How To Switch Your Dog's Food
When it comes to looking after your dog, it’s always important to get their diet right - always making sure they’re getting all the nutrition they need. There are a few things you should consider when working out what to feed your dog, including their breed, size, age, and lifestyle.
It'll get easier to judge how your dog is reacting to a change in food the more you know them. If you’re unsure where to start, it’s best to talk to your vet, but if you’re ready to switch up your dog’s food to a different brand or style, we have tips on how to make the transition easier on your pup’s tummy.
There is a wide range of reasons why you might need to change up your dog’s food, whether you’ve been advised to switch it by your vet, your puppy’s now an adult, your dog is now classed as a senior or they have a suspected allergy to food. Whatever the reason, it can be tricky to get your dog to make the switch.
Some take a change in food in their stride, whereas others need a bit more time for their tastebuds to warm up to it or to feel more settled into the new routine!
Petlab Co. Pro Tip: If you feed your dog dry food, they’ll need to drink more water than dogs who eat wet food, due to the lack of moisture in the dry food.
Did you know that the most common food reactions in dogs are from beef, dairy, chicken, and wheat?
Just like us, dogs can develop allergies and intolerances to food. Dogs with food sensitivities can present a variety of symptoms including (but not limited to) gastrointestinal signs; such as vomiting and diarrhea and/or dermatologic signs like itchiness, poor skin and coat, hair loss, and chronic ear, skin, or foot infections. Not nice!
Allergists, epidemiologists, and immunologists have spent years trying to better understand how exposures to irritants lead to allergic sensitization and subsequent allergic disease in dogs but it’s a complex venture!
Exposure to an allergen, usually on multiple occasions spanning months to years, sensitizes the immune system, and exposure to the same or related allergen causes an over-reaction. This is why it can take months or years before your beloved pet develops an allergic response to a particular food!
Hypoallergenic diet formulations are available which contain hydrolyzed proteins, meaning that the ‘reactive’ proteins are already broken down into molecules that the immune system will not recognize as allergens. Therefore your furry friend’s body is less likely to misidentify the food as a potential threat!
If your dog seems to be allergic to food, always discuss your concerns with your vet. If you decide to try a specialized hypoallergenic dog food, it should be fed for a minimum of 8-12 weeks to assess the dog’s response. It is important to feed them only the hypoallergenic dog food during this period, avoiding all other foods, treats, table scraps, and medicine whilst introducing the new specially-formulated food.
Petlab Co. Pro Tip: If you own a Terrier, Cocker Spaniel, Retriever, or a German Shepherd, these dog types are thought to be at a higher risk of developing food allergies and intolerances so it’s good to be mindful of this as a pet parent to these breeds.
The easiest way to change your dog’s food is to do it gradually, which means mixing both the old food and new food until gradually they’re only eating the new food.
A good guide to follow is 25% new food and 75% old food to begin with, before moving up to 40% and 60% a couple of days later. If the change goes unnoticed then increase the new food every few days, but for those who are a little more hesitant, you can take make the space between ratio changing longer.
As you introduce the new food, keep track of changes in behavior and toilet habits so that if anything major does change, you can check in with the vet.
If you change your dog food too quickly, your pup may experience:
Not pleasant! So, make sure to follow these tips to diminish the likelihood of side effects...
If the gradual mixing doesn’t seem to be working and they're rejecting their food bowl, then it’s time to tempt them with something else. Using some dog gravy (the gravy we eat has far too much salt for dogs) can make the meal a whole lot more tempting and help your dog make the switch so pour some of that over their new bowlful!
If your dog always has food available, it will be harder to persuade them to eat new food they don’t fancy. So, make sure you have strict meal times so that when it comes to their evening meal with their new food, they will be hungry and therefore more likely to eat it. If you already have meal times, making their morning meal smaller will help encourage them to eat more in the evening!
It’s best to consider what the reasons are if your dog is still not taking to their food, as it could be down to dental issues (if you’re moving on to hard food) or allergies. If they are rejecting their food, it’s best to go straight to your vet to find out the source of the problem and find the food that will suit your dog’s needs!