Bullmarket French Bulldog Breeders

“Transitioning” and “Detox” – Pet Food Myths?

A recent comment on a Pet Connection post regarding the Blue Buffalo pet food recalls brought up a frequently repeated pet food article of faith – the “slow transition” theory.

“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.


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.

12 replies
  1. YesBiscuit!
    YesBiscuit! says:

    One of the other phrases I’ve seen to describe dogs exhibiting plague symptoms after switching foods is “healing episodes”.

    Dr. Khuly recently wrote about rotating brands of kibble on her blog although I don’t know if she mentioned transitioning.

    • frogdogz
      frogdogz says:

      “healing episodes”.. lol!

      Honestly, it’s no wonder so many people regard raw feeders as some sort of cult. There are some nutjobs out there who give all of us a bad image. Every time they start telling me how ‘raw fed dogs never ever get (insert disease name here)’, my eyes start to glaze over.

      I was recently told that “raw fed dogs never get pyometra”.

      “Uh, and the scientific study for the basis of statement would be…?”

      “Well, *I* don’t know any raw fed dogs who’ve ever had it”, was their indignant reply.

      • YesBiscuit!
        YesBiscuit! says:

        Aha! In this case, I would like to make the following declaration:
        Raw fed dogs never get abducted by aliens.

        When I started feeding all my dogs raw (years ago and I’ve since changed to primarily cooked), I had an elderly rescue who got really horrible awful terrible diarrhea. Someone advised me it was likely “detox” which I did not buy. Rather, I figured a raw diet was not appropriate for this dog. I switched her and voila – back to normal. (She was of course, promptly abducted by aliens but at least she didn’t ruin the spaceship!)

  2. Susan
    Susan says:

    Yep, Dr. Khuly is finishing up a 3 day series on this very subject today. She recommends a short (i.e. 3 day) weaning regimen, with longer if there is GI upset.

    I agree that commercial food is probably the culprit, but I have to mention that Logan (mister drippy poop himself) had a seamless transition to one commercial brand of kibble which, until Bacon came along, I fed him successfully. However, Logan will not eat quickly, and you can’t leave food out with the bat-eared garbage pail around, so I switched them both to raw.

    • frogdogz
      frogdogz says:

      Sailor is our in house ‘canary in a coal mine’ — if anyone is going to react to a diet, it’s her. Caleb came to me eating some kind of kibble food. I swapped him instantly to raw, and the bag sat in the dog room in sealed container. Sean, thinking he was being ‘thrifty’, decided to dump it in to the over priced bag of Wellness Core that Mae and Sailor eat. Two days of me trying to figure out why Sailor was throwing up later, and he had an “oh, right – guess what I did” moment last night.

      Sailor does fine on raw, but she doesn’t like it. Today, she’s on a tough love regimen of “eat it or starve” until her new bag of food gets here… I do so love tossing out a $65 bag of food.

      • Susan
        Susan says:

        They react to the weirdest things! We were trying to feed the seagulls Melba toast rounds (they had sesame seeds, too) and the dogs kept running around and eating them first. Well, Logan had awful diarrhea a few hours later on the hotel room rug (thank you Resolve for Pet Stains!) Melba toast – does it GET any blander?

  3. Joanna Kimball
    Joanna Kimball says:

    I’ve switched, geez, twenty or more dogs to raw and I do ALWAYS get loose stool. The most common is a stool that’s very mucusy or jelly-like. That’s normal and – yes – scientifically valid. When the intestines encounter stuff they’ve never seen before they speed up (stool gets loose) and they throw out a ton of mucus. It lasts a few days and then they go to that tiny hard raw-fed good poop. I’ve also had them throw up (the yellow foamy stuff – again, scientific, stomach is objecting to being empty most of the time). I never get bad stool when I’m weaning puppies on raw, only switching adults. I’ve had two or three dogs get very, very runny eyes, also just after the transition.

    I don’t think it’s because every cell is changing over or anything like that, but I do tell people to expect jelly-ish stool for the first week or so. Only go to the vet if there’s urgency and the dog is genuinely sick, not just for loose stool on a normal schedule.

    I also think that raw-fed dogs have more variation in stool than kibble-fed dogs do. It’s just like you – do you panic and run to the doctor every time you don’t produce a certain shape, size, and consistency? You might, if you were only ever eating the same thing and it was packed with stool hardeners. A bad stool on a kibble diet is something I worry about. A bad stool on a raw diet usually means I added too much avocado to the veggie mix and I ignore it as long as the dog is normal and well.

    • Susan
      Susan says:

      True, I don’t know any healthy adult humans who eat the exact same processed diet every single day, but I’d bet if we did, our stomachs would protest at least a little when we threw something else in. But I’ve been known to have an off day or two in my guts without freaking out.

      I think with our dogs we get more upset because we end up cleaning up nasty messes, and unlike humans, they can’t give us a head’s up that the poop is going to hit the rug…the walls…the shoes…

  4. Michy
    Michy says:

    I just found your blog, and what a great first post to read! I’ve got all four of our dogs on raw, and switched them cold turkey. Our previous two dogs were also on raw.

    I have to laugh at the “raw fed dogs never get pyometra” thing… as one of our dogs did get it, a couple of weeks before her appointment to be spayed (two days before Christmas no less!).

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