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How You Can Avoid Detoxification Problems when Shifting Your Dog's Diet…

From the desk of Mogens Eliasen - first published: Date

Mogens Eliasen - the author of this article
on 'detoxification'

Ever been feeding your dog a biologically inadequate diet (like commercial kibble of any kind)? Ever decided to shift to something better (like a raw natural diet)? You will expect, then, to see general health improvements because of the new and better diet, right?

However, most people get shocked when they instead experience a noticeable temporary decrease in wellness the first few days after the shift!

The process behind this is known as detoxification - and it can become a serious health issue. The worst part of it is that it might make you think that your new diet is wrong….

Well, the fact of a smoker getting sick when trying to quit "cold turkey" does not make smoking healthy, though. It is the same with diets.

Accumulating "substitutes" when lacking a needed nutrient

During times of a nutritious inadequate feeding, the body will accumulate a lot of "bad stuff" in the organs and the depots, lacking access to the "good stuff" it needs. When you now suddenly let it have abundant access to all the "good stuff" it needs, it wants to rid itself of all the "bad stuff". It simply substitutes "bad stuff" with "good stuff", as quickly as it can - which means: in dependency of the supplies!

This will create a sudden increase of the concentration of all the "bad stuff" in the blood and in the organs that are supposed to deal with the discharge of this waste, primarily the kidneys and the liver. This concentration of "bad stuff" could very easily exceed the limits for what the body can handle without stress….

When you feed a diet that is not made of raw, natural components, this is prone to happen when you shift to a natural feeding, at least to some extent. Heat processing of raw meat is known to destroy at least 30 fundamental nutrients the dog needs as badly as we need vitamins. Lacking access to those prime nutrients, the body will instead try to "do the best it can" with whatever else is available. So, when you now shift to a healthy natural diet, you get problems…

Just imagine this: you built a house with low-quality building materials. Suddenly, you get access to the building materials you always wanted. You instantly start the process of replacing the old low-quality materials with the new ones that are much better for the purpose! In the process, you create a lot of debris you need to get rid of - and you may have some temporary problems finding a place to store that waste until you can haul it to the dump!

Neutralizing an incoming poison

Another detoxification example of different nature is given by Nicotine. We all know that Nicotine has a whole range of very negative effects on the body. In order to deal with this poison, the body generates some big anti-bodies of protein molecules that create a bond with the Nicotine and thus neutralize it.

When you continuously supply Nicotine to the body, the body will try to "keep up" with the intake by programming itself to a steady production of those anti-bodies. And to make it worse: it takes a lot of time (several months) to establish this process at full efficiency - as it takes several months to dismantle it...

Now, if this anti-body protein were harmless, we would have no trouble. But it isn't. It is actually almost as toxic for the body as the Nicotine was.... When you stop the Nicotine supply, the body now has to deal with this over-production of anti-bodies that cannot be stopped as quickly as you quit smoking.... The result is an unpleasant poisoning of the body with its own antibodies! All smokers, who have tried to quit, know what this feels like...

All kibble products and canned food products have been preserved with poisons that are labeled as "preservation chemicals", and they are at least as harmful to the body as Nicotine, often much worse….

What it looks like, if you get the problem?!

The specific effects of a detoxification process will generally appear as a poisoning. Which it, in reality, also is. The specific clinical symptoms will vary with the poison, with the dog's overall health, with history, and with the amounts. In other words: it is impossible to give a short and precise description. Some common symptoms include lethargy, lack of appetite, skin irritations, abnormal temperature, and many more.

You will generally see the symptoms of poisoning after a few days, maybe a week, after the shift. Rarely more than a week delayed. If so, it will be a mild case.

And it may last a couple of days, maybe a couple of weeks, and maybe even a couple of months! It all depends on the specific circumstances. In my general experience, 1-2 weeks is the most common.

Avoiding the problems altogether…

If you are not prepared for the detoxification process, you might experience that the dog gets sick from the natural food!!!! But reality is that you are just now paying the price for your toxic feeding in the past....

However, it is simple to prevent it. All it takes is that you introduce the new diet and its good nutrients slowly, over some time. This way, the body can discharge all the accumulated toxins and adjust its own antibody productions at a more tolerable speed that will not stress the internal organs as much.

You can avoid the effects of detoxification by introducing the new foods gradually, over a time of some weeks. As a rule of thumb, use a "transition period" that is two weeks for every year the dog has been fed kibble, yet never more than two months. The specific math you need to use to manage such a gradual transition does not need to be overly precise. Dividing the "transition period" into for instance four phases with different ratios of old/new diet will generally do the job in a way that leaves the dog with no trauma when shifting it to a natural diet.

The disadvantages of doing such a gradual transition should not be ignored, though:

  • You extend the feeding of less-than-healthy foods….

  • Digestions of a mix of cooked, carbohydrate rich foods with raw meats and bones is not always easy on the dog either, as there are some serious chemical compatibility problems in that…

  • It is a bit tedious to administrate…

Many people choose to "go cold turkey" with the shift to natural food - and their dogs thrive excellently on it! In my assessment, it is less than 10% of all dogs shifted to a natural diet that will experience significant detoxification problems or other temporary problems with the shift.

But if you happen to be the owner of one of those dogs, then please do not blame the natural food for what in reality is your own past mistake… Just use common sense and logic (and your understanding of detoxification!) to manage the situation in the best possible way for your dog.


Mogens Eliasen


Mogens Eliasen holds a mag. scient. degree (comparable to a US Ph. D.) in Chemistry from Århus University, Denmark, has a extensive education also as military officer and in business management. He has been working with dogs, dog owners, dog trainers, and veterinarians since 1970. A large part of his dog work has been in the area of education and education planning, and as consultant for dog owners and dog training associations. He is a strong advocate of treating the dog with respect for its nature as domesticated wolf, and has published several books and videos on topics related to dogs, dog training, dog behavior, and responsible care of dogs. He publishes a newsletter "The Peeing Post" containing lots of tips and advice on all matters pertaining to dogs.

For more information about Mogens Eliasen, including links to other articles he has published, please send this e-mail to or visit or

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Titles available from K9joy®:

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Understand what your dog is telling you - and communicate with it on its own terms. A must have for all dog lovers. Easy to read. Easy to use as reference.

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How the dog's behavior is linked to its instincts and needs. What you can change and what is "for life". How you use this information to dramatically improve your relationship with your dog.

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"BrainWork for Smart Dogs" (380 page e-book - 2003)
How you get a happy and well-behaved dog, stimulating its brain with 15 minutes of fun per day. Dogs need to work and use their instinct in order to be in mental balance. Everyone can do it with these instructions. More than 40 exercises to choose from!

Mogens Eliasen:
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The 5 simple steps in this complete training manual will effectively stop any dog from pulling on the leash, with no pain or abuse and no special equipment - and make the start of a much better relationship with the dog.

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"Is Your Dog's Drinking Water Safe?" (30 page e-book - 2005, updated 2006)
A layman's overview of how and why drinking water gets contaminated - and what you can do about it.

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"Feeding Your Dog - the Natural Way" (1 hr. video - 1998)
The fastest introduction to get you started on feeding your dog a natural diet. It explains the dog's physiology in simple terms, so you also understand why you should do this.

Mogens Eliasen:
"Canine Choice - by Nature" (80 page e-book - 1999, updated 2005)
The simple "how-to" about feeding a natural diet for optimal health.

Mogens Eliasen:
"Raw Food for Dogs - the Ultimate Reference for Dog Owners"
(340 page e-book - revised/expanded 2006)
Everything you need for making your own informed decisions about what to feed your dog, and why and how. Includes numerous examples of feeding plans plus two chapters on how to work with your vet, also if he/she does not approve of your feeding...

Mogens Eliasen:
"The Wolf's Natural Diet - a Feeding Guide for Your Dog?"
(125 page e-book - 2004 updated/revised 2006)
What we know and don't know about the wolf and its natural feeding, and about the dog and its domestication, and what we can and cannot conclude from wolf to dog... this is the big "why?" behind any responsible approach to feeding your dog.

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