There are many reasons why you might be looking to transition your dog to a new food. It’s common for pet parents to try switching dog food to determine what food is going to work best for their pet or when their dog’s needs have changed. However, it’s important to know that dogs can be pretty sensitive to diet changes, so it’s essential to take care and progress slowly to make sure they adapt well.
In this article, we will explore the best way to change your dog’s diet and address some questions you might have.
Before The Swap
Let’s cover some basic information before you attempt to transition your pet to a new food. These first few questions and answers may help clear up some uncertainty you have and give you peace of mind as you think of how to switch dog food. Remember, the key word is slow!
Is it OK to switch dog food?
Yes, it is ok to switch dog food! As long as you don’t make the swap cold turkey (though cold turkey is a nice food addition!). It is key to introduce diet changes gradually to avoid gastrointestinal upset and rejection of the new food by your dog.
Make sure that the new food for your dog contains the necessary nutrient requirements, paying special care to the calcium content. Calcium is an often overlooked mineral in a dog’s diet, but it is critical for proper health. An adult dog requires at least 1 mg of calcium per calorie of food. These needs may change based on a dog’s life stage, so explore for related articles and discuss this matter with your vet.
When should you switch your dog’s food?
There are a few times in a dog’s life when an owner might be exploring the possibility of switching up their diet. It could be health changes, food availability, or aging of the dog.
You might be looking to switch your dog food when:
- Your dog’s veterinarian has recommended it
- Your dog’s health condition has special needs
- The old food doesn’t have enough nutrient levels for your pet
- Your dog has been having digestion issues with her old food
- The store location stopped selling the old food brand
- Life stage changes (like nursing dogs that just had puppies, senior dogs, mature adult pet, etc)
- Your dog has developed food allergies
Whatever the reason, a dog food transition isn’t complicated but should still be treated with care and approached methodically. Your pet needs time to adapt to food gradually!
Life Stage Changes:
For owners that breed dogs and consistently manage many dogs of different ages, it’s important to match their foods with their age and needs. Adult dog food will differ from the puppy food, and the two types of dogs should be fed differently. We’ll discuss this further below.
Through your veterinarian or dog food brand, you can obtain a registration status to receive updates about the current dog food you use. This is helpful if there are any recalls of dog foods to the brand because you’ll be alerted immediately.
In the case of a recall, it won’t be possible to slowly switch the menu up. You can expect some tummy upset and diarrhea, but adding some pure canned pumpkin into the new food will help with the switch.
Make The Switch
Time to pull a swap-a-roo on Spot! Remember to keep it gradual and your pup is much more likely to enjoy the change. Let’s cover some details and discuss the best transition method to use.
What kind of dog food can you switch to?
Browse the shelves at your local dog store to find a suitable new dog food for your pet. There are a lot of brands of dog foods out there and it might take a bit of investigating. A few things to look for:
- The nutrition content
- Age of dog (puppy food, adult food, over the hill food, etc)
- Reputable brands
- Flavors your dog might enjoy
- Quality of ingredients
If you can’t find what you’re looking for at the store, you might have to move the search online. You’ll be paying for shipping, but it’s worth it when you find the right kibble. Some companies can even set up a subscription service for you, to automatically deliver dog foods to your door each month.
A little tip: once you shuffle through the brands to find the right one for you, try looking for coupons online!
Some dog owners want to put the whisk in their hands and take to cooking for their canines. Transitioning your dog’s current meal plan from store-bought food to homemade is a big switch. There are plenty of articles to describe this process in detail.
Mostly, you’ll want to speak with your veterinarian to discuss foods to include and avoid and any special needs your dog may have. Ensure their new diet is rich in healthy food and contains all the necessary nutrients your dog needs.
Maybe you are thinking of switching dog food from wet to dry, or vice versa. Most dogs enjoy a diet of varied texture, and this can be a fun switch for them. Dry food is usually nutritionally accurate, but wet food can provide extra taste and hydration. You’ll follow the same way of switching described in the section below when transitioning from dry food to wet.
If it works for your dog, you can even keep their bowl at half dry food and half wet food to get the best of both worlds.
Puppies will age into adult dogs and will need to swap puppy chow to adult dog food. Likewise, when Spot has that over-the-hill birthday into senior-hood, they’ll need to switch to a new food that is specific for older dogs.
This rule goes for growing pups as well! Depending on their size, dogs will require more food. A dog eating more food might encourage you to switch to a different brand. Likewise, when a dog goes from being very active to not exercising as much (say, in the case of an injury, recovering from surgery, or lifestyle change), their diet needs to follow suit as well.
Active dogs have higher caloric needs than sedentary pups. Make sure your dog’s diet matches their energy output, to keep them happy and energetic.
Some dog breeds have unique needs. For instance, schnauzers are susceptible to skin conditions and would benefit from a food that helps with coat and fur. Little chihuahuas can develop joint maladies and need a diet to support healthy muscles and joints. Whatever the breed puppies may be, explore their need for specific nutrition while you search for new food.
When your veterinarian has recommended changing your dog’s food to a prescription, they’ll likely be able to sell the brand directly to you. You won’t be paying for shipping when you buy from your vet, and it might be easier to keep track of when you purchase through them.
Can you feed a dog cat food?
No, dog’s are a completely different species than a cat. Dogs are omnivores and cats are carnivores, therefore they are unable to thrive off of each other’s food. Cat food contains different levels of elements like fat, calories, and protein. If dogs are consistently fed cat food, they are much more likely to become obese and develop life-threatening inflammatory conditions.
Leave the cat food to the kitties and feed your pup dog food!
How do you mix dog food when switching?
Let’s map out a menu for switching your dog food. Transition schedule methods are beneficial for allowing your dog time to get used to the new food.
Generally, it will take about 1 week to switch your pet food to the new brand. If you have a very sensitive dog, consider extending this timeline out, and in this way allow for extra transition time for your pet.
You’ll add in an amount of new food gradually by following the guidelines below:
- Day 1: 75% of old food, 25% of new food
- Day 2: Same as Day 1
- Day 3: Half old food, half new food
- Day 4: Same as Day 3
- Day 5: 25% of old food, 75% of new food
- Day 6: Same as Day 5
- Day 7: 100% of new food
By the end of the week, your dog will be eating the full amount of new food. Observe them over this transition week to make sure their new diet isn’t causing them excess stress. If they do start to show symptoms of diarrhea or tummy upset, slow the progress to the new food down a bit to allow them adequate time to adapt.
Remember: Just because the food seems great, doesn’t mean your pet will take well to it. Foods can be impressive, but ultimately, your dog has to be able to tolerate them. If it’s just not working out with the brand of dog food you’ve picked out, you’ll have to search for a different kind and start the process over again.
How long does dog diarrhea last when changing food?
During this transition week, you’ll be playing poop-detective. Changing up your dog’s diet is likely to cause some stomach issues. You’ll mostly see diarrhea, and maybe some vomiting or changes in appetite. Some dogs even develop skin irritations in response to diet changes. This is why it’s very important to approach this change gradually.
While skin and coat issues may take up to three months to resolve, gastrointestinal changes should correct much quicker. Your dog should have their symptoms resolve ideally within a few days of starting the new food, though this may take a bit longer. Mild diarrhea without any changes to eating and drinking habits is fine and will get better quickly.
If your pet is having moderate-severe consistent diarrhea, not eating or drinking, or losing weight, consult your vet right away.
The Last Bite
Good luck planning out your menu switch. By taking the time and paying attention, your dog’s gradual switch to a new food will be smooth as can be. You care a lot about your pet, and that’s obvious from the thought you put into researching this topic! If that’s not love in the language of a pup, we aren’t sure what is! Happy chomping!