As a pet owner, changing the food your dog eats each day can be a daunting task. Switching food can sometimes lead to an upset stomach and digestion problems if not executed correctly, which can be traumatic for your dog and upsetting to you as a pet parent. Knowing how to switch dog foods is not inherent knowledge that dog owners get when they find their dog, but it is a process that you need to be familiar with before you attempt to switch your dog’s food. If you have been wondering how to change dog foods but are unsure of where to start, this article will help guide you to change your dog’s food without the unwanted side effects.
Assessing the Reason for the Switch
Before you attempt to switch your dog’s food, it is important to examine the reason behind the change. Changing your dog’s food can be a complicated and gradual process, so before you embark on switching your dog’s food, it is important to analyze the reason prompting your decision and assess whether or not it is worth it. Below are a handful of the most common reasons that a pet owner may switch their dog’s food.
Age is one of the most common reasons why pet owners choose to switch their dog’s food. There is a huge variety of pet foods available tailored to different age groups. For example, pet foods created specifically for puppies will often feature an easy to digest formula, a higher number of calories, and a soft formula to account for their small puppy teeth. Many dog owners will switch their dog’s food as it transitions from being a puppy to having fully formed, adult teeth. Another potential age-related reason is to switch older dogs to a senior food that is softer for their teeth, easier to digest, lower in calories, or has essential nutrients, such as glucosamine, for their bones, joints, and overall health as they age.
A veterinarian may recommend a change in food if your dog is diagnosed with a certain type of medical condition. For example, dogs that develop canine diabetes or kidney disease often require a special diet to help offset symptoms and make it easier for their body to process.
Another reason a pet owner may choose to switch their dog’s food is due to a recall of their current food. If there is a recall of the food your dog is currently eating, it is vital that you stop feeding them that food immediately to limit their exposure to potentially harmful side effects or substances. In many cases, the recall will be limited to one specific type of a brand of food, so it is usually best to switch to a different flavor within the same brand in the interim until you can determine the ideal pet food for your dog. To stay abreast of food recalls, it is important to routinely check the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) website, which has a webpage dedicated to pet food recalls.
Some dogs may possess or develop a food allergy, which may require their food be switched to limit the appearance of symptoms. Common ingredients that dogs may be allergic to include beef, poultry, dairy, corn, wheat, potato, rice, and more. If you suspect your dog may be suffering from a food allergy, it is important to consult a licensed veterinarian to determine what specific foods your dog is allergic to so that you can tailor their diet accordingly. In many cases, adopting a limited ingredient diet will help to prevent the appearance of allergy symptoms since it helps to limit the number of possible allergens they are exposed to through their food. Many hypoallergenic dog foods rely on lesser used proteins, such as rabbit and venison, since there is a decreased likelihood that a dog will have an allergic reaction to them.
Generally, within the first month of switching dog food, the symptoms of a food allergy should begin to improve to resolve completely. Common symptoms of a food allergy include excessive hair loss, scabs, sores, inflamed, red skin, bald patches, itchiness, impacted anal glands, canine vomiting, chronic licking or biting to relieve itching, rash or skin irritations, loose stool/diarrhea, excessive flatulence, and/or ear infections in dogs. Once you are able to choose foods for dogs with allergies correctly, your dog’s symptoms should subside and he will be as good as new in no time at all!
A pet owner may also decide to switch foods because their dog is overweight or obese. Obesity in dogs can result in a number of other health issues, which can be dangerous. It is important to work with your veterinarian to determine the right food to switch your dog to if he is overweight. In some cases, changing to a wet food may help them to lose weight and avoid overeating because it has an increased water content, which helps the dog to feel fuller faster.
In some cases, a dog may exhibit vomiting, diarrhea, or other gastrointestinal issues due to their diet. To help resolve these issues, it is important to work with a veterinarian to determine the underlying cause. If the underlying cause of the gastrointestinal issues is the dog’s diet, then a change in food may help to correct and resolve the issues. It is important to switch the food gradually if the dog is suffering from gastrointestinal issues as a change in food could exacerbate these symptoms at first while their body is adjusting.
Just like human beings, dogs can become tired of their food over time. As a result, some pet owners may switch their food to make their dog be interested and excited to eat their food again. However, this is not something that should be attempted frequently since it can cause the dog to develop an upset stomach and subsequent gastrointestinal issues as a result. It is important not to switch foods frequently and to gradually transition your dog to limit the chances of an upset stomach. If your dog is doing well with their current food, it is usually best not to switch it. If you are planning to switch your dog’s food because they have become bored with their current food, be sure to carefully weigh the benefits and drawbacks before moving forward.
Finding the Right Food
Once you have determined that you want to switch your dog’s food, the next step is to find the right product to switch them to. The driving force behind this decision will be the reason prompting you to switch the food. For example, if your dog is suffering from a food allergy, you will want to look for hypoallergenic dog foods that do not contain the specific allergens your dog is allergic to. Below are a few tips to keep in mind as you look for the right food to switch your dog to.
Find a High-Quality Food
When looking for a food to switch your dog to, target foods that list a meat source as the first ingredient and have a vegetable as another top ingredient. It is important to stay away from dog foods that contain high quantities of soy, corn, or byproducts as these substances are added in cheap fillers to drive down the cost of the food and will not pack all of the nutrients your dog needs. It is also important to look for a food that is geared towards your specific dog. For example, some foods are created specifically for dogs with digestion issues, puppies, elderly dogs, dogs with diabetes, and more. Find a food that contains limited, high-quality ingredients that are tailored to your dog’s unique situation.
Check the Reviews
The internet has made it easier than ever to quickly see how other consumers feel about a certain product after purchasing and using it. To gauge how well-received a dog food you are considering is, look up their reviews online on various websites, forums, and community pages to see if there is anything you need to watch out for and whether or not it is the right choice for your dog.
Always Read the Ingredients
Labels can be deceptive and sometimes confusing to decode. Before selecting the right food for your dog, be sure to thoroughly read and analyze the ingredient list. Many foods will masquerade as being a great choice for your dog but might be filled with nutritionally deficient filler ingredients. When reading the ingredient list, be sure that the food does not contain any ingredients your dog is allergic to, other poultry byproducts, or any artificial preservatives and fillers.
Invest in Your Dog’s Health
It can be tempting to pick the cheapest food for your dog, but it is not always the best choice for their health in the long run. Dog foods that contain high-quality ingredients that will benefit your dog and aren’t packed with fillers often cost a few extra dollars. As long as your budget allows you, it is worth it to invest the extra money into your dog’s health to ensure that they are getting the nutrients they need.
Switching Your Dog’s Food
You’ve invested the time and energy necessary to analyze the reason for switching and have found the right food to switch your dog to, but how do you approach switching their food without negative side effects? The most important facet of switching your dog’s food is to do so gradually so that you can avoid unwanted gastrointestinal side effects and boost the chances that they will be receptive to their new food. Below are tips on how to switch your dog’s food while avoiding unwanted side effects.
Do a Taste Test
Before you switch your dog to a new food, it is important to find out whether or not they will be receptive to the food they are being switched to. The easiest way to find out whether or not your dog will like the food you have selected for it is to do a taste test. Simply grab a few pieces of the new dog food in your hand (it should be enough for a few bites but not so much that it will upset his stomach) and call your dog over to you. You can do this taste test in the place of a snack or a treat if you give either to your dog during the day. Once your dog has come over, simply open your hand and see how they react. If your dog tried one piece of the food before walking away and not finishing the rest, it is a safe bet that they do not like the food. If your dog tries the food and likes it, he will likely wag his tail and finish all of the food in your hand. It is a best practice to buy the smallest bag of food available for the taste test so that if your dog does not like the food you have selected, there is a minimal financial impact.
Gradually Switching His Food
To determine how gradually you need to switch your dog’s food, it is important to consult your dog’s veterinarian and analyze their unique situation. If your dog has a sensitive stomach, it is best to very slowly transition his food over a number of weeks. For most dogs, transitioning his food will take one to two weeks. The more gradually you change his food, the smaller the likelihood is that he will develop an upset stomach. Below are five phases of how to transition your dog to a new food. For each transition phase, continue in that phase until your dog’s stools are firm. Once they are firm, it is generally safe to switch to the next phase. If at any point during the transition your dog develops diarrhea or vomiting, seek the help of a licensed veterinarian immediately.
- Mix 80% of the old food with 20% of the new food
- Mix 60% of the old food with 40% of the new food
- Mix 40% of the old food with 60% of the new food
- Mix 20% of the old food with 80% of the new food
- Feed 100% of the new food
So there you have it. If for any reason you think it’s time to switch your dog’s food, go ahead and try. Just remember to take things slow and wait to see how your pup reacts. By following these guidelines listed above, you can ensure that your dog will have a positive experience while adjusting to a new food.