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Whether you are trying a new brand of dry kibble or switching from processed foods to freshly prepared meals, your dog will need a period of adjustment. This is so the new food doesn’t upset their digestive tract. Every dog is different, and some dogs have more sensitive to new foods than others. Depending on your dog, the transition should take place over the course of one to two weeks. Slowly transitioning your dog from one food to another will lessen the chances of diarrhea, vomiting, and stomach upset. Before we talk about how to switch dog food properly, we’ll give you some reasons why you should do it slowly.
How to Switch Dog Food: Why You Should Switch Dog Food Slowly
Changing dog food too quickly can cause symptoms like loose stool, vomiting, and sometimes changes in behavior or even lethargy (probably from an upset stomach). Unfortunately, you may not be able to recognize these symptoms as being connected to your dog’s new food. That’s why it is so important to change food slowly. It takes time to determine if the issue is the food or an illness.
Common causes of reacting badly to dog food include allergies or contamination while the food is made in the factory. Due to years of inbreeding (to easily attain AKC papers), many popular dog breeds, especially toy breeds, now easily develop food allergies. These can develop in both puppies and adult dogs. Talk to your veterinarian if you think your dog may have a food allergy. Common foods that can trigger allergies include dairy, wheat, and soy.
In the case of dog food contamination (which typically cause dog food recalls), timing is critical.
How to Switch Dog Food: Preventing Upset Stomach
An upset stomach can also lead to a lack of appetite in your dog. This is a very simple symptom that can be caused by several things, but it can also be a cause for concern. After all, what dog doesn’t like to eat?
Lack of appetite can be a side effect that is related to something else new in their life that might be causing your dog stress. Every dog deals with change and stress differently. Some dogs might experience an upset stomach from new food, but once they throw up it makes them feel better. Then they’ll bounce back to their spunky self and bug you for some of your sandwich. By switching slowly to a new dog food, you’ll be able to ensure that any vomiting comes from normal “dog things” and not from the food.
What Causes Vomiting After Eating
As gross as it is, looking at your dog’s vomit can tell you a bit about what is happening to your dog. If there are ever any signs of blood, take your pup to an emergency veterinarian right away. Here’s how to tell what’s behind the vomiting:
Eating Too Much Too Fast
For example, if chunks of food or whole pieces of kibble are clearly visible, chances are your dog literally inhaled his food. Eating too fast can cause food to trap air in the stomach, causing a type of vomiting.
Some dogs like to eat grass and some eat it when they have an upset stomach. While tummy trouble may not be the only reason they eat grass, it can definitely make them throw up: especially if they eat grass just before a meal.
Eating While Stressed or Anxious
When introducing a new food, your dog may get excited. If there is another animal watching him while he eats, it can cause anxiety. When an animal is in a state of stress, the body shuts down certain body functions to reserve energy. Among these is saliva production. In most animals, saliva is essential for digestion. It makes the food easier for the stomach to digest, and without saliva, the stomach can’t handle all the food.
If there are other symptoms that your dogs exhibits other than vomiting, like lethargy, diarrhea, and/or pale gums, you should consult your veterinarian.
How to Switch Dog Food the Right Way
Knowing how to switch dog food properly can prevent the issues mentioned above. The process should take course over a week or two. Only use very little of the new food to start. By the end of the transition your dog will be able to eat the new food by itself.
How Much Food Do I Feed My Dog?
This is a very simple question with a very complicated answer. Every dog is different, so their diets will also be different. Younger dogs and very active dogs eat more than older or less active dogs. The amount of protein, fat, and carbohydrates needed in a dog’s diet will vary as well. Talk to a dog nutritionist to find out what quantities your dog needs to stay healthy and keep up with their lifestyle.
Mothers who are expecting puppies or are nursing eat three times as much as the average adult dog! Puppies should be fed three full meals a day instead of the usual two meals for full-grown, adult dogs. Many dog food manufacturers provide a feeding guide on the packaging. Some even include separate guides for each life stage.
Since the amount of protein, fat, moisture, and carbs vary not only from brand to brand, but also from product to product, there will be some foods that will be more satisfying than others. You’ll be feeding more or less of one food versus another.
Days One & Two
When introducing a new food to your dog, it should only make up about a quarter of their meal. Keep in mind, dogs are easily excitable animals. Eating too much food quickly can cause an upset stomach. Feed in multiple portions, saving the dog’s preferred food for last. This is a simple way to prevent your dog from eating too fast.
You can also invest in food puzzles where the dog has to work a bit harder for their food; but more importantly, these make them take a break between bites of food. If you are transitioning over a two-week period, then this step should last from days one through four.
Days Three & Four
Moving onto the next step, the new food now makes up half of your dog’s meal. If you are changing foods over a two-week period, feed half and half from days five to eight.
Days Five & Six
Once you feel confident that your dog’s food isn’t causing any digestion issues, their meal should be three-quarters new food and one-quarter old food. If using a two-week period, your dog’s meal should be 25 percent of their old food from days nine to thirteen.
On day seven or fourteen (the last day of the transition), their meal can consist of the new dog food entirely. If you are considering changing the type of food (from kibble or canned to raw or fresh foods) that makes up their diet, we highly suggest taking two weeks, instead of just one: especially if you are switching from processed to fresh food. If you know your dog has a sensitive stomach, you may also want to take two weeks to slowly transition your dog to a new food. Instead of taking two days at a time to advance to the next step, take four.
When first learning how to switch dog food, take your time. When in doubt, consult with a professional, like your veterinarian or a dog nutritionist.
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