There are many reasons to mix up what’s in your pet's bowl. Maybe you’re looking to offer your dog more variety in his food, or maybe you're trying to address a health concern.
Whatever the reason, there are a few fail-safe ways to switch your dog to a new food with ease and without digestive upset.
Here are some tips on how to transition dog food.
How Fast To Transition Dog Food
Regardless of what kind of food you’re switching your dog to, for most dogs, it’s important to go slow. People eat different food every day, but for many dogs, eating new food is a rare occurrence … although ideally, it shouldn't be (more on that later).
If your dog isn’t used to having new food in his bowl, it can cause digestive upset … and he might even refuse to eat it.
Although you may think your dog has an "iron stomach,” transitioning to a new food too quickly can create some unpleasant side effects. Here are some symptoms of changing dog food too quickly:
- Gas and bloating
- Refusal to eat
Transition Meal Plan
To help avoid these undesirable symptoms of switching foods too quickly, you’ll want to gradually mix the new food in with your dog’s current food. Slowly increase the amount of new food and reduce the amount of old food, over a period of 5 to 7 days.
Days 1-2: 25% new food, 75% old food
Days 3-4: 50% new food and 50% old food
Days 5-6: 75% new food and 25% old food
Day 7 On: 100% new food.
Note: This is just a guideline. Dogs struggling with digestive issues or those who’ve been eating the same food for a long time may need a slower transition and could benefit from digestive enzyme and probiotic supplements to ease the transition.
If your dog has digestive upset when you add in a portion of new food, this could be an indication that his gut health needs improvement.
How To Transition Dog Food For Puppies
When switching puppies over to a new food, you should be able to switch them over quickly – even cold turkey – especially if you’re switching to a raw diet. But if you notice any tummy upset, back off and switch gradually instead, following the Transition Meal Plan above.
RELATED: Starting your puppy on a raw diet …
How To Switch Your Dog To Raw Food
Depending on who you ask, you'll get a wide range of answers to the question, "How do I switch my dog to raw food?" Some people will tell you never to mix kibble and raw food. Others will say that there's no problem with it.
The reality is every dog is different. There are two approaches to switching your dog to raw food ...
This method is best suited to puppies and young dogs as they tend to have digestive systems better equipped to handle new foods.
- For adults (not puppies), fast your dog for 12-24 hours and then feed the raw food.
- For puppies, just start them on the new raw food right away.
There is a greater potential for digestive upset with this method, but many dogs handle it without issue. One reason for this is that raw diets are much more natural and easily digestible for dogs ... raw is what dogs are supposed to eat!
Gradually switching is very similar to the kibble transition plan above. You start by replacing 25% of the kibble with raw. Then slowly increase the amount of raw and decrease the amount of kibble over 1 to 2 weeks.
This strategy is good for all ages of dogs and can be more gentle for those with sensitive stomachs.
You may want to add in a few supplements that support digestion, such as probiotics and digestive enzymes.
The Benefits Of Rotating Your Dog’s Food
There are many benefits to feeding your dog a variety of foods. So once you’ve transitioned him over to his new food, consider routinely mixing things up or adding in some fun bowl toppers. Here are just a few of the reasons you might want to switch up your dog’s food:
Your Dog Will Be Less Picky
When your dog gets used to having new and exciting things added to his bowl, he is much less likely to be a fussy eater. You probably wouldn't want to eat the exact same food day in and day out… neither does your dog. Rotate through different brands of food and different proteins to give your dog as much variety as possible.
Better Gut Health
Eating a wide range of foods (eg different meats, organs, bones, fruits, veggies, etc) can help your dog have stronger and more diverse gut bacteria. Eating a variety of food also provides your dog with a wider range of nutrients. It also helps your dog’s digestive system get used to variety, so it will be easier if you have to switch again in future.
It Can Help In Emergencies
In an emergency, your dog may not be able to eat his normal food. Combine that with the stress of a new situation, and your dog may refuse to eat anything at all. It's extremely helpful to have a dog who is flexible in what he will eat to prepare for this possibility.
Overall the best way to switch your dog to a new food while avoiding digestive upset is to go slow. If you do decide to do a cold turkey switch to a new food add in some gut soothing herbs like slippery elm and marshmallow root.
- University of Helsinki. "A puppy’s diet seems to be a significant factor in the development of allergy and atopy related skin symptoms in adult dogs." ScienceDaily. 18 November 2021.