You’ve made the decision to switch your dog’s food—maybe you are searching for a healthier alternative, maybe they’ve become uninterested in their current food or maybe you are looking for a little variety for your pup! Switching your dog’s food can feel like a daunting task—will they like their new food, will their digestive system adjust to it, will it be a good fit for them—we’re here to help you through the process! Let’s get started.
Why Switch Your Dog’s Food?
There are a variety of reasons people decide to try changing their dog’s food. The most common include:
- Health concerns (Diabetes, Kidney Disease, Upset Stomach)
- Weight Problems (including obesity)
- Boredom (Your pup is no longer interested at meal time, doesn’t finish meals or doesn’t eat at all)
- Seeking a healthier alternative
- Age (Switching from puppy food to adult dog food or from adult dog food to senior dog food)
- Food recall
Once you’ve decided to switch your dog’s food, the next step is to research the various options and understand what to look for in your pet’s food. This is especially important if you are switching dog food due to allergies, health concerns or weight problems. But what’s the best way to transition from their current food to their new food?
Why You Should Avoid Transitioning Dog Food Too Fast
Transitioning your dog’s food should be a slow and gradual process so you don’t shock and overwhelm their system. If you switch their food too quickly, you may notice a sudden onset of digestive issues, including:
- Upset stomach
- Loss of appetite (due to upset stomach) and
This can make the whole process feel difficult and frustrating—not just to you, but to your pet! To avoid this discomfort, you want to give their system a chance to adapt and slowly transition from their old dog food to their new dog food.
How to Safely Switch Dog Food
As outlined by the AKC, the recommended way to switch your dog’s food is:
- Day 1: 25% new diet and 75% old diet
- Day 3: 50% new diet and 50% old diet
- Day 5: 75% new diet and 25% old diet
- Day 7: 100% new diet
The overall time it takes to fully switch to the new dog food depends on how your dog’s digestive system responds to the new dog food. In other words, it may take some dogs 1 week, and others may take 3-4 to fully transition dog foods.
While there are no serious side effects to properly switching dog foods, you may notice that your dog experiences a healing crisis.
It sounds scary but rest assured that it is natural! Essentially, a healing crisis is your pet’s detoxification process when they switch from processed foods to whole foods. This process typically happens during the first month of your diet transition and can last from 1-2 weeks.
During this process, your pet’s body is getting rid of built-up toxins. The symptoms of your dog’s healing crisis depend on their current state of health, the strength of their immune system, what they were eating before, their age, vaccine history and a variety of other factors specific to your pet.
Let’s take a look at each stage of the dog food transition process so you’ll know what to expect when switching dog food.
Stage 1: Introduce the new food
(25% new food, 75% current food)
Your dog may take a day to warm up to their new food, so slowly incorporating it into their current diet is the best way to transition. We suggest filling their bowl with their current food, removing ¼ of it & thoroughly mixing in the new food.
You may notice no change to their poop and digestion—awesome! However, you may notice that their stool is a bit softer (even runny) these first few days. This is especially noticeable if you are transitioning from a kibble-based diet to a whole food diet. We recommend supplementing with digestive enzymes (prebiotics AND probiotics) to help restore the digestive tract.
If you notice that they have a runny stool on day 2 or 3, continue to feed 25/75 until their poop is more firm — then move on to 50/50.
Stage 2: Increase New Food Quantity
(50% new food / 50% old food to 75% new food / 25% old food)
At stage 2, you will notice your dog’s digestion beginning to improve (they should have more solid stool by now—yay!), but you may be noticing other symptoms begin to appear. This is a part of the healing process (especially if transitioning from kibble to a whole food diet), and we encourage you to be patient. Your dog’s body is shedding all of those built-up toxins—so while it may be a bit uncomfortable for them, know that it won’t last forever, and it will get better shortly!
Symptoms of a healing crisis include:
- Dry skin
- Anal sac problems
- Mucous on the stool
- Icky ears
If you notice these symptoms persist or if your dog hasn’t eaten in 24 hours or has a fever lasting more than 24 hours, call your vet immediately. You know your dog best!
Stage 3: Fully Transitioned To New Food!
Congratulations! You have successfully transitioned your dog to their new food, and in fact, you may be noticing some AMAZING things happening with your dog! Some great benefits you may notice after switching your dog’s food include:
- Licking/itching has decreased
- Eye gunk has decreased
- Tear stains under the eyes are fading
- Less/No more scooting
- More regular poop, more solid poop, less poop – there are LOTS of poop benefits when you start feeding whole foods
- Dandruff and dry skin improving
- More energy
- More excitement at mealtime
These improvements are especially noticeable when transitioning from a diet of processed food to a more natural one. We have tons of customers who have had incredible success and unbelievable results as they switch their pet’s food.
“It truly has improved my Penny’s life”
Penny Lane… Penny Pants… Penny Pie…
Penny came to live with us about one year ago. She is the sweetest lady and LOVES attention from humans. When Penny came to us, she weighed 92lbs. I knew we had to work on her weight. We started feeding Penny Side By Side recipes in May 2018. In five months, she has lost 12lbs!
Simply by changing her diet from a kibble to a balanced whole food diet. I also noticed that her anxiety has decreased, she doesn’t have recurring hot spots anymore, she sheds less, and just seems happier overall! I could not be more in love with Side By Side Pet. It truly has improved my Penny’s life.
Deciding to switch your pet’s food may feel like a daunting task, especially given the options available to you. To understand what food is best for your pet, take our virtual Pet Assessment. In just three minutes, you will learn what ingredients are best for your pet’s unique nutritional needs and how proper nutrition can support an opportunity for longer life.