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How to Switch to a New Dog Food (With No Tummy Troubles)!

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Dog Food By Lauren Evans 7 min read July 14, 2023

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There’s a long list of reasons to change your dog’s food. 

Maybe your once-puppy is now all grown up, or maybe he’s packed on a few extra pounds. Maybe his skin has become itchy out of nowhere and you think his dinner is to blame.

But you don’t want to try to solve this problem in one day. Changing your dog’s food too quickly can cause some problems.

Instead, you’ll want to take your time. Trust us, it’ll all pay off in the end.

Below, we’ll go over some other reasons to switch up your dog’s food, the best way to do it safely, and how to tell if you need to make some adjustments.

Key Takeaways: How to Transition to a New Dog Food

  • You can change your dog’s food, but you must do so gradually. This means you’ll want to mix increasing amounts of the new food in with your dog’s old food.
  • Abruptly changing your dog’s food may cause intestinal issues. Diarrhea is the most common issue, but some dogs can experience gas or even constipation following a rapid food change.
  • Typically, you’ll want to switch foods over about one week. However, some dogs can handle quicker transitions while others require slower changes — you’ll just have to watch your dog and make adjustments as necessary.

How to Transition to a New Dog Food: A Step-by-Step Plan

changing your dog's food

When you switch your pooch over to a new type of food, the key is to do it gradually

Blending the new recipe with the old in bit-by-bit fashion can help to avoid some common discomforts when starting a new diet. You can use this template as a starting point:

Days 1 to 2: 25% old food; 75% new food

Days 3 to 4: 50% old food; 50% new food

Days 5 to 6: 75% old food; 25% new food

Day 7: 100% new food

Feel free to make adjustments where you need to.

Some dogs can handle a quicker transition, but others need a bit more time to adjust to the new ingredients. There’s more than one right way to do it.

Listen to your gut⁠ — and your pup’s! If your dog’s tummy is getting upset, slow the process down to a pace that’s a better fit.

Switching from wet food to kibble? You may want to soften up your dog’s dry food first.

Reasons to Change Your Dog’s Food

how to switch dog food

There are lots of reasons why you might decide to change your dog’s food:

  • It doesn’t provide enough energy. If the bright and bouncy dog you know and love has been acting sluggish, his diet might be to blame. Maybe it’s time for a new recipe that can keep your pup feeling energetic.
  • The food doesn’t pass the taste test. Since your dog will be eating the food you pick every day, it’s important that he likes it. If you’ve got a picky eater on your hands, a tastier meal might solve the problem.
  • Your dog is entering a new life stage. Doggos in different life stages need a different balance of nutrients from their food. For the 7 to 14 months (depending on the breed), puppy food will support his growing body. When he’s grown, food made for adults will help maintain a healthy weight. When he’s about 7 or 8 years old a senior dog food can help address any age-related concerns.
  • Your dog has gained too much weight. If there’s a little⁠ extra weight on your dog, his food could be a factor. A recipe that’s specially formulated to manage his weight could be the key to getting him healthier and happier.
  • Your dog has stomach issues. There may be foods that are difficult for your dog to tolerate. You can help by finding a new food that is easier for your pooch to digest.
  • Your dog’s health has changed. Sometimes life throws you a curveball and you have to adjust. Conditions such as diabetes and kidney disease may call for a change in diet.
  • Your dog is pregnant or nursing. If your fur baby has babies of her own, her diet may need to change. Since her body needs to support her puppies, she’ll need food that’s a lot more calorie-dense and contains all of the extra nutrients her body needs.
  • Your dog has special dietary needs.Your vet may recommend a special food if your dog has developed food allergies or needs more support for healthy joints.
  • Your current food has become too expensive. Over time, the extra cost of a certain type of food can build up and you may decide that a cheaper option is the way to go.

Signs That Your Dog Is Not Adjusting Well to His New Food

dogs need to change food sometimes

Even when you introduce your dog to a new food gradually, it might not sit well. It could take a while to get used to the new diet. But sometimes, you have to scrap your plan and start back at square one if your dog is still having difficulty adjusting.

Here are some of the signs your dog isn’t adjusting well to his new food:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Change in appetite

If you want to know how your dog is tolerating what goes in, look at what comes out! 

Your dog’s poop doesn’t lie, so it’s a reliable source for information about his digestive health. If your pup’s poop is off-color, loose, or watery, that’s a sign his new diet isn’t agreeing with him, so you should consider slowing down the process or switching to a different type of food.

Caution: Some Dogs React Badly to New Foods

sick dog

When your dog tries a new type of food, there’s always a risk of a bad reaction to one or more of the ingredients. 

Many people think they’re caused by allergies, but this isn’t always the case.

An allergy refers to a specific reaction when the immune system is hypersensitive to something that’s normally harmless. When it detects that substance (called an allergen) in the body, it responds by triggering inflammation, which often causes itchy skin and sometimes hives and swelling.

Dogs who have bona fide food allergies may require a single-protein dog food or even a hypoallergenic diet

On the other hand, some dogs experience tummy troubles after switching foods. When this happens and the immune system isn’t involved, it’s typically referred to as an adverse food reaction, rather than an allergy.

In these cases, you’ll usually just need to pick a different food – hopefully without the ingredient that’s upsetting his stomach. 

How to Choose a Dog Food

dog food transition

Choosing the right dog food might be easier than you think.

For starters, a good dog food should follow these three rules:

  1. It’s formulated to meet the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) guidelines for your dog’s life stage.
  2. It addresses any health concerns your dog has, such as allergies or obesity.
  3. Your vet supports your choice.

But there are a few more factors to consider when you choose a dog food.

For example, you’ll want to look for one that’s made in a western country, features a protein at the top of the ingredient list, and contains lots of nutritious produce. 

But if you simply follow the first three rules discussed above, you’ll be well on your way. 

How to Transition to a New Dog Food: FAQ

gradually change dog foods

Still have questions about transitioning to a new dog food? Don’t worry! We’ll answer some of the most common dog-food transition questions below!

Why should you transition dog food gradually?

Switching food too quickly can lead to upset tummies. Transitioning dog food gradually can help to avoid stomach discomfort.

What should you feed a new dog if you don’t know his old diet?

If you’re feeding a hungry new dog and you don’t know what he’s used to eating, introduce new food slowly by feeding small meals every few hours and watch for signs of stomach upset.

What’s the ratio when changing dog foods?

Different authorities recommend slightly different ratios of old food to new and different schedules. However, you generally want to increase the amount of new food and decrease the amount of old food by about 25% every day or two.

Remember, the most important thing is how your pooch is feeling. If the new food isn’t sitting well, it’s perfectly fine to slow the process down and introduce less of the new food at each meal. 

What happens if you don’t change dog foods gradually?

If you introduce a new dog food too quickly, it can upset your pup’s stomach and lead to vomiting and diarrhea.

How long does it take a dog to adjust to a new food?

Many dogs can adjust to a new food when introduced to it slowly over 5 to 7 days. But this varies from doggo to doggo. Some dogs may be able to switch abruptly without suffering intestinal issues, but others may require a more gradual shift.

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So that’s a wrap on how to change your dog’s food! We hope you’ve learned something new that’ll make the process easier.

Do you have experience with changing your dog’s diet and want to share your story? Have you had success with a gradual transition?

Let us know in the comments below!

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Written by

Lauren Evans

With more than 10 years of dog-care experience and tip-top research skills, Lauren strives to provide the kind of info pet parents can use to keep their four-footers as healthy and happy as possible. When not sharing dog-care tips with her readers, Lauren is probably having too much fun with her amazing dog, Athena.

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