When you first move your dog from kibble to raw food, aside from a whole lot of drool, there are a few changes you may notice as they get used to their new diet.
Do not be concerned!
These are completely normal. They're actually indications of your dog becoming happier and healthier (from the inside out) so are fantastic changes to see!
In the initial days and weeks after switching to raw, one of the first things many pet parents notice (apart from the shinier coat!) is that their dog isn’t drinking as much water as they used to.
However, DON'T WORRY!
When eating kibble, dogs require a lot of extra water to rehydrate and allow their digestive systems to process it.
Imagine how much liquid you would have to add after eating Weetbix with no milk. Pretty unsavoury right?
Add to that the incredibly high salt content of most kibble and you're looking at a pretty thirsty pup.
In comparison, the core components of a raw diet (meat and fresh produce) are already high in moisture - in the case muscle meat, about 75%. When eating a raw diet, your dog accesses this water content, resulting in them needing to drink a whole lot less!
This can have some great health benefits too, as the natural water content alleviates strain on their kidneys and bladder. This is one of the reasons vets suggest adding water to dry kibble for dogs who have a tendency towards urinary or kidney stones. Hydration = lower acidity in the urine.
(However, why add water to heat treated, synthetic biscuits, when you could access fresh, biologically appropriate nutrients with optimal water content through raw??)
Of course, always make sure plenty of clean, fresh drinking water is available. If they’re thirsty, they’ll drink, if not, they won’t - simple!
(No, not the ones you sit on)
So it’s not the cutest or most glamorous side of pet parenting, but awareness of your pup’s poop is an important part of the deal.
In the long-term, dogs on a raw diet produce smaller, firmer and less smelly stools. They're much easier to clean up and indicate that your dog is actually using the food you're putting into them... so it’s definitely worth making it through those first few days!
As with any dietary change, switching to raw is likely to lead to a change in your dog’s stools. They may become looser and runnier but this is entirely normal and usually passes within a few days. If your dog is pre-disposed to digestive upset, then a gradual transition is definitely the way to go.
Your dog's stools are also a good indicator of general health and a regular ‘poop patrol’ can help you identify any potential health issues early - as well as monitoring dietary balance.
Here’s a quick guide:
Small, firm stool (mid-brown): this is the ideal poop for your dog to have and the one you will encounter most when feeding raw. It’s small, easy to pick up, formed and doesn’t smell super bad. This is an indicator of how little waste material is produced from a raw diet - your dog is accessing and using all you're putting in!
Large, soft stool (chocolate brown): these are the kind that, if stepped in, follow you everywhere - yuck! The large volume, wet texture and offensive scent marks this one out as a ‘kibble poop’. They can't digest the large % of carbohydrates, fillers and preservatives present in kibble so it passes straight though them. Dogs are also more inclined to re-consume these sorts of poops, as they still contain the preservatives and additives that make kibble tasty in the first place (gross huh!).
White, chalky stool: with some exceptions, this is usually a sign that there is too much bone in the diet. The general recommendation for bone in raw feeding is 10%. If you notice these stools, ease back on the bone content and expect to see changes within a day or so.
Loose, tar-like stool (dark brown in colour): this is quite a common one and indicates that there may be too much organ meat in the diet. Again, about 10% organ meat is optimal (a maximum of 5% of this being liver). Any more and you could be left with these stinky reminders. All of our mixes contain appropriate bone content - however if you're adding through liver or organ treats, perhaps ease off and opt for a little dehydrated sweet potato or even cheese instead!
Mucus in the stool: a small amount of mucus is normal. If you notice a lot more than usual, make sure to keep monitoring. This can occur when a dog is transitioning from a poor diet and, again, usually passes after a few days. However, if it doesn’t, it could be a sign that something is wrong. Excess mucus can be a symptom of colitis, stress, inflammation, parasites or even cancer so please don’t leave it too long before seeking veterinary attention
Blood in the stool: while worrying to see, this is usually just a minor problem - but a problem nonetheless and it’s best to go to your vet. If possible, arm yourself with information to assist their diagnosis. Note the colour of the blood - bright red indicates it’s coming from the lower intestines, while a darker colour means it’s from higher up the GI tract. A raw diet will not increase the probability of blood in the stool so if you notice some and it hasn’t passed after 24 hours, please seek medical attention
So, now that's out of the way we apologise if you sat down for a bit of a read while eating!
However, responsible pet ownership also includes the messier aspect of things and it’s best to be fully informed - for your sake as well as theirs!
Rest assured that raw feeding is one of, if not the, best thing you can do for your dog. The health benefits go beyond what we've discussed above and include reduced incidence of heart, liver, tooth and pancreatic disease, improved coat condition, more balanced mood - and given the reduced inflammation has also been linked to reduced onset and treatment of cancer! We could (and will) write a whole other blog on these!
In the meantime, if you have any questions or concerns about moving your dog to raw, please reach out and our in-house canine nutritionist will be happy to help out!