Switch Your Dog to a New Diet Successfully With These Tips

Changing your dog to a new food overnight can cause problems, so follow our guide and feeding schedule to transition easily.

Published March 18, 2023
Woman petting her dog while feeding it

Whether your dog is no longer enjoying the food they're eating or you are switching their food for health purposes, you need to transition them carefully to reduce the risk of gastrointestinal upset. The ease of transitioning your dog to a new food varies from dog to dog. Some dogs transition easily, whereas others may experience digestive upset. Those dogs who experience distress when transitioning will likely take longer to move from one diet to another.

Changing Your Dog's Food

There isn't an exact science to transitioning your dog to a new food. Every dog is different and will react to the change in their own way. However, you can start by substituting a small amount of your dog's food with the new food.

If your dog appears to be tolerating that well, gradually increase the amount each day. Always monitor your pet's stool for signs of diarrhea or constipation during this transition period. If you notice any changes, keep your dog at their current transition stage and wait for these signs to dissipate. Once the signs have cleared, continue with the transition.

Various types of dry food for dog on table

The most common transition schedule, where you mix your dog's old kibble with their new food, takes around 10 days, or even up to two weeks. Introduce any new supplements at the same time as introducing a new diet. If you are adding any supplements such as probiotics or digestive enzymes to help with digestion, it's best to begin using these at the same time as changing diets so that they can help facilitate this process.

Number of Days Old Food Amount New Food Amount Note
1-2 75% 25% Begin adding digestive enzymes and probiotics, if desired.
3-4 50% 50%
5-7 25% 75%
8-10 0% 100% If your dog is not yet ready for 100% new food, continue prior ratio or slightly increase.

The key is to make the change slowly, over a period of days or weeks, and let your dog set the pace. If your dog isn't eating their new food, don't force them. Instead, return to their old diet and try again later. Alternatively, they might react enthusiastically. Read your dog's reaction to find cues about how to transition.

Fast Fact

Bowls and feeding mats designed to slow down feeding behaviors work well, and can help ensure your dog is consuming their food slowly to prevent stomach upset.

Possible Reactions When Transitioning

When transitioning a dog to a new food, it is important to be aware of the possible difficulties that may occur:

  • One of the biggest problems with transitioning your dog's diet is digestive upset. Dogs have sensitive digestive systems and can react negatively to sudden changes in their diets. As you are introducing your dog to a new type of food, it is important to monitor their behavior closely for signs of discomfort. Some dogs will show obvious signs such as vomiting or diarrhea, while others may show no signs at all until several days after the switch.
  • If your dog has been on a commercial food for a long time, it is best not to switch them overnight and make sure that they have plenty of time to adjust before switching completely. This will give them time to get used to their new food before making any drastic changes in their diet.
  • Some dogs may also have an allergic reaction if they are introduced too quickly to new foods, or if there are ingredients in the food that they are allergic to. In these cases, veterinarians can prescribe antihistamines or steroids to help reduce symptoms such as itching and scratching as they are getting accustomed to their new diet.

Why Switch Foods?

The first thing to consider when changing your dog's food is what their current diet consists of and why you want to make the change. The change may be necessary in the following cases:

  • Concerns over quality: You may be concerned about the ingredients used in your dog's current food. You may have heard rumors of certain brands having been recalled. If this is the case, be certain to research the company that owns the dog food. If you don't, you could purchase another bag of what appears to be different dog food, but it's made by the same manufacturer.
  • Allergies or intolerances: This is a very common occurrence, and if your dog has developed digestive issues such as diarrhea, constipation, vomiting or other problems after eating a particular type of food for some time, it may be best for them to switch to another brand entirely.
  • Variety: Changing dog foods, especially if you are considering transitioning from kibble to raw, encourages variety in your dog's body, filling nutritional gaps you didn't know existed.
  • Age: Consider the age of your dog when determining what food to feed them. The nutritional needs of a puppy are different from those of an adult dog or an old dog. A growing puppy requires more energy than an adult dog because they are still growing and developing.
  • Weight: If your dog food is causing obesity, even in smaller portions, you may need to consider switching dog food types.
  • Health Problems: Dogs with specific health issues such as kidney disease, liver disease, or pancreatitis may need a low-protein diet to help prevent further damage to those organs.

Signs of a Successful Transition

Most of the time, a dog who has moved to a new diet will show no ill effects if the transition was carried out slowly. Generally, you won't be able to tell they've switched if they're eating happily. You might see some benefits, however.

Dog eating and drinking water
  • More Energy: If your dog seems more energetic and relaxed, this is a good sign.
  • Healthy Stool: Your dog should have solid stools within 24 hours of starting the new food. If not, contact your veterinarian immediately, as this could mean that something else is wrong or that your pet isn't getting enough nutrients from their diet. You should also look out for diarrhea or constipation after changing foods, since these are both common side effects of switching diets.
  • Normal Appetite: Your dog has a healthy appetite and eats all of their food.
  • Improved Digestion: The first few days of a diet change are often filled with digestive issues like vomiting or diarrhea. If these go away quickly, it's a good sign that your dog is tolerating their new food well.
Quick Tip

Most dogs will tolerate a change in food more easily if they have plenty of water available at all times while they're eating the new food.

Tips for Transitioning

The following tips may help in your dog's transition to new food:

  • Foods with artificial colors and flavors can cause allergic reactions in some dogs, especially those with sensitive stomachs.
  • Some dogs can be quite stubborn when it comes to changing foods, so you may need to try several brands before finding one that agrees with them.
  • If possible, use a slow-feeder bowl so your dog will take longer to eat and have time to digest their meal better.
  • Keep a close eye on your dog throughout the entire process. If your dog becomes lethargic or stops eating completely, stop feeding the new food immediately and consult with your veterinarian.

Consult a Veterinarian

If your dog has health problems, or experiences a difficult time transitioning to a new dog food, it's best to consult a veterinarian when making the transition. Your veterinarian will assist you in finding the best food for your individual dog and may have some tips to help along the way. Also, by letting your veterinarian know you are transitioning, they will be better equipped to handle any problems that may arise during the switch to a new food.

Make the Transition Easily

Go slow, mix your dog's new food in small portions, and monitor them closely. If you do all that, your dog is likely to transition to their new diet without any problems. Most of the time, when people have problems transitioning their dogs, they went too fast. Start out right, and your dog will thank you!

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Switch Your Dog to a New Diet Successfully With These Tips