For many years, pet owners were advised by veterinarians and other pet experts to find a good food for their pet and then feed that food for the pet's lifetime. However, the introduction of puppy foods, adult formulas, foods for senior citizen pets, and foods for certain health situations created new guidelines for feeding our pets. But even with all of these various foods, pet owners tended to stay with one brand. Today, however, the rules for feeding both dogs and cats are not so firmly established and most pet owners seem more willing try different foods.
No matter what you decide to feed your dog or cat, any changes need to be made gradually so as not to upset your pet's digestive system. Diarrhea and an upset tummy are no fun for anyone.
Common Reasons To Change A Dog’s Food
You might be transitioning a dog’s food for a number of reasons. Below we’ve listed out some of the most common times dog owner’s, like yourself, choose to switch their dog to a new brand or diet completely.
- Your dog has food allergies or sensitivities
- Your dog needs to lose or gain weight
- You brought home a new puppy or adopted a dog
- Your dog is aging out of their old food
- Your dog is a picky eater
One-Week Food Transition Timeline For Your Dog
Most resources stress the importance of giving your dog time to adjust to their new food. New tastes, new textures, and new nutritional ingredients when switched too quickly can be overwhelming for your pet. Here are simple guidelines to follow over a week.
- Day 1-2: Mix the new and old food together at a ratio of 75% old food to 25% new food
- Day 3-4: Try a 50% mix of old and new food
- Day 5-6: Try a majority mix of new food; 75% new to 25% old.
- Day 7-8: Completely transition your dog to his new food
6 Tips to Help Successfully Change Your Dog’s Food
1) The 25% Rule is Good for Most Dogs
As shown in the outline, a dog or puppy should be given time to transition to a new food. The 25% rule is often outlined as the current best practice, but feel free to adjust based on how well your pup responds to its diet change. Some trainers prefer to take it much slower, utilizing a more gradual 3-week process instead.
2) For Dogs With Food Allergies, Try An Elimination Diet
Dog food allergies certainly call for a change in diet to prevent your dog from suffering the consequences of consuming food he or she can’t tolerate. However, sometimes it can be hard to know exactly what part of the ingredient list they’re allergic to. In this case, make a dog elimination diet a part of the food transition process. This will help you identify which foods are safe to switch to.
3) Offer Small Meals Frequently
Several small meals offered throughout the day can tempt a hesitant eater. The total amount fed in these smaller meals should equal the normal daily amount and the ratio of change should remain the same. However, offering small frequent meals can make eating more appealing when the pet is being fed a new food that is different from what he's used to eating.
4) Warm Food Smells Better
Dogs or cats who aren't sure the new food is worth eating can often be convinced otherwise if the food is warmed. This makes the food smell better and since the sense of smell is important to both dogs and cats, this can encourage the pet to try the new food.
5) Add More Water
Adding some warm water can also make the food more appealing. Instead of water you can add a little broth to the food. A low or no sodium beef, chicken, turkey, or even a vegetable broth can add extra flavor and smell to the food while the extra liquid dilutes the food and makes it softer.
6) When Adopting A New Dog, Ask What Food They Are Currently Eating
Transitioning your new puppy or adopted dog to the high-quality dog food that you’re about to feed them has to be done with care. Make sure that you ask the breeder, agency, or person who currently owns the dog what they’re feeding them. You’ll want to be sure to have a small transition bag of their current food so that you can follow the 25% adjustments mentioned in the timeline above in your switch.