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How Should You Change Your Dog’s Food?

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By LITTLE PUPPY PAWS | April 21, 2023
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You may want to change your dog’s diet for many reasons. Perhaps your dog has developed food allergies or intolerances, or you’ve decided to switch to a more natural or organic diet. Whatever the reason, it’s important to make the change carefully and thoughtfully to ensure your dog’s nutritional needs are met. But what is the right way to switch their diet?

Switching your dog’s food suddenly can lead to digestive issues such as vomiting, diarrhea, and constipation. It’s important to transition to a new diet gradually over 7-10 days to give your dog’s digestive system time to adjust.

Best Ways to Switch or Change Your Dog’s Food

Changing your dog’s diet should always be done gradually to avoid upsetting their digestive system. Here is what you can do:

Slowly Integrating the New Food

Changing your dog’s food too quickly can result in gastrointestinal upset, such as vomiting, diarrhea, and a loss of appetite. When changing your dog’s food, you should do so gradually to give your dog’s system time to adjust to the change. These transitions should ideally take 5-7 days. During this transition, you will gradually incorporate more and more of the new food into your dog’s current diet. A good diet transition for most dogs will look like this:

  • Day 1 consists of a 25% new diet and 75% old diet.
  • Day 3: 50/50 new and old diet.
  • Day 5 consists of 75% new diet and 25% old diet.
  • Day 7: Completely new diet.

Some dogs, especially those with sensitive stomachs, food allergies, or other gastrointestinal diseases, may require a more extended transition period. Monitoring your dog’s response is essential for a successful diet transition. If your dog exhibits any concerning signs during the diet transition, such as changes in appetite, vomiting, or diarrhea, you should proceed cautiously. If you have gradually transitioned your dog and are still experiencing stomach upset, it is best to consult your veterinarian. In some cases, switching to a different diet may be necessary.

Adverse Reaction to Food

An adverse food reaction is a catch-all term for various food-related illnesses in dogs, including food allergies, food intolerance, and other gastrointestinal diseases. Many owners describe their dogs as having “food allergies,” but this is not always true. True allergies involve a particular immune system response in the dog, which is not always definitively diagnosed. As a result, it is more accurate to refer to these occurrences as adverse food reactions.

Food allergies can manifest as gastrointestinal symptoms, cutaneous symptoms, or a combination of the two. Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and changes in appetite are gastrointestinal symptoms of an adverse food reaction. Cutaneous symptoms include a wide range of symptoms, such as itching, skin inflammation, hair loss, and various rashes. Many other illnesses can cause similar symptoms, so it is critical to have your dog evaluated by a veterinarian if these symptoms appear.

If your veterinarian suspects your dog has an adverse food reaction, an elimination diet trial may be recommended. This means your dog will only eat a prescription hypoallergenic diet for at least eight weeks and no other food sources. If your dog’s symptoms improve during the diet trial, this could indicate that food was to blame. At the end of the eight-week problem, your veterinarian may conduct a challenge trial to reintroduce certain foods into your dog’s diet to see if they cause another reaction. The challenge trial can assist you and your veterinarian in determining which foods are problematic for your dog so that you can avoid them in the future.