How to Properly Transition Your Dog's Food

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There are plenty of reasons you may want to switch your dog’s current food. Perhaps your dog has been diagnosed with a health issue, you’re looking to switch to a more premium dog food, or maybe your dog is just getting older and needs something that better fits their changing nutritional needs.

It is important that your dog switch their food gradually. Switching dog food too fast can lead to tummy trouble for your furry companion. This is particularly important after adopting a dog from shelter; while it is often a good idea to keep your dog on the same food that he was fed at shelter, if you do decide to feed something else you might need to be even more patient. While a dog is adjusting to a new home, he might have anxieties and as a result digestion issues. Because of this reason, many pet parents may blame the food for the digestion issues. While that can be possible, it’s best to not do a bunch of switches in the first month or so until your dog starts to get familiar with their new home.

To transition, mix your dog’s current food with their new food. Over 7 days, gradually decrease the amount of the current dog food while increasing the amount of new dog food.

How to Switch Your Dog's Food Safely

 

Switching dog food cold turkey may not seem difficult for some dogs, but a thoughtful and gradual food transition can help your dog avoid any side effects of switching, like diarrhea or stomach upset.

To help you with the switch and dog food transition, refer to the 7-Day Transition Schedule below:

Days 1 and 2

Graphic showing pet food bowl with red diagram for new food and white for old food.

Days 3 and 4

Graphic showing pet food bowl with red diagram for new food and white for old food.

Days 5 and 6

Graphic showing pet food bowl with red diagram for new food and white for old food.

Day 7

Graphic showing pet food bowl with red diagram for new food and white for old food.

When to Transition Your Dog's Food

Remember these tips when switching your dog’s food:

  • Puppies become adults at 12 months of age and should transition to an adult dog food to ensure they are receiving proper nutrient levels for adult dogs. If you have a large breed dog, talk to your vet first, as they may recommend keeping them on their puppy food a few months longer to ensure they get the proper calories to grow to their full adult form.
  • Remember large and small breed puppies should be transitioned to the appropriate breed-size adult dog food to ensure that their special needs are met.
  • For small and medium size dogs who are older — about the age of 7 — they should transition to a mature adult or senior dog food to ensure they are receiving the appropriate level of nutrients for that older lifestage.
  • Larger breed dogs should transition to a senior dog food around the age of 6 as their bones and muscles age a little quicker than their smaller counterparts.
  • Follow the feeding guidelines: when mixing the old and new food together, it is important to continue to feed the proper amounts, so be sure to use measuring cups and do your best to get the instructed calorie count correct.

Special Considerations and Additional Tips

Pregnancy: Pregnant or nursing dogs need energy-dense foods with increased calcium content so be sure to transition them during this special time to puppy food.

During pregnancy or nursing, large breed dogs should be switched to regular puppy food, not a large breed puppy food.

Health Reasons: If your veterinarian has recommended therapeutic dog food for a specific health condition, please be sure to discuss transitioning to the new dog food in detail. There could be some special considerations and suggestions as far as the transition schedule to ensure success.

Transitioning Between Dry and Wet: Whether your dog is getting older and needs a softer food or you’re just looking to provide a different texture and taste, transitioning between dry and wet dog food should follow a similar transition schedule of mixing in the old with the new.

If you decide you just want to use canned dog food as a topper to their normal dry food, be sure to check with your vet on the proper amounts, so as to not go over his daily caloric intake requirements.

For whatever reason you need to update your dog’s food, switching food while mixing in some of the old food is the best way to ensure your switch is a successful one. Remember that whenever you’re making a decision about your pet’s health, you should consult your veterinarian and adhere to the recommended feeding guides on your pet food’s packaging.

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