Change dog food - The why's and how's explained

Why NOT to change dog food?

Change dog food when necessary and only then is the most commonly heard view (though other perspectives exist).

Changing dog food is one of the most common causes of diarrhoea and gastro-intestinal upsets. The change should be gradually rather than sudden so the intestinal flora of your pooch can adapt to the new dog food and go live in harmony again.

When new ingredients and substances enter the intestines the harmonious composition in numbers and combinations of the local bacteria colonies is disturbed. Shifts occur as one bacteria type (fermentative bacteria) loves carbohydrates whereas others love meat (putrefactive bacteria). The latter type doesn't produce as much gas, so when your dog is farting a lot it could be the dog food you chose last time contains the wrong amount or types of carbohydrates for his intestines.

When and why should you think of switching dog food?

  • It is time, for example, for a puppy to junior/adult dog food transition. You don't have to feed puppies specific puppy diets per se (yes, they need more - but they need more of EVERYTHING). If you did choose to feed puppy food, you need to switch to a regular diet when your dog is maturing.

  • You suspect a dog food allergy (take a look at dog allergy symptoms).

  • Your dog suffers weight loss (due to loss of appetite).

  • Your vet recommends a change.

  • There is a dog food recall and the brand you're feeding now is affected.

  • You want to give your dog variety. Not every one agrees on this point! Some experts claim it is best to not make any change as long as your dog is doing well. Others claim there is not a single dog food that "has it all" and by switching every three months your dog's chances of having a nutrient deficiency lessen. For now, I prefer to go with the first category of experts that advocate: "If it ain't broke, don't fix it!".

Give your dog variety, if you like, by supplementing his daily menu with occasional treats, chicken necks, uncooked kitchen counter scraps, a home made dog dinner, a whole fish from the market, that smelly unwashed dirty paunch your sweet doggie just loves so much, etc.

choose your favorite dog food I let my dog choose...
choose your favorite dog food ... and his choice was very clear

In contrast, feeding a wide variety of different foods is said to help avoid the development of dog food induced allergies. Some nutritionists advice to change dog food every three months. When I come across evidence supporting this I will of course update this article. In science, nothing is written in stone and knowledge increases every day as new discoveries are made.

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And remember: raw meat only is NOT a complete diet!

How do you change your dog's diet?

Change dog food cold turkey or big bang?

Several methods of switching dog food exist but Cold Turkey or Big Bang isn't one of them. But if there is no other choice (like when there is a dog food recall or your dog shows signs of food allergy) then go for it! The risks of the big bang method are nothing compared to the risks when feeding alleged tainted dog food.

Not every dog is sensitive to food changes and for some dogs it actually seems as if they do have a cast iron stomach. What can happen though is your dog feeling quite uncomfortable for some days. He may be experiencing stomach cramps, indigestion, and diarrhoea or vomiting as his digestive system needs time to adapt.

When your dog is picky and just refuses to eat that unknown dog food brand, then just try another brand… tastes differ! Often you can get free dog food samples to test whether your dog likes this food. Don't just choose by price or buy whatever is on sale. Your faithful companion would want you to go for quality. So when you opt to change dog food, please make an educated guess after reading the dog food labels.

Change dog food via the 'Pension Method'

akita dog eating

A commonly used method of switching dog food brands is the gradual method, sometimes known as the 'pension method' since this is often used by pet pensions to have their guests on the same menu during their stay.

Different production methods exist for dry dog food leading to different types: baked, pelleted and extruded dog food. When changing brands of the same type, method A is advised but if you make a change from extruded to pelleted dog food then go for method B.

METHOD A: Change dog food brands of the same production type

If you can, take the time and make the alteration gradually within a week. You can choose to make the transition quicker if necessary but really... there is no need to test whether your dog's stomach is made of iron.

Day 1-3: Mix and give two thirds of the current dog food with one third of the new dog food.

Day 4-6: Mix and give one third of the current dog food with two third of the new dog food.

Day 7: Your dog is on 100% of the new dog food.

METHOD B: Change dog food production types

Use this method when switching from expanded dog food to pelleted dog food. Your dog's stomach can adjust to the lesser volume and by making the switch gradual his intestinal flora can adjust.

Day 1: Give a quarter of the new dog food (so only 25% of a regular portion suitable for your dog's size) together with a nice bone.

Day 2: Give half of the new dog food.

Day 3: Give three quarters of the new dog food.

Day 4: Give your dog the full portion of the new dog food.

Change dog food via the 'Milestone Method'

This method is not often used but can be chosen when your dog's intestines are very sensitive. You can also use this to give your dog's intestinal flora a boost after he's been ill or has been on antibiotics.

Day 1-5: Feed your dog only unwashed dirty paunch in multiple small portions a day. Thaw the paunch at room temperature so the useful good bacteria and nutrients stay intact (do not microwave!).

Day 6: Mix dirty paunch with the new dog food.

Day 7: Feed 100% of the new dog food.

Should your dog not want to eat this healthy smelly stuff (most dogs love it though) then try the following. After thawing you plunge the paunch into boiling water - just a quick dip to take the rawness of.

It may take several dog food changes before you find the perfect dog food for your furry friend. This all depends on why you had to change and how sensitive or picky your dog is. In this process it helps to keep a track record, take notes and perform a regular health check using the 10 step dog health checklist.

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The "Confidential Dog Food Report" is an e-book written by Andrew Lewis. Now for those of you who know him, you know that he doesn't think highly of commercial dog food. In fact he likes homemade dog food diets. But commercial dog food is not always bad of course.

You just need to find the best food for YOUR pet. Andrew has listed the top 9 dog food brands that are just better-than-good, which is a good starting place for you. After all homecooking can be nice on occasion, but commercial dog food is very convenient. Just find the right one!

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