow with good health.
posted by apennington at 8:38 PM on October 7, 2013 [2 favorites]

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