You noticed your dog recently refuses to eat their food, and you're worried. You've already replaced their old food bowl with something more attention-grabbing. Still, there seems to be no positive change in their eating habits. Perhaps changing dog food is your next step.
Whether it’s because of a medical issue, age, or just a general disinterest in the food, pet parents must handle changes in their dog’s diet with great care and caution. We’re here to help! This guide will teach you the ropes in changing dog food and how to switch your dog’s diet safely.
Let’s begin by learning why a dog food transition is a natural and common occurrence in any dog’s life.
When to Change Your Dog’s Food
Switch it up. Switching dog food doesn’t just happen because your little furry friend is sick of their current set of meals. In fact, experts advise dog owners to change their pet’s food every three months routinely. Doing so gives their diet variety and prevents food allergies from developing.
Eating certain types of food for a long time may cause a dog’s body to gradually identify specific ingredients as harmful, leading to allergic reactions. Besides avoiding allergies, rotating their diet can also ensure your dog receives the necessary nutrients.
You must prepare for dietary transitions if:
Your dog refuses to eat and shows disinterest in their current food.
Your puppy is growing up to be an adult, or your adult dog is becoming a senior dog.
Your veterinarian recommends doing so to manage chronic medical conditions (obesity, osteoarthritis, diabetes, etc.)
Your pet develops food allergies to their food.
Your dog exhibits gastrointestinal problems and other adverse reactions to their current diet.
It’s been a while since your dog has eaten something new.
To new pet owners, food transitions might seem simple and quick. However, abruptly switching dog foods the next day won’t help your dog change their eating habits effectively and safely.
You must gradually change your dog’s current food to a new set of meals. Doing so prevents your pet from developing several gastrointestinal issues, such as vomiting, diarrhea, and problems with their appetite.
How to Switch Dog Food Effectively
The duration of the food change will vary depending on your dog’s gut health and sensitivity. Some dogs can transition to new diets quickly and smoothly, while others experience several issues before successfully transitioning.
For dogs with few dietary issues, it is highly recommended that their owners conduct dietary transitions within a 7 to 10-day period. On the other hand, a three- to four-week period is advisable for more sensitive dogs.
In general, owners must slowly introduce the new food to their dogs daily, adding slightly bigger portions each day.
Here is a simple schedule to guide you and give an example of how gradual food transitions must go.
25% new dog food, 75% current dog food
50% new, 50% current
75% new, 25% current
100% new food
Reactions to Sudden Dog Food Change
As always, not every transition will go smoothly. Sometimes, it can be small and harmless hurdles, like your dog refusing to eat their new food. However, it can quickly become serious and lead to more severe intestinal issues if not treated promptly or if your dog has underlying conditions.
To help you out, here are a few diet-change side effects that may occur during your dog’s transition period and how you can manage them.
Abrupt food transitions will not give the good bacteria in your pet’s intestines enough time to adapt to the change, causing mild diarrhea. When this issue occurs, give your dog a bland diet and probiotics to help them recover.
Switching dog foods is often accompanied by poor digestion due to their system’s unfamiliarity with the new diet, leading to excessive flatulence. Gassiness is normal during transitions and will slowly disappear throughout the transition period.
Sudden transitions can also lead to your dog vomiting several times, depending on how much they’ve eaten. This issue occurs due to the dog’s intestines' inability to adapt and adjust well to the new diet.
Instead of giving them food, give them water and let their stomach recover for a while. Try giving them the new dog food again after a few hours. If the vomiting continues, bring your pet to the veterinarian as soon as possible.
Lack of appetite
Nausea and the above-mentioned gastrointestinal problems can result in your dog having a lack of appetite. Similar to how you’d address vomiting, ensure your dog gets enough water and let their appetite rest for a few hours before re-introducing the new food.
It’s worth noting that while these side effects may seem mild, they can lead to more harmful medical problems if left untreated. If these symptoms persist for the next few days, you must visit the veterinarian immediately and have your dog checked.
Choosing the Right Dog Foods and Treats
We’ve discussed when and how to transition your dog’s diet effectively and safely. Now, it’s time to learn what to include in your dog’s new diet.
Your dog must generally receive sufficient amounts of essential nutrients, such as proteins, vitamins, minerals, and water. Regularly changing their food allows them to get these nutrients adequately.
Reading food labels and ingredients is crucial to ensure their bodies get enough nourishment from their food. In addition, you also have to make sure the food and treats follow the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) guidelines.
Changing Dog Food Due to Age
Switching dog food because of age is a little more complicated. As you may know, the amount of certain nutrients a dog needs will vary depending on their age. For example, a puppy will need more protein and fat than senior dogs, and so on.
During these food transitions, you can’t hastily change your dog’s food without adequately evaluating the dietary needs of each life stage.
Puppy to Adult Dog Food
Once your puppy turns a year old, they have successfully reached adulthood. If an adult dog continues to eat puppy or all-life-stage food, they may develop specific health issues, like obesity.
Before switching from puppy food to adult dog food, it’s essential to familiarize yourself with the dietary needs and habits of adult dogs. Unlike puppies, who may eat thrice a day, adult dogs typically only eat twice daily.
While a puppy will need more proteins and fats, an adult dog’s diet must have more carbohydrates and fibers. Check the nutrition list and label of the adult dog food to ensure they receive these nutrients.
Adult to Senior Dog Food
When your dog turns eight years old, they become a mature or senior dog. Like the puppy to adult dog food transition, you must first learn the nutritional needs of senior dogs before going through with the switch.
Senior dogs must generally have lower calorie intake to avoid issues such as obesity, kidney diseases, and cancer. However, many older dogs might need more calories to sustain their body. Nevertheless, it’s best to consult your veterinarian about your senior dog’s diet.
Similar to the previous life stage, you must check dog food labels to ensure they match your pet's nutritional needs. Keeping your pup's food brand consistent throughout their life stages will also help.
Tired of Worrying Over Your Dog’s Food?
Feeding your dog isn’t as simple as counting to ten. Besides knowing the nutritional needs and habits, you must also learn how to safely and effectively transition them from one diet to another. Hopefully, the tips above will help you understand how to change your dog’s food.
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