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  1. dogs nutrition

How To Introduce New Dog Food: A Pet Parent’s Guide

Posted by Dr. Roth on August 10, 2022

Wellness Care
What to do if?

A pet parent’s relationship with their dog is unique and loving right from day one. One way to keep that bond strong is by providing the best nutrition possible. Sometimes that means changing to a different food based on a pet’s health concerns or simply trying something new for preference. 

Contrary to some beliefs, dogs aren’t creatures of habit and can benefit from changes in routine, such as dog food transitions. However, this doesn’t happen overnight. It’s not always easy for pet parents to know how to introduce new dog food successfully, and figuring it all out can be challenging. There are some health considerations to think about and helpful tips to subtlety make the changes in dog food work out. 

How To Introduce New Dog Food With Ease

Whether they are seasoned veterans or just starting out with their first dog, all pet parents will do well to understand the best ways to seamlessly convert their dog to a new food. 

1. Identify A Dog’s Specific Need for a Food Transition

Every dog is a bit different, and the reasons why pet parents change foods differ too. Dogs may need something better suited as they age or their activity level changes. Maybe pet parents want food that’s more affordable or easier to find. In some cases, a change in diet may be necessary for a dog’s digestive health. Above all, it’s ideal to first identify a dog’s specific nutritional needs before making any changes to their diet.

Healthy Weight Loss or Gain

Switching a dog to a new food may be required when pet parents want to change and maintain their pet’s healthy body weight. For overweight pets, changing to a lower-calorie food can help them slim down. Some examples of low-calorie foods for dogs include:

  • Fish-based recipes

  • Vegetables

  • High-fiber foods

  • Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids

For underweight dogs, a higher-calorie food can help them gain weight in a healthy way. Higher calorie and healthy foods options include:

  • Puppy food

  • Foods rich in protein

  • High-fat foods

Puppy Food to Adult Dog Food

As a dog grows from a puppy to a mature adult, their nutritional needs change. The time eventually will come for puppies to switch to a healthy adult dog food, typically when they’re around 9 to 12 months old. For small dog breeds this will more likely be recommended in the 9-12 month range and for larger dog breeds the 12-18 month range. Ideally, pet parents should try making the switch when their dogs reach maturity but are still young and likely able to adjust better to new experiences. 

Compared to puppies, adult dogs need less protein and fat, and they need more fiber to help their digestive health. Therefore, successfully making a food switch at the right time in a dog’s life can help avoid the risks of excessive and unhealthy weight gain or other health problems.

Change in Appetite or Sensitive Stomach

Changes in appetite or displaying a sensitive stomach are two key signs to watch out for regarding health. Pets with sensitive stomachs may experience vomiting or diarrhea. If a dog was once eating well but then shows a decreased appetite and is eating less than usual, it’s wise to consult with a vet about underlying health conditions and treatment options, including food changes. 

2. Plan Ahead on the Right Time To Switch

Just because a dog doesn’t take to a food change right away doesn’t mean it won’t happen at all. Patience, realistic expectations, and research are some key factors when it comes to successful transitions. Some dogs may take to changes right away, while others may not. In particular, older pets may need more time adjusting to changes in foods, and pet parents can go through several types of food before finding the right one.  

Understanding pet food labels is necessary when starting the food switch. However, there’s such a variety in choices, making the decision challenging. Pet parents can reference the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) to learn how to read labels and find the right food that fits their dog’s needs. 

Pet parents can always consult a licensed vet with specific questions on what they can expect during the change period and what kinds of food they can use to start the switch.

3. Ensure There Is a Gradual Transition

Fuzzy vets recommend slowly introducing new foods to dogs over a few days to a week. Abrupt changes to a pet’s diet can cause upset stomachs, diarrhea, allergic reactions, vomiting due to too-rapid consumption, or temper tantrums from picky-eater pets. 

Pet parents can likely avoid these problems when starting slowly with a low percentage of the new food mixed with a higher percentage of the old food. As days pass, they can gradually increase the new and decrease the old until the full switch is completed. For instance, if switching from a beef- or chicken-based dry food to wet food, pet parents may wish to mix the two and steadily increase the amount of wet food until their dog has completely switched. 


4. Monitor for Any Food Sensitivity or Food Allergies

Some pets may be allergic or sensitive to certain ingredients in their food, so it’s best for pet parents to monitor their pets during the food-change period for any negative reactions, such as:

  • Vomiting

  • Diarrhea

  • Itchy skin

  • Excessive licking or scratching

  • Hot spots

  • Biting at paws

It’s worth noting that food allergies can develop anytime, even if a pet has been eating the same food for years. Again, accurately reading and understanding dog food labels can help prevent food sensitivities or allergies. 

Contact an Online Vet for More Pet Nutrition Advice 

There’s no concern too big or too small about how to introduce new dog food into a pet’s diet. All Fuzzy members can get comprehensive nutrition plans made for each of their pets based on what is important to the pet parents’ goals and abilities for their health. Fuzzy members and pet parents can consult with a licensed vet via 24/7 Live Vet Chat to have all of their nutrition questions answered.

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