How to Safely Switch Your Dog to a Natural, Whole Foods Diet

If you are feeding your dog conventional packaged dog foods, even of the “natural” varieties, such as Natural Balance and Nature Organic, it may be affecting his or her health negatively, especially if you have an older dog. If your dog is sick, lethargic, has arthritis or just not as active, happy or independent as before, you might want to think about changing your dog’s diet, to a healthier diet with fresh, whole foods. You might also find it cheaper and more reliable to rely on your own hand to feed your dog, rather than buying questionable commercial brands, as many are being recalled and contain lots of preservatives and unknown items.

This needs to be done carefully and slowly, but luckily most dogs love to eat and as long as they can chew and stomach what you’re giving them they shouldn’t have a problem. If your dog has trouble chewing you will want to give your dog mostly soft foods. Start with whatever food you’re already feeding your dog and take out about a quarter of that quantity. Depending on your dog, you may want to start trying to give him the other food you’re trying as a treat. If your dog goes for it and likes it from your hand, sprinkle it over his normal supply of dog food, about a quarter of the quantity of normal dog food. If he doesn’t go for it, don’t give up quite yet. Mix in about a quarter of the food into only a quarter of his normal supply of dog food. If he eats it with the normal dog food, then you can add in the normal quantity. If not, give him the rest of his normal supply and try again next time. If he doesn’t eat a little of the new food mixed in the dog food, try a new food. Another option is to isolate him during his feeding times and hand-feed him yourself each time, rather than giving him the option to mess over his food in a dish of his own volition.

You don’t want to give your dog too much fresh foods at once, if he’s not used to it. I’ve cleansed many dogs from packaged dog food to whole foods, vegetarian, vegan and even raw food diets. It is usually not much of an issue, but you want to make sure your dog doesn’t get diarrhea, constipation, allergies or become a huge beggar or food thief, or have any other issues with the new food. This is why it is important to start in cycles and try only one food at a time. Good foods to try are carrots, potatoes, and raw eggs, including the shells. Great supplements include flax seeds ground in a coffee grinder, dogs really seem to love this, and it is great for their health, especially if you’re trying a vegetarian, vegan or raw diet, but remember this is not necessary for the long-term.

Rice, oats, grits or polenta and other whole grains are also good transitional foods for your dog. Dogs also love nuts, seeds, avocados and if you know how to make a mean, intense, fatty salad, I’ve seen many dogs tear them up, but usually dogs who are not used to vegetables will not go for plain raw vegetables, so make a homemade dressing. A great place to find recipes are raw food recipe databases online such as http://www.living-foods.com/recipes/tahinidressing.html. Raw soups are also great meals for dogs and can double as dressings. Remember you don’t need all the ingredients in these recipes, just the basics will do. Experiment and mix some dog food with new recipes if your dog is transitioning but still not sure about everything you offer him. This will all depend on the age and temperament of your dog, but remember it will be an ongoing process to transition your dog to healthier and healthier foods. Don’t worry if he doesn’t immediately love only fresh foods and detest his old dog food, just start somewhere and transition together as peacefully as possible.

You probably want to make your dog’s diet as simple as possible. A great tool for making homemade dog food is using a blender or a food processor. I’ve seen many dogs use carrots as they use bones, but if you want to feed your dog a lot for a meal, you might do better by blending carrots, potatoes and celery into a pulp, especially if your dog has a hard time chewing. Another great idea is to make slices of veggies and bake them as chips for your dog. With these two options, your dog food still looks like dog food and you’ll have less of a chance of your dog mistaking your food as theirs and stealing your food, as pesky beagles and other dogs do. Another great idea is to make a potato or rice cake with some added veggies or nuts and seeds. When it comes to nuts and seeds, seeds tend to be fresher and less likely to cause allergic reactions. Sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds and flax seeds are good and inexpensive and can be ground into great combinations. Try to get your grains and seeds in bulk, raw and unsalted/seasoned or processed if you can. Get oat groats rather than quick oats and brown rice rather than white rice. You can use a dehydrator, sun/solar oven, or bake these cheap, bulk foods. Oat groats can also be soaked and eaten raw or blended. You can also make Essene bread for your dogs and yourself. You may inspired by your dog’s diet and start eating healthier foods yourself, as may your children.

You don’t need onions, peppers, salt or other seasonings for your dog food preparations. You will likely want to devote 1-3 months of transitioning your dog to a healthier diet, depending on his own enthusiasm for the foods. If all is going well, add a quarter more of the other food to his food every week. You might want to invest in a one-time natural or vegetarian dog food to help your dog transition if he/she is not taking to fresh food as easily as you hoped, or if you don’t have a lot of time to prepare a consistent quantity of the fresh food. However, make sure you can give your dog at least a quarter of the quantity of one of their meals everyday. A great way to make time is to make a bulk quantity of dog food every week. You can put this into individual containers for easy access, or put it into a large container so you can mix things accordingly each time you feed your dog. As for fruit, dogs love berries, apples, melon and non-sweet fruits such as cucumbers. All dogs have different preferences, but most dogs will take to any food if given the time, introduced slowly and consistently. If you’re planning on feeding your dog raw meat, go for fresh farm picked meat, your own chickens or chickens from a local coop or some other form of fresh meat that you can trust the quality of. Going to a butcher and asking for their discards can get you great deals on meat for your pet. Checking out Barf diet products (http://www.barfworld.com/index.shtml) can help you get an idea, but remember there is nothing more healthy for your dog than something made fresh and without supplements or preservatives. However you may want to try some packaged products during a temporary transition phase.

Overall a blender and a coffee grinder will greatly improve your options for providing fresh, whole food to your dog, while transitioning. Most things don’t need to be cooked, except for grains. You can process sweet potatoes, and I have seen white and red potatoes given to dogs uncooked, but you may want to cook them and mash them or cut them into small square chunks. Corn-on-the-cob can also be given as a bone-like toy. Your dog will eat it a little, chew on it and roll it around. With time, you will want to provide less to no grains for your dog and your dog’s ability to chew and process should also cut down or eliminate your need to cook or blend his foods either. As you can see it can be very inexpensive to feed a dog a whole foods diet. It can also be fun and greatly improve your dog’s health. If you have children this could be a great way to get them helping in the kitchen without having to endure the taste of their food yourself!