Switching Dog Food? Ease Into It
The New Year is here and many things are changing, and maybe you’ve found a need to switch dog food for your cherished furry friend, whether it’s price, or ingredients, or allergy, or prescription from a veterinarian. There’s a way to switch foods that makes it more pleasant for your dog, and helps you to avoid any nasty side effects from sudden dietary changes. Today we’re talking about the why’s and how’s of switching dog foods with minimal interference in your dog’s daily life.
Why does it matter how I switch foods?
Sometimes dogs have sensitive stomachs, especially if they were not raised previously with a variety of foods. In my experience, veterinarians have generally advised that once you find a food that helps the dog flourish, stay alert, and active, then don’t change it unnecessarily. But sometimes we have to change.
Just switching foods “cold turkey” can have some pretty drastic side effects. Your dog can refuse to eat until you give him the old food. Or, your dog can eat the new food, then throw it back up. Even if you get them to eat, your dog can have bowel issues, usually diarrhea, after having a drastic food change. If you’ve ever taken your dog in to the vet for any of these issues, usually the first question they ask is, “have you changed their food recently?”
There’s a right way to change their food to avoid most or even all of these issues.
Slow and easy
Let’s say your pup is really itchy all the time, and fleas and mites have been ruled out. Your veterinarian or pet food expert has suggested a grain-free diet to see if that will help stop the itching.
So, you come to Shell’s Feed and you pick up one of our grain-free varieties of food (we have quite a few to choose from). When switching foods, you will need to have a few day’s worth of their current food to use in the switching process, so keep that in mind when you are getting ready for a switch…you need a decent supply of the old food to do this right. I would also suggest trying to find a similar flavor (fish to fish, beef to beef, etc) to the one they have, but in the new brand, if possible.
The switch should happen over a few days:
Day 1: Mix ¼ volume of new food into the total food volume. So, if your dog gets 1 cup of food per feeding, ¼ cup of this first “switch” meal should be the new food. Do this for the first day regardless of how many times you feed your dog in a day.
Day 2-3: Mix ½ volume of new food into the total food volume. Watch for any signs of bowel trouble or “picking” at the food to remove the bits they want. If there are issues, back down to the previous mixture for a couple more days.
Day 4-5: Mix ¾ volume of new food into the total food volume. Continue to watch for signs of issues. If there are problems, go back down to the previous mixture for a couple more days.
Day 6: Complete the switch and introduce 100% new food. Keep watching for trouble, but if they’ve made it this far, everything should be just fine.
On rare occasions we have to switch dog food brands because of a recall, which is very serious and needs to be done right away. You won’t have a week to ease into it, which is not ideal. When that happens, it’s also really important to try to find the same flavor of food as their normal brand. Offer a small meal of the new food. If the dog eats it and has no issues with digestion, offer another small meal a few hours later. Gradually increase the size of the meal and the length of time between until you are on your regular schedule again.
If the dog doesn’t want the new food, pick it up, and offer no other food or treats, for about 8 hours, and then try again (They give you adorable puppy eyes, but be strong, this is for their own good). If they still don’t eat it then try again, up to 48 hours. It is ok for your dog to be a little hungry in this process, but past 48 hours you need to see a veterinarian or try another formula of food. What you don’t want to do is keep trying different flavors over a very short period of time. You’ll create a very finicky dog, because (just like a child) they figure out that they can manipulate you.
If you already know your dog has a terrible tummy, you can try a probiotic in the food to help them digest successfully. This is good to add even when they are not switching foods to keep their gut active, healthy, and providing all the nutrients from the food that they can.
I hope this article helps when you’re faced with changing your dog’s food, for whatever reason. Having a happy dog is the best feeling ever, and we want to keep it that way!
Marissa – Writer for Shell's Feed & Garden Supply
I'm an over-educated, passionate, gardening and pet enthusiast, and I have found the perfect job! My writing is based on my studies in Biology and Health, and my experiences from gardening with my family as a child.
The great thing about gardening is that it is a life-long learning process. The many blunders and successes of my own gardening projects over the years have been invaluable to me. The late, great, J.C. Raulston once said, "If you're not killing plants, you're not stretching yourself as a gardener." Learn by doing, gain knowledge from the failures, but more importantly, relish the successes, (because they're delicious!) Thanks for reading!
Special thank you to Abby's Farms, where the photo on the left was taken. Shell's Feed & Garden Supply sponsors the chickens and chicken coops there. Visit their website here.