How to Change Dog Food

Two Parts:Switching Your Dog's FoodConsidering Your Dog's Needs

It might appear very simple to change a dog’s food. Buy a bag of dog food and offer servings to your dog. In reality, if you don’t want a sick or unhealthy dog on your hands you will need to make a gradual change and be cautious when you do. Use some wise decisions when you change your dog’s food and your dog won't experience any negative effects.

Part 1
Switching Your Dog's Food

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    Gradually switch your dog's food. Most healthy dogs can have their food switched over a gradual seven day transition. Switching food gradually helps the dog’s body adjust to the new food. Follow this feeding schedule:[1]
    • Day 1: Feed 75% of the old food mixed with 25% of the new food in each serving.
    • Day 2: Feed 60% of the old food mixed with 40% of the new food in each serving.
    • Day 3: Feed 50% of the old food mixed with 50% of the new food in each serving.
    • Day 4: Feed 40% of the old food mixed with 60% of the new food in each serving.
    • Day 5: Feed 25% of the old food mixed with 75% of the new food in each serving.
    • Day 6: Feed 100% of the new food.
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    Watch your dog carefully for any signs of gastrointestinal upset. This may mean watching your dog go to the bathroom so you don’t miss any signs. These signs include vomiting, diarrhea, and gas.[2]
    • If you notice these signs, slow down the process of switching food and step back one day in the process. For example, if you are feeding a 50-50 mix of the food, back it down to 60% of old food to 40% of the new food and keep it at this ratio for an extra day before going on to the next step. Then extend the days held at each step to two or three before proceeding further. Some dogs need more time to adapt to the new food.
    • If your dog gets a moderate case of diarrhea try to treat the condition. Some experts suggest adding pureed pumpkin to your dog's food. Add about two teaspoons to a small dogs meal or two tablespoons to a large dog's meal.[3]
    • Most dogs will have no problem adjusting to the new food as long as the time is taken to gradually acclimate their bodies to the new food.
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    Call your veterinarian if your dog becomes extremely ill. There is a difference between a little gastrointestinal distress and a more extreme physical reaction to a food change. If at any time you notice these signs call your veterinarian for advice:
    • Vomiting more than three times or unremitting vomiting
    • Vomit or diarrhea with blood
    • Uncontrolled diarrhea (accidents in the house)
    • Lethargy or lack of energy
    • Painful abdomen (cries when belly touched, pacing, or stretching front legs out while rear end is up)

Part 2
Considering Your Dog's Needs

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    Weigh the pros and cons of wet food. There are two basic types of dog food: wet and dry. Each type of dog food has its good points and its bad points. For wet food these include:[4]
    • Pros include a higher water content (which is good for dogs that don’t drink enough water), a stronger smell (which is good for those dogs with poor appetites), and it is softer (which is good for dogs with mouth or teeth problems).
    • Negatives include that it is messier to feed, it is generally more expensive in the long run, it has a shorter shelf life once opened, and in dogs with dental problems soft food can make dental disease worse.
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    Weigh the pros and cons of dry food. Like wet food, dry food has good and bad aspects. These advantages and disadvantages include:[5]
    • Pros include that it is easy to store, good for teeth health (as the kibble can scrape off plaque), has a longer shelf life (as long as it is stored properly), doesn’t spoil as easily, and is generally less expensive to feed.
    • Cons include that is doesn't have as much moisture content as wet food, it is not as strong smelling (so for those dogs with poor appetites it won’t be as appealing), and it's harder to chew for dogs with sore teeth and gums.
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    Consider your dog’s health. While most healthy dogs can handle a change in food as long as the change is done properly, you will not want to change the food of dogs with chronic health problems. Many times the main treatment for dogs with chronic illness is their food. These foods are usually called prescription type foods and generally have years of careful research behind them to make sure they provide all the nutrients a sick dog needs while helping to control the illness.[6] Dogs with these illnesses should only have their food switched under the advice of a veterinarian:
    • Skin or other allergies
    • Kidney disease
    • Liver disease
    • Diabetes
    • Heart disease
    • Bladder disease: stones or crystals
    • Gastrointestinal illness
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    Pick a quality food. Whether you have chosen dry or wet food, buy the best food you can for your dog. Look for meat as the top two or three ingredients on the dog food label.


  • Making the switch from a wet to a dry food may take a longer transition time. Dry food can be less attractive to a dog that has been eating wet food up to that point.
  • Dry food can become stale. Store it in the bag it comes in. This bag is made for storage in a cool, dry location in your home.
  • Purchase a small bag or a few cans of the new food before investing a lot of money in it. You may need to try different brands of food to find one that your dog will eat readily.


  • Always consult with your veterinarian before switching the food of a dog with health problems. Switching foods may cause these disease conditions to worsen or lead to the death of your dog.

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Categories: Feeding Dogs