How to Properly Change Your Dog’s Food

Changing a dog's food can cause issues, if you're not careful. See what a veterinarian says about how to properly change your dog's food.

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How to Properly Change Your Dogs Food

As a dog parent, there will come a time when you will have to change their food. While this might not seem like a big deal, it often turns out to be just that.

Knowing how to properly switch or transition to a new food can mean the difference between a happy, healthy pup and a week-long marathon of messes to clean up.

Why Would You Switch a Dog’s Food?

You’ve found a dog food that both you and your canine companion love, so why would you ever switch it? There are many reasons why you may have to change your dog’s food throughout the course of their lifetime.

  • Availability: As much as we hate it, sometimes the dog food that we choose isn’t available. Maybe it’s out of stock, your neighborhood pet store stops carrying it, or the company stops making it. Either way, if the food isn’t available, you’ll have to switch to something else.
  • Health issues: Allergies, age, or some health conditions, like diabetes, can call for a diet change for your dog. Maybe your dog just needs to lose weight and might do better with a reduced calorie diet.
  • Life stage: Puppies have different nutritional needs than adult dogs, who have different nutritional needs than seniors. As your pooch ages, they will need to transition to food formulated for different life stages in order to get the nutrients that they need.
  • Affordability: The best food for your dog is the one that you can afford. The most premium dog food isn’t any good if you can’t buy it for them. The cost of food plus your available budget for it plays a huge role in which food you buy your dog.
  • Personal preference: Sometimes either you or your dog just decides that they want something new, and that’s okay as long as you transition them to the new food properly.
Dog with Food in Bowl

Why is Transitioning Dog Foods Such a Big Deal?

You eat a variety of different foods every day. Different textures and flavors are what make us look forward to meals. However, the same isn’t true for your dog. In fact, their digestive tract becomes so efficient and effective at digesting their regular diet that a change can actually throw everything off. We’re talking diarrhea, vomiting, abdominal pain, gas, you name it. This is because the microbiome, or good bacteria in the gut, become so fine tuned to that nutrition that a change can actually cause some to die off, decreasing the efficacy of digestion.

A gradual change to a new diet can help those bacteria transition to digesting other ingredients and to recruit the help of different types of bugs to aid in the process without the sudden alteration that can lead to upset. So, how do you make that change gradual? Let’s find out.

Healthy Dog Food Ingredients
Healthy Dog Food Ingredients

How to Transition to Different Dog Foods

Not every pup is going to have a problem with new foods. In fact, some won’t even know the difference, while others may have troubles even switching flavors within the same brand. Rather than find out if your dog has an iron stomach or one that’s prone to mishap, follow these steps for a gradual transition.

Don’t wait until you’re out of the old food to begin. You’ll want about 3-4 days left in order to properly transition.

Dog Food Change Schedule

  • Day 1: Mix about 20% new food with 80% old food.
  • Day 2: Mix about 40% new food with 60% old food.
  • Day 3: Mix about 60% new food with 40% old food.
  • Day 4: Mix about 80% new food with 20% old food.
  • Day 5: Feed 100% new food.

If at any time during this transition your dog experiences vomiting, diarrhea, or stops eating, return to the previous day’s mixing percentage and stay there for a little while longer. Remember, this is just a general guideline. Some dogs might do better with a 10-day approach where you allow two days on a mixture and then increase the amounts of new food. Other dogs might do fine with a shortened version at 2-3 days.

Puppy With Healthy Food in Bowl

If you’ve had success transitioning food in the past or if you know your pup’s stomach will be finicky, adjust accordingly. Also, look to your dog food label, it will often supply recommended guidelines as well. If not, nothing beats the first-hand advice from your veterinarian.

Dog food transitioning is often not a concern with prescription diets or if your pup is ill. Usually if your veterinarian recommends a diet change for issues like kidney disease or gastritis, they want to see the affects of a diet change more immediately and may have you forego the transition and start with the new food right away.

Final Thoughts

Sometimes as dog parents, we think we’re doing our pup a favor by giving them different foods every day. Instead of exciting their tastebuds, these sudden changes can actually lead to an upset digestive system that struggles to digest food with any efficiency. Rather than give our dogs new foods frequently, a gradual adjustment over a periods of 5-7 days will actually make a smoother transition to a new dog food brand, flavor, or life stage formulation.