There are times in your dog’s life where changing their food is necessary or beneficial to your pet. I hadn’t given it much thought until looking at my 7-year-old Shih Tzu’s food bag one day- it was made for adult dogs 1-6 years of age. Gasp! Our sweet little baby was no longer a baby, in fact, he was ready to be switched to senior dog food (nearly a year earlier)- bad Mommy for not catching it sooner! (I’ll save my manic breakdown of realizing our dog was getting older for another post.)
Our dog hadn’t had any issues with the food he had been eating for several years, which is why we kept him on it. He was healthy, happy and energetic – we didn’t want to mess with that by switching his food. However, in the last year or so, I had noticed a change in his coat, it had become duller, and his skin was becoming drier and flaky at times. After doing some research, I learned many senior dog food formulas include ingredients like fatty acids to combat your pet’s changing coat and skin, as well as glucosamine and chondroitin to help with joint health and mobility- another issue facing senior-aged dogs.
Changing your pet’s diet isn’t just for seniors. Puppies have different nutritional needs than adults, like needing more calories and protein to support their growth. Plus, many pets develop food sensitivities over time and a diet change can eliminate those sensitivities and health reactions. Pet obesity is on the rise and pet parents are more in tune with what they are feeding their pets, so many owners are switching their pet’s food in order to get to and maintain a healthy weight.
Ready to make the switch?
Make sure you hold on to the food your pet has been eating, because you will need to gradually introduce the new food to your dog. This helps minimize gastrointestinal symptoms that can arise with sudden food changes like vomiting, loose stools or constipation.
Drs. Foster and Smith recommend a 7-10 day course of gradually switching your dog’s food:
Days 1-3: 25% new food, 75% old food
Days 4-6: 50% new food, 50% old food
Days 7-9: 75% new food, 25% old food
Day 10: 100% new food
Monitor your pet’s appetite and digestion every day. If you notice any gastrointestinal issues like vomiting, diarrhea or loss in appetite, you may want to extend the food transition to help ease the symptoms. If symptoms last longer than 24 hours, you will want to consult your veterinarian.