There are a lot of reasons you may decide to change your dog’s food. You may be curious about a new brand, starting your dog on a more specialized diet, or changing food based on your dog’s life stage… or your lifestyle. There’s also a chance you are dealing with a picky eater who has suddenly decided they don’t like their old food.
There’s nothing wrong with changing your pup's food occasionally. In fact, it can even be beneficial. Changing foods every few months can lead to a more tolerant tummy and fewer food-related allergies.
But before you run out and buy a new bag of food as soon as the old one runs out, remember, there is a right way to transition your dog to a new food. We’ve put together some tips on the right steps to take to change up your dog’s diet. Plus, we’ve included some signs that it might be time to start thinking about a food change. Let’s get to it!
Signs Your Dog Might Benefit From A New Food
Even if your dog has been on the same food for her entire life, there might come a time when her nutritional needs change. This can be because of age, a change in activity level, illness, or the quality of the food.
Keep your eye open for these signs:
Dry coat and itchy skin- If your dog is otherwise healthy, but her coat is looking a little scraggly, a change of food can help. Look for food rich in omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids to help make her coat gleam again.
Weight gain- Unfortunately, our pets aren’t immune to weight gain. Just like us, they can easily gain weight from decreased activity and/or higher calorie intake. If your dog has started getting festively plump, you may need to change to a lower-calorie, nutrient-dense food.
Decreased energy- Has your dog seemed a little tired and draggy lately? If she has recently been sick, or if she seems off but has a clean bill of health, it could be the food. Foods high in antioxidants can help recharge your dog’s diet and get her back on track.
Tummy troubles- Food allergies in dogs are rare, but sensitivities can happen. A change in the quality of ingredients your usual trusted brand uses can also trigger GI issues. If your dog is always gassy or has had frequent loose stools, it might be time for a change.
How To Start Your Dog On A New Food
Some dogs have stomachs of steel. Others are much more delicate. No matter which side of the spectrum your dog is on, slow and steady is best when making the transition to a new food.
Why is slow best even for dumpster stomach dogs? This is so if they suddenly develop an upset stomach, or any other problem, you can determine if it was caused by the new food or something else. For example, a virus, or something they got into, could just happen to coincide with changing her food. Set yourself up for success by approaching things slowly and methodically. This will help you stay informed along the way.
An upset stomach when switching to a new food isn’t always caused by food sensitivities. In fact, food allergies in dogs are pretty rare. Instead, an upset tummy is likely to be caused by a change in your dog’s microbiome.
The microbiome is made up of all the bacteria, fungi, and other microorganisms that live in and on us. Most of these bacteria make their home in the gut, and even though everything they do is still a mystery, our gut flora plays an important role in our health.
Disturbance to the microbiome can cause digestive upset. An unbalanced microbiome can lead to dysbiosis; this is when one microorganism has begun to take over all the others. This can happen due to antibiotic use, sickness, and an abrupt change in diet.
So how can you change your dog’s food and avoid a midnight surprise on your carpet?
First, consider adding a probiotic to your dog’s food. This will help protect and replenish their gut bacteria. You can find probiotics for dogs in a powder form that is easy to add to their food.
It will take around 10 days to completely transition your dog to her new food. If your dog is handling the transition well, you may be able to complete it in 5-7 days. You will start by slowly mixing in a small amount of the new food with her current food. Do this for 3 days.
If she seems to be tolerating having something new introduced, add a little more of the new food to the old food. You will continue this until she is eating 100% new food and the old food has been phased out.
Schedule To Introduce A New Food To Your Dog
Introduce the new food using these proportions:
Day 1-3: 75% old food 25% new food
Day 4-6: 50% old food 50% new food
Day 7-9: 75% new food 25% old food
Day 10: 100% new food
If your dog seems to be doing well but suddenly gets an upset tummy when you increase the amount of new food in the mix, decrease the amount you add for a few more days to see if she adjusts. Some dogs have digestive systems that take a little longer to adjust to new foods than others.
If your dog seems to be having difficulty adjusting, there may be something in the new food that they can’t tolerate. You may need to try switching to a different food. If the food you are transitioning to is a special diet recommended by your dog’s vet, make sure you contact them before you make any changes.
Finding the right food can certainly take a little bit of trial and error for some dogs. Our best tip? Stay patient and take things slowly. Your dog (and sanity) will thank you!