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Updated: Apr 25, 2022

Updated 4/25/2022

Many new raw feeders may notice when switching to a species appropriate raw diet that their companions are showing signs of illness. This can be quite intimidating or even scary if you are being told that a raw diet will make your companion ill or worse that you may kill them! Rest assured in most cases your companion is simply going through a period of detoxification, a completely natural and very healing process. Detoxing is a process in which the body removes toxins from within (1). It is not a process that occurs occasionally, provoked by expensive supplements or induced by fasting. It is also not a quick fix type of process, it is something that owners need to be mindful of on a regular basis. Detoxification is a process that occurs around the clock even when the body is at rest or sleeping.

The detoxification pathways include many body systems including the liver, kidneys, lymphatic system, digestive tract, skin and the lungs (2). We will focus on the systems primarily involved in what you may see when detoxing during a transition to a species appropriate raw diet.

The liver processes many things that have entered the body from its

environment. This includes viruses, bacteria, hormones, external toxins like heavy metals, chemicals, pharmaceutical drugs as well colorings, flavors, preservatives and other food additives that are consumed. The liver's role is to prepare these products for processing in the kidneys. To learn more about how the liver works check out our article on Liver Disease.

The kidneys, like the liver, filter by products out of the body through a million little filters. The kidneys primarily filter the blood but are also responsible for maintaining balance in the body regulating pH, blood pressure and fluid balance among other functions (3,4). The by-products are released via urine; this is why the best way for the kidneys to function is to supply them with plenty of water and keep your companions hydrated (5). To learn more about how the kidneys work, check out our article on Kidney Disease.

The digestive tract is responsible for removing larger particles from the body through fecal matter.

Special cells protect the gut against chemicals while special enzymes metabolize foreign substances (6). Maintaining a healthy gut flora and microbiome are essential for the microorganisms to process and remove these toxins from the body. To learn more about the microbiome of our carnivore companions check out our article on the topic.

A unique and complex network made up of the spleen (7), thymus (8), adenoids and tonsils form the lymphatic system. This network is connected by a fluid that collects toxins through the lymph nodes, capillaries and vessels to bring it to the blood and other detoxification organs for elimination (8).It all aids in moving white blood cells around the body to defend it against infections and foreign toxins (9).

The skin is the body’s largest organ and biggest defense again outside toxins as well as what

internal organs were unable to detox out (10). The body releases toxins through sweat and secretion of odors (11). We can also see this via rashes, skin allergies and other skin reactions.

There are many signs of detox that may even look like illness or disease. Common signs and symptoms of detox can include one or several of the following:

  • Excessive shedding

  • Diarrhea

  • Mucous in stool

  • Very firm stool

  • Expulsion of parasites

  • Dry skin

  • Runny eyes

  • Lethargy

  • Vomiting

  • Itching

  • Hotspots

  • Smelly ears or ear problems

The reason these symptoms occur often is due to an accumulation of toxins that are released from

the body when switching to a natural diet. Toxins can come from chemical flea and tick medications (12, 13), worming medications (14), vaccinations, steroids, antibiotics, chemicals (15) encountered in the environment from the air, lawn treatments and cleaners and even your very own pet food. Over time these toxins build up and are stored in the body (16). When eating a raw species appropriate diet, the body is now being fed something that is allowing it to function at a high ability, versus just working hard to process the unnatural diet it was being fueled with.

When the body enters a period of detox, all these stored up toxins are expelled. The skin is the most common exit point but the mouth, anus, eyes and ears can also be exit points. This process is natural and the body is equipped to handle this natural cleanse. It isn’t helpful to “aid” the process with medications to treat these symptoms, this will only set the detox back and further contribute to the toxic load. We instead want to support the body during this time. These symptoms will pass. While some companions never go through a detox, often it can take a week or two for other but it could be months. It heavily depends on how much toxicity has accumulated, how often your companion has been exposed to these various toxic sources and how old your companions are. There are some more “modern” toxins like phthalates and bisphenol A (BPA) that can take even years to be flushed from the body due to their accumulation in fat and the blood. It should be noted that there is no magical supplement, pill or procedure that truly can detox the body of toxins other than the body’s own ability to detox the way it's naturally meant to. In order to do so you must fuel the body so it can function as designed. When we feed junk the body works in overdrive to get THAT food stuff out of the body which can occupy its time leaving your companion more open to illness and disease. The junk food is like the decoy in a special mission as the real intruders come charging in. Toxic overloads create other issues such as changes in energy levels, skin conditions and problems with digestion that we didn’t really know were and issue.

In short you don’t need to extensively fast your companion, simply ensure your companion is drinking plenty of water and providing a whole food, species appropriate diet. Furthermore, be aware of the toxins you put in, on or around your companion to help the body function at its best!

There are several product types that tend to be go-to remedies for digestive upset, however many of these are not appropriate for our carnivore companions and no longer are the natural remedies they used to be back in the day.

YOGURT Yogurt is one of them. This fermented dairy product used to be full of gut healthy probiotics but

nowadays it is very high in histamines. Histamines are part of the immune response that create symptoms like those of allergies (sneezing, itching etc.) to alert us that something is wrong inside and it needs to get out. When these histamine levels are too high it puts our companions at risk for some very serious and chronic, lifelong health issues.

Most yogurts are also very high in sugars and many brands contain dyes, flavors and other ingredients especially if not plain yogurt. This is more for marketing purposes and human consumption. Finally, while yogurt used to contain billions of beneficial microbes and many different strains this is not the case. Most popular brands contain on average 3 strains with mainly only containing 1. Most brands don't even list the live culture count. This means you would have to feed your companions buckets full of yogurt to really have any effect but because of the amount of sugar and histamines you may be causing other problems including diabetic shock. PUMPKIN

Pumpkin is usually a quick go to for many when it comes to digestive upset but aside from not being even close to species appropriate considering it is plant matter, it actually isn’t t