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How to Switch a Dog to a New Dog Food

Picture of a dog eating dry dog food

With so many different brands of dog foods today it’s not unusual for dog lovers to change their dog’s food. Do you know how to switch a dog to a new dog food? Even though dogs are descended from wild carnivores they can have a surprisingly delicate digestive system at times. Even something as simple as changing from one kind of kibble to another can lead to an upset stomach and diarrhea. We have some helpful tips so you can switch your dog’s food safely and easily.

Why would you switch your dog’s food?

There are lots of reasons why you might need to switch your dog to a new dog food. Some of these reasons include:

  • Your puppy has grown into an adult dog and needs an adult dog food;
  • Your adult dog is older and needs a senior dog food;
  • Your dog might have some dietary problems with his current food;
  • Your dog might not be thriving on his current food (poor skin and coat, not keeping good weight);
  • Your dog doesn’t enjoy his food or want to eat it;
  • Your dog has a health issue that requires a different food;
  • You want to buy a better quality food;
  • The food you have been feeding has changed ingredients.

These are just some of the reasons why people change dog foods. You can probably think of many others. People also change dog foods for budgetary reasons. You might decide that you don’t want to pay $90 for a bag of dog food if you have found a comparable brand for $60 per bag, for example.

How to switch your dog’s food

There are some dogs that have a cast iron stomach. These dogs seem to be able to eat anything and everything. Nothing ever bothers them – certainly not changing kibble. However, not all dogs are like this. Most dogs will have at least some diarrhea or loose stool if you switch to a new dog food suddenly. That’s why the common advice when changing dog food is to make the change slowly. This is true whether you are changing from one brand of kibble to another; from kibble to canned; or from one kind of canned food to another. (Changing from one recipe to another in the same brand is not usually a problem because most of the ingredients remain the same.)

Most veterinarians and dog food companies advise owners to change foods in the following way:

  • Day 1: Mix 20 percent of the new food with 80 percent of your dog’s old food.
  • Day 2: Mix 40 percent of the new food with 60 percent of your dog’s old food.
  • Day 3: Mix 60 percent of the new food with 40 percent of your dog’s old food.
  • Day 4: Mix 80 percent of the new food with 20 percent of your dog’s old food.
  • Day 5: You can give your dog 100 percent new food.

If your dog shows signs of having an upset stomach or diarrhea during this process, slow down and go back to the point where he was eating the food without any problems. This may mean completely going back to the old food until your dog’s digestive system is normal again. If problems persist with trying to change to a new food, see your veterinarian.

This method of making a gradual change is especially good for dogs that are picky eaters.

You can also check the web site for your dog’s food. Most dog food companies offer suggestions about how to switch foods on their web pages in the “Feeding Guidelines” section.

It’s worth noting that many dogs will eat a new food with excitement and then start to lose interest in it after a few days. Don’t be discouraged if your dog is not as thrilled with a new food after the newness wears off. If you keep changing foods over and over it can lead to chronic digestive problems. So, encourage your dog to eat the new food even if he’s poking you for something else that’s newer and more exciting. If your dog always wants something new you can try adding a little food topper to make the food more appealing. Food toppers are sold in pet food stores and online. Or, you can simply add a spoonful of canned dog food to your dog’s kibble to make it more appealing.

Conclusion

Most dogs do best if you make changes to their diet gradually. It can take five days or longer to slowly replace your dog’s old food with new dog food in his meals. If your dog shows signs of having any digestive upset you should reverse course. Go back to the mixture you were feeding or the old dog food until your dog’s system has recovered. Your dog should adjust to the new diet in a short time. If your dog has any long-term digestive problems, be sure to contact your vet.

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