“Slow Transitioning” posits that, whenever we change a dog from Kibble Brand “A” to Kibble Brand “B”, we need to do so sloooowly, usually over the course of a week or so. Specifically, we are advised to do so when switching from a lesser quality dry food to a higher quality one – or when switching to raw from kibble. In a few cases, I’ve seen ‘experts’ advise taking as long as a month to change a dog from one food to another. One of the reasons given for why we need to introduce foods so slowly is that the better quality ingredients in the food we are switching to will ‘overwhelm’ our dogs’ digestive systems.
This ‘overwhelming’ can manifest itself as diarrhea or other digestive upsets. We’re also told that this enhanced nutrition can result in our dogs undergoing something called “Detoxification” – Detox, for short. Raw foodies, in particular, say that we can expect our dogs to undergo detox when we switch them from dry kibbles to raw food.
Descriptions of the detox process vary, but the central idea is that your dog’s body will “flush” itself of all the toxins it has accumulated from being fed a dry diet. This ‘flush’ will be noticeable externally, via a long list of symptoms – vomiting, diarrhea, mucus pouring out of their nostrils and coating their stools, runny eyes, hives and even seizures (!). Pet owners are told that none of these symptoms are anything to worry about – that it is simply their dog’s immune system ridding itself of toxic poisons.
In one of my favorite descriptions of the detox process, the author writes that “dogs experience this (detox) process because their bodies have to build all new healthy cells to replace the old ones”. Isn’t science wonderful?
I’ve become very skeptical of the concept of detox. Over the years, I’ve switched literally dozens of dogs from dry food to raw diets, and in almost every case, I’ve done so cold turkey. No ‘transitioning’, and no signs of anything like detox.
In my experience, switching dogs from one food to another should be a relatively simple process, and particularly when switching dogs from kibble to raw. Take weaning, for example.
Anyone who breeds dogs has had the unpleasant experience of the weaning runny poops – puppies weaned onto dry kibble, no matter how ‘premium’ the brand, tend to get diarrhea for at least the first few days. As the puppies acclimatize to their new diet, their poop becomes more solidly formed, and their diarrhea ends. Like most breeders, I just believed that this was all a natural part of weaning, although I don’t know why – we don’t automatically accept our that our (human) babies will develop raging cases of liquid poop when we switch them to solid food, so we do we accept it for puppies? My wake up call came when I first starting weaning puppies onto raw. The change from nursing to solid food was seamless – no diarrhea, no upset stomachs, no reluctant eaters.
Most recently, I’ve changed the diets of our two foster Frenchies, Harley and Peanut, from dry kibble to raw. In both cases, I switched them almost instantly, and in neither case did they suffer from ‘transitioning’ issues or detox symptoms. If anyone should have, it was Harley – he came to me eating an overpriced Vegetarian Kibble with potato protein as the main ingredient, and with a diagnosis of severe protein allergies. You’d think that switching Harley over to a high protein raw diet would have thrown him into a state of detox panic, but instead he threw up once from eating too fast, and then settled down to being just another happy, raw fed dog.
Christie Keith on Pet Connection put it best –
I wonder if you’d find it odd that every time you ate a different food or, you know, changed brands of cereal, you got diarrhea.
OF COURSE THERE’S A PROBLEM!
If switching your dog’s food causes him to start pouring out mucus and diarrhea while having seizures, there’s a problem, and you need to get him off the new food and to a veterinarian, pronto. If switching your dog between brands of kibble causes him digestive upsets and diarrhea, there’s a problem – and if this happens no matter which ‘premium’ brands you switch him to, maybe it’s time to rethink your entire feeding policy and switch him to raw.
It’s just a matter of common sense, really.