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How to Transition a Dog’s Foods: Diet Change Facts & Vet Approved Advice

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By Nicole Cosgrove

dry dog food

Vet approved

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Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Paola Cuevas

MVZ (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Depending on your dog’s life circumstances, it might be time to switch foods. You may have to transition your dog’s diet due to allergies, sensitivities, or other veterinary recommendations.

No matter your reason, it’s a great idea to get all of the information you can on how to switch them from one food to another properly. Let’s go over some tips on how to change foods correctly, reasons you might have to make the change, and some no-nos as well.

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Transitioning Dog Food

No matter your reasoning for switching dog food, you must start slow. If you change their diet too abruptly, it can cause gastrointestinal distress leading to vomiting and diarrhea. Not only are those messes that you don’t want to clean up, but your dog will be in pain because of it as well.

A good rule of thumb is to transition slowly over a week’s time. Follow these guidelines for optimal results:

Day 1 10% new / 90% old
Day 3 25% new / 75% old
Day 5 50% new / 50% old
Day 7 75% new / 25% old
Day 9 100% new diet

You need to make sure that you follow the recommendations and guidelines on the back of the dog food bag. They will have specifics. However, if you’re switching to a raw food diet or homemade diet of your own choosing, you can slowly start to do this by adding it into the existing commercial kibble.

Top 5 Reasons for Switching Dog Foods

Under veterinary guidance or on your own accord, you can decide to change up your dog’s diet. But there are a few primary reasons people try this. So, when is it time to make the swap?

1. Dog Life Stage Diet

When you bring your puppy home, it’s essential to store up on puppy chow. This food is made explicitly for underdeveloped dogs and gives them the correct amount of nutrients to support their growing bodies.

However, as they age, their bodies start to require different things. As your puppy transitions into adulthood, it is essential to give them a dry kibble or wet food suitable for their life stage. It will help them maintain their bodily functions without too many extra calories.

The same is true for senior pets. Older dogs need bodily support as their overall mobility functions decrease. After all, you want to make the golden years as good as possible.

Make sure you’re feeding your dog the right amount of food and the correct type for their lifestyle, check out our dog food calculator here.

The exact amount of calories an individual animal needs to maintain a healthy weight is variable and influenced by many factors including genetics, age, breed, and activity level. This tool is meant to be used only as a guideline for healthy individuals and does not substitute veterinary advice 

2. Dog Allergies

If you’ve had issues with your dog being symptomatic after eating, you and your vet might be trying to root out a cause. Once your dog undergoes food trials, your vet will uncover a food allergy if they have one.

If your dog is sensitive to a certain ingredient, you will need to buy a higher quality, specialized diet to eliminate the irritant.

The most common food allergies for dogs include:
  • Common meats
  • Dairy
  • Eggs
  • Soy
  • Wheat

Despite the recent grain-free diet craze, there is no scientific proof of benefits for dogs. It is rare for a dog actually to be gluten-intolerant. Research about grain-free diets shows potential negative impacts on the heart. So, always check with your vet to make sure your chosen diet is adequate for your pooch.

3. Dog Sensitivities

If your dog is sensitive, it might result in chronic upset stomach and other issues. Many veterinarians will try limited ingredient diets to eliminate all of the extras giving your dog only the nutrients they need.

This can help to soothe the digestive system, making it easier for your dog to enjoy their meals without repercussions. So, if you have a dog with belly issues like vomiting, diarrhea, and general malaise, it could be time to investigate the ingredients in the diet.

Sick French Bulldog
Image Credit: Mylene2401, Pixabay

4. Dog Food Affordability

Dog food can be downright expensive sometimes. If you have been on a costly dog food brand but found a better alternative, you might be looking to switch based on price. As with anything, you will still need to transition slowly since you will be changing the food recipe.

There are risks for adverse outcomes, such as triggering some allergy, as we discussed previously. Try to steer clear of as many artificial ingredients as possible.

5. Natural Diets for Dogs

Commercial kibble dog food diets have been commonplace for several years. However, in recent times, pet parents have gotten crafty in the kitchen, making homemade or raw dog food diets for their pooches.

Owners believe that this is a more natural approach to giving your dog the nutrition that their bodies require. This is an individual choice, but you will need to provide the proper additives and supplements to ensure your dog’s diet is complete and balanced. Proper food storage is also an important factor to consider.

If you’re transitioning to this type of diet, you’re going to want to check with your veterinarian to ensure that all ingredients are entirely safe. Also, all nutritional profiles need to be met to make sure your dog stays healthy.

wet and dry dog food
Image Credit: Yuriy Golub, Shutterstock

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Adverse Reactions to New Diets

Not every diet will agree with your dog’s digestive system. Every one of them has a different digestive response. You should notice by the second week if there are any adverse reactions to the new diet. However, in some cases, it can take longer.

Speak with your veterinarian if you notice any of the following signs after the switch:
  • Excessive itching
  • Skin inflammation
  • Hair loss
  • Hot spots
  • Recurring yeast infections
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Flatulence
  • Discomfort

The transition itself could cause signs such as vomiting, gas, and diarrhea. So, if those are the only signs they are exhibiting, you might want to wait a couple of days to see if it goes away.

However, if it becomes excessive and is accompanied by other signs, discontinue the use of the new dog food immediately. Either way, you will need to contact your vet for further guidance to make sure you are doing things correctly.

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Regardless of the reason for your transition, just make sure to do it slowly and effectively. You will need to gradually introduce your dog to their new diet over a week. If you do it too quickly, it can cause gastrointestinal upset.

Before switching your dog’s diet, always make sure to contact your veterinarian to be sure you’re making the right choices.

See also:

Featured Image Credit by Mat Coulton, Pixabay

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