When you get a new puppy or adopt a rescue dog from a shelter, you might want to change his food to something different. Or your doggy might have outgrown his puppy phase and now needs adult food. Perhaps it’s your adult dog needing to transition to senior food. Whatever the reason, when you have to change your dog’s food, the transition should be gradual over a certain time period, or else he might suffer from an upset tummy.
The best start that you can give your dog is to feed him the best food that you can afford. But don’t be fooled by price. Just because it is an expansive brand, it doesn’t mean that it is the best food for your dog. Speak to your vet to find out what your dog needs for his age, breed and size.
Choose the type of dog food that is convenient for you. If you don’t have time to prepare food, then kibble might be the answer. Wet food can also be convenient to serve. If you prefer prepared raw food, you need to find out exactly how to serve the food. If the food is frozen, you will have to factor in time to defrost it safely.
Then, the life stage of your dog is also very important. There are reasons why there are different life-stage foods for dogs. Puppies need much more nutrients than adult dogs, and senior dogs need a different mix of nutrients than adult dogs. So feed your dog according to his current life stage.
There are also scientifically formulated foods for certain breeds and specialised nutritional needs for dogs, like foods formulated for those pets with allergies or for joint support. Foods that are specifically formulated for health conditions are normally prescribed and your vet will need to prescribe it for your dog. He or she will also monitor your dog to see how he does on that specific food.
Whatever your reasons for changing your dog’s food, even if it is only from one brand to another, you need to do it over a period of seven days:
- Day 1 and 2 – mix 75% of his current food with 25% of the new food.
- Day 3 and 4 – mix 50% of his current food with 50% of the new food.
- Day 5 and 6 – mix 25% of his current food with 75% of the new food.
- Day 7 – give him 100% of the new diet.
If you don’t transition slowly like this, he might suffer from indigestion, diarrhoea or an upset tummy. In some cases, like dogs who have sensitive stomachs or suffer from food allergies, you might want to do it over a longer transition period. Or if he shows any signs of an upset tummy, like vomiting or diarrhoea, it might be a good idea to stretch out the transition period.
Reaction to food
If it becomes clear to you that your dog is not doing well on the new food and is struggling with cramps, excessive gas, diarrhoea, vomiting, a change in appetite or allergies, then you need to speak to your vet. If you suspect that the food is causing a sudden onset of itchiness, skin inflammation, hair loss or any rash, then you also need to consult your vet as soon as possible. It is possible that the new food might cause such a reaction, but it is not necessarily the cause of the reaction. It is better to be safe than sorry.
Another sign of whether your dog is doing well on the new food or not is in the consistency of his stools. If his stools are too soft for a few days, then his digestive system could be unsettled. But if he is constipated or obviously struggles to get the stools out, it could mean that he’s not hydrated enough or that the food isn’t ideal for him. Once again, it is important to discuss this with your vet.
Monitor your dog’s weight on the new diet. If he gains or loses weight too quickly, it could be a sign that the nutrition in the food is not ideal, or that you’re either giving him too much or too little of the food. Use the feeding information on the packet as a guideline and rather consult with your vet as to how much food you should give your dog at every meal.
Whatever your reasons for changing your dog’s food, do it over a week and carefully monitor how he reacts to the food. If he seems to be doing fine, then you can continue with the new diet.