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A girl and her dog

Detox & Troubleshooting

(What to Expect When Transitioning Your Pet)

Compiled by: The team of For The Love of Raw

This article has been written to help you through any challenges that may occur in the first 12 weeks of transition to raw (detox symptoms).

As with all dietary changes there can be some short-term side effects during the transition phase. Please try to remember that, although not every animal will experience these side effects, they are usually short term and with our help and guidance we are confident you and your companion will overcome them!

Problems with Poop

  • Diarrhoea:

Firstly, please be aware of the difference between diarrhoea and loose poop. Diarrhoea is sudden (your pet will be unable to hold it until they are in a yard or on a walk) whereas loose poop can be held until they find their preferred space to eliminate but when it comes out it is loose (like liquid). Diarrhoea is medically significant and needs to be monitored! Make sure your companion is still drinking water (encourage this if needed), behaving as normal and is still eating food.

 

If the diarrhoea is as a result of transition then we would expect symptoms to abate within 24-36 hours. If it does not, or your companion refuses water/food and acts lethargic then please consult your vet!

  • Mucous in Poop:

The first thing to note about mucous is that it naturally occurs in the digestive tract - it’s what helps keep things moving - and on occasion some mucosal lining will shed in the poop, this is okay. However, a high volume of mucous and in more than one poop shows us that there is an irritation in the intestinal tract. Sometimes, mucous is over-produced in the early stages of transition owing to the change in food.

It’s good practice if your companion produces a poop with mucous to look at it closely for signs of parasitic worms or eggs; if there are none and you have recently switched to a PMR diet then it is likely a symptom of transition. Please also take a moment to check the ingredients listed on the meat packaging – there is a high correlation between additives in meat and mucous in the stool. Our recommendation for sodium is no more than 100mg per 4oz/113g. Our recommendation for salt is 250mg per 4oz/113g.

  • Dry Poop / Constipation:

Please remember that a perk of the PMR diet is that your companion will eliminate less frequently. In fact, it is quite common for them to not produce a bowel movement at all in the first few days and when they do it can be small and hard. You can help during this time by encouraging the drinking of water and providing lots of exercise.

If your companion behaves like they are trying to produce a bowel movement but nothing happens then this is constipation. Sometimes constipation can come once you begin adding in bone, if this has happened recently then consider feeding boneless for a meal or two alongside plenty of water and exercise. If by day 3-4 there is no improvement then you can add slippery elm which adds lubrication to the digestive tract and soothes any irritated linings. If your companion has been constipated for more than 6-7 days, you have increased water/exercise, removed bone and added slippery elm then we would advise consulting with your vet.

Problems with Skin and Coat

 

  • Itchy Skin:

As the liver and kidneys are now finally able to reduce the build-up of toxins, caused by feeding a diet that is not species appropriate, it can present as an itching feeling for your companion. As the transition process progresses the skin sheds toxins through sweat and subcutaneous oils; this will continue until the liver and kidneys reach optimum performance levels and the whole drainage system is cleared of toxins.

  • Hotspots:

A hotspot is an immune-mediated response of the skin to an irritant/allergen. They appear suddenly (anywhere on the body) and look like lesions – they can also spread quickly so it is important to act fast if you spot one. These can appear during the transition phase; either because of the overall stress on the body of the switch or because your companion has an allergy to one of the protein sources being fed.

  • Greasy Skin / Fur:

This is caused by an increase in subcutaneous oils as the body rids itself of toxins. This can also be triggered by a yeast overgrowth during transition while the body re-balances the pH of the skin.

 

  • Goopy Eyes/Ears:

If the symptoms are experienced as part of transition then there will be a flare up whilst the lymphatic system (responsible for immune responses) rebalances. This can cause a surge in toxin-release throughout areas of the body that have a high fluid content (e.g. eyes, ears and nose). You can use soft cotton cloths to gently wipe the areas and if it looks sore then you can also use colloidal silver to assist the healing process.

Problems with Food Refusal

  • Dental/Mouth Wounds:

It’s good practice with an animal that refuses food to first check the mouth and teeth for any signs of obvious dental damage, wounds and/or ulcers. If the wound has not already been checked by a vet then it may be necessary to book an appointment if it is negatively impacting their appetite.

Feeding a well-tolerated protein source (preferably using a ground/minced complete meal), green tripe and bone broth, will help keep up hydration levels and ensure plenty of nutrition during convalescence. N.B. a teething puppy can also sometimes show a reduced appetite, in this scenario try offering a frozen or semi-frozen meal. The act of freezing changes not only the smell but also the texture; the cooling effect acts as pain relief for sore gums.

  • Environmental/Internal Stress:

Consider any changes to your companion’s daily routine that may have increased their stress levels (e.g. a house move, recent bereavement, or loud noises such as fireworks) as it is not uncommon to see a reduction in appetite at these times.

Sometimes, a soothing and calming supplement can be added to food to help alleviate symptoms of stress but a vet consultation may be prudent to ensure any appetite loss is stress-related. Hand-feeding in these times is strongly recommended as it really helps to strengthen the bond you have at a critical time. It is also a good method for those whose dogs eat too fast and for those humans new to raw feeding who might be nervous to feed bone items.

  • Females and Oestrus:

Many females find their appetite suppressed during oestrus (period of fertility) and so consider your companion’s heat cycle and age. It is not uncommon in those with a history of phantom pregnancy or related hormonal imbalance to refuse food. There are supplements available to help with symptoms of phantom pregnancy; raspberry leaf is a good preventative, whereas Pulsatilla 15C and Urtica 3C are better once a phantom pregnancy has been confirmed. As always with any suspected medical need which negatively impacts food intake, veterinary advice should be sought.

As for encouraging your companion to eat, changing the texture of the food (chunks vs ground or thawed vs frozen) and increasing the variety and novelty of the protein sources offered may be enough to succeed here. The size of the chunk can also be changed (large to small, and vice versa) and ground meat can be used to make meatball shapes which can then also be frozen to feed. You may also want to try a different temperature, some dogs (and many cats) will prefer room or blood temp rather than straight from the fridge. Try adding warm water to the food or leave the food out for 30 minutes prior to feeding. 

  • Self-Regulation:

Some breeds will do this more than others, northern breeds such as Huskies and Malamutes are especially renowned for this ability, and this is okay for them to do so. You can safely allow them to self-regulate if there are no other worrying symptoms.

Reducing their meal size to match their level of hunger would be a first step. Aim for ‘balance over time’ with this approach and encourage fluid intake either with water, ice cubes or bone broth. In this scenario, it is ok to place down the meal for a set amount of time and remove if there is no interest until later.

Troubleshooting Tips For Food Refusal

  • Flash Fry:

In a very hot pan (no oil), sear the meat or organ that is being refused for a few seconds on each side. Gradually you should be able to reduce the length of time the item is fried for and be able to serve fully raw. DO NOT DO THIS WITH BONES! Bones can become brittle when subjected to heat and risk splintering when eaten.

  • Hide the Organs:

Often it is a secreting organ that is refused (kidney is a common one) so try cutting/blitzing the organs and mixing them with some of your dog’s favourite meat. Try making it into a meatball to serve, if that doesn't work try freezing it and offering again. You could even try hiding the organs under chicken skin of say a thigh or drumstick or stuffing a carcass with the minced and organ mixture.

  • Dehydrated:

This is another option and can be done in your oven overnight on a low setting (or even air-drying in your fridge!) and has often been the saving grace of getting a picky dog to eat their liver. DO NOT DEHYDRATE ANY BONE! Again, bones that have had their moisture removed become brittle and risk splintering when eaten.

​Despite these side-effects, what you should take from this document is that feeding a PMR diet will enable your companion to rediscover their strongest, natural immunities. Although it can be upsetting or discouraging to witness these side-effects – do not give up! This is a time of regeneration and healing for your pet, let them show you their best selves!

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