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Safely Changing Your Dog’s Diet


Switching Dog Food: Why, When & How


There are many reasons for changing up your furry best friend’s food. Perhaps your sweet little puppy has turned into more of an adult and is ready to graduate to a new dog food with less calories. Maybe your pup has developed some health concerns that require a specific diet. Or maybe your doggie has a sensitivity to certain ingredients that you’re trying to address. Whatever the reason, switching your dog’s food is not to be taken lightly. 


Before you make any changes to your pup’s diet, you should consult with your vet. Make an appointment with your vet and ask for advice on which type of diet and dog food is best for your dog’s individual needs. There are a variety of different dog foods for all sorts of different dietary needs and health considerations, so speaking with your vet about switching dog foods will help you decide on one that suits you and your dog.


Reasons for Switching Dog Food


1. Lifestage


Growing puppies need more calories, protein and balanced nutrition than adult dogs do. But around 12 months old (or older for giant breeds), they can begin eating adult dog food. Before you switch your puppy to an adult dog food, consult with your veterinarian to be sure that your puppy is ready to make the change.


On the flip side, if your canine companion is getting older, you may want to consider exploring senior dog food options for your pet. This food is formulated for the unique needs of aging dogs, typically with lower calories and higher levels of antioxidants/fatty acids. 


2. Food Sensitivities


If your veterinarian has diagnosed your dog with a food sensitivity, they may recommend a specialized diet to help your pup avoid the foods they are sensitive to. Whether your vet has recommended switching to a limited-ingredient diet or a specialized diet that required pre-authorization from at vet, you’ll need to work closely with your pup’s doctor to determine the best way to introduce the new food.


3. Weight Concerns


Does your playful pup need to gain or lose some weight? If your veterinarian has expressed concern over your pup’s weight, whether it be overweight or underweight, you may want to adjust their diet accordingly. There are special weight management dog foods that can help them shed those extra pounds in a healthy way.


4. Health Considerations


Unfortunately, sometimes our furry best friends develop various needs that warrant a diet change. For example, if your dog has been diagnosed with diabetes or kidney disease, you can work with your vet to find the diet that complements their health concerns most effectively.


Making The Switch


Now, for the “how” of things. Abruptly switching dog food can cause gastrointestinal issues, such as upset stomach, vomiting, and/or diarrhea. Therefore, you should take a more gradual approach with a period of transition to help your pup avoid having these symptoms. As a general rule, it is recommended that you start mixing in the new food little by little. Introducing the new food gradually helps get your dog’s digestive system acclimated to the new ingredients. There is a formula for the transition that goes as follows: 


  • Day 1: 75% old food, 25% new food
  • Day 2: 70% old food, 30% new food
  • Day 3: 60% old food, 40% new food
  • Day 4: 50% old food, 50% new food
  • Day 5: 40% old food, 60% new food
  • Day 6: 25% old food, 75% new food
  • Day 7: 100% new food


Monitoring your pet’s reactions to their food is very important during the initial transition period. While you’re switching dog food, be sure to pay special attention to your dog, noting any differences in behavior, appetite, energy level or GI issues. If your dog has GI symptoms such as vomiting and diarrhea after eating the new food, slow down the transition. And if these problems persist, chat with your vet. In some cases, even a slow transition may not work, and you will need to find a different diet for your dog that better suits them. 


No matter your reason for changing what’s in your dog’s bowl at mealtime, make sure you use caution. If you observe any concerning reactions to new food, contact your vet right away.


Stop in to your nearest PetSmart or shop online for all the best dog food, no matter what diet fits your dog best. We carry trusted brands at great prices so you can help your pup live their best life!


Information in this article is not intended to diagnose, treat or cure your pet and is not a substitute for veterinary care provided by a licensed veterinarian. For any medical or health-related advice concerning the care and treatment of your pet, contact your veterinarian.