Often times I hear or see people talk about how their dogs aren’t doing well on a raw diet. Either their dogs have diarrhea or vomiting, losing weight or a dull coat. This isn’t uncommon for recently switched dogs to a raw diet. Some dogs do better than others handling the transition, but those dogs that have a bit of trouble in the beginning may need some extra help. This is where this page comes in for the rescue.
Yikes, this is the last thing we want to come home to or wake up to in the middle of the night. I know, I’ve been there and its not fun at all. What causes dogs to have diarrhea on a raw diet? Well, there are several very common reasons defined below:
1. Too much too fast.
There is a very good reason why the transition period for switching a dog to a raw diet takes several months. Taking things slow is vital to providing a smooth and easy transition for you and your dog. Most people who switch to raw, get so excited about it. Seeing their dogs improve in body condition and function, they dive in head first and rush the process. I know its exciting to see your dogs doing better on a natural diet, but stick to the schedule and take things slowly.
Some people worry about their dogs not getting balanced and complete nutrition for this transition period since we introduce each element of the diet gradually over weeks to months. Balance occurs over time, several months without every single element isn’t going to make much of a difference over the course of the lifetime of the dog. Usually dogs are being switched from inappropriate diets full of fillers and carbohydrates, and still an improvement is made when JUST chicken is fed.
2. Not enough bone.
Whenever a dog gets loose stool or diarrhea, the default remedy that should come to mind is “get back to the basics.” Many times its best to fast a dog 12-24 hours before feeding bone in chicken. Then go back to week #1 of the transition and feed nothing but high bone content chicken for several days until normal stools are observed for several days in a row.
The old school of thought based on kibble diets is to feed a bland diet of white rice and cooked/boiled chicken. Well, that needs to be thrown out with the kibble. Instead of doing rice and chicken, you feed bone heavy chicken and nothing but that.
3. Too much fat/rich foods.
A lot of fat or rich foods like red meats, organ meats or new protein sources can cause digestive upset. Again, get back to the basics. When you go to add these rich foods back in, start very slooooowwwwwly. Add in a piece that is tiny, pea or almond sized depending on the size of the dog. That tiny piece in “sandwiched” between two high bone content, lean meals. Gradually increase this amount over the course of weeks or months. It may take a long time for some dogs to tolerate a full meals worth of organ meat or even a red boneless meat.
There are many different ways to perceive a vomiting episode. Some are completely harmless and some are definitely signs of a sick dog.
This isn’t vomiting. It may appear to be the dog is vomiting, but in reality the dog is just bringing their meal up for another chew. Something about it wasn’t sitting quite right or it didn’t fit down the hatch on the first attempt. So the dog will bring their food up, and then re-eat it. Typically regurgitation happens within an hour of eating a meal and the dog is happy or eager to eat it once more. Some dogs are shy or bashful, who wont re-eat a regurgitated meal. I know that if I make a fuss or try and coax Bailey to re-eat a regurgitated meal, she wont because she is upset or ashamed. I’ve found that if I leave her alone, she will eat her regurgitated food again.
If a dog is regurgitating on a very regular basis, this can be a sign that your dog has an underlying issue. Regurgitation is a normal thing, but shouldn’t be happening a lot. I would say in our household of 6 big dogs who are all raw fed, that we have one regurgitation once a month, at the most. If it happens more regularly than that I would have a dog examined to make sure there is no underlying medical issues that are the cause. Some dogs regurgitate more often than others, just for whatever reason, but its best to rule out any problems before assuming there aren’t any.
2. Bone fragments.
Many people new to raw feeding freak out when they notice bone fragments either vomited up in the middle of the night or in a bowel movement. Newly switched dogs don’t have the digestive power to break down whole bones right off the bat. It takes time for dogs to be able to break down bones fully by changing their digestive ability. Which again, is another reason to take things slowly and start with easy, pliable bones like chicken and turkey. The denser the bones, the more digestive power it will take to get through them.
Often times a dog will be switched without a hitch for the first month, until something like pork ribs are introduced. Pork bones are a bit heavier and more dense than chicken or turkey. Then they notice their dogs vomiting up bone fragments between meals. Why is this happening? The bone fragments that are left behind once the meat has been digested are irritating the stomach. So the dog brings them up in order to get their stomach feeling better. After time, bone fragments become less and less of an occurrence.
3. Hunger pukes.
Raw foods digest much faster than kibbles. Some dogs have episodes that we call the “hunger pukes” which basically means a dog isn’t used to not having a system full of food all the time. On a kibble diet, their food lingers in their stomach longer than compared to a raw fed dog’s. A normal, healthy dog will digest raw foods within 6-12 hours from one end to the other. On a raw diet, a dog may go most of the day without food in their system, which again takes time for them to get used to this. Hunger pukes usually come on either late at night or very early in the morning.
The way this issue is addressed by feeding meals that are closer together, and gradually increasing the time between meals. This gives a dog a chance to build up tolerance to not always having food in their stomach. Small and toy breed dogs just need to have several small meals per day, due to physiological reasons. These types of dogs are more prone to the “hunger pukes” so one must adjust their feeding habits based on their dog’s body function.
4. Uncontrollable vomiting.
The dog cannot keep anything down, not even water. This is when you need to get your pet to the veterinarian because its just too easy to end up with a very serious case of dehydration and an even sicker dog.
This is an easy one, increase rations gradually over time. The approximate guideline of 2-3% of a dog’s ideal adult weight is just a starting point. Some dogs need more, and some need less depending on activity levels, age and/or breed of dogs. You don’t want to go from feeding 2% and jump up to 4% overnight. Make this transition slowly as well, taking weeks or months to do so. This isn’t a common problem, but it is something that I’ve run across in my mentoring.
1. Not enough GOOD fats.
Body condition is supposed to get better on a raw diet! Whats the issue with dogs who’s coats get dry and dull after the transition? Most commercially produced meats are low in omega fatty acids due to low quality feeds. Typically grass fed, naturally reared animals are more nutritious to feed, but they can be more expensive and not available to all people. If you feed a lot of these kinds of meats you really should supplement with a omega fatty acid like salmon oil.
2. Too much bone.
After the initial transition, bone shouldn’t be a large portion of the diet. Ideally you should feed the lowest amount of bone that can keep your dog from getting loose stool. Not every dog is the same, some require more bone to stay “regular” and some don’t need all that much. Don’t get me wrong, bone is a very important part of the diet, an essential part of the diet. For us, we alternate a bone inclusive meal with a boneless meal, once daily. This feeding schedule works well for most dogs once fully transitioned and its the one I suggest for most dogs.
Although a diet of whole raw foods based on Nature’s prey model is the most natural, healthy way for our carnivorous companion animals to eat, it is not a cure-all for any or all ailments, nor should it be considered as such. If your pet is ill you are advised to seek out the services of a professional pet health care provider. The material contained on this website is the author’s opinion and is shared for informational and educational purposes only. Nothing written herein is intended or should be considered as veterinary advice, and the author assumes no responsibility for the use or misuse by the reader of this information.