With four dogs in our home, we are constantly rotating their food. Not because I like to make life difficult, but because I believe feeding the best food possible is ideal for keeping them healthy, and that means what is best for them today is not always best next month.

Add in the fact that each of our four dogs is on a different type of food, feeding time is a little chaotic. I try to only change the food for one dog at a time so I can be hyper-focused on their needs.

Choosing the right dog food and making a smooth transition is vital to avoid any discomfort or complications. The process should be gradual and carefully monitored when transitioning your dog to a new food to minimize the risk of gastrointestinal issues such as vomiting or diarrhea.

Monitor your dog’s appetite, digestion, and energy levels to determine if the new food is meeting their nutritional needs.

This article will guide you through the process of transitioning your dog to their new diet while addressing the common concerns you may have.

small brown dog eating from a green bowl

4 Reasons to Transition Your Dog’s Food

There are various reasons you might need to transition your dog’s food. This section covers some of the common reasons, including changing nutritional needs, food allergies or sensitivity, and health conditions.

Each of my four dogs is on a different food. They are each in a different stage of life and have health needs, so I choose foods that best fit their individuality.

Puppy food for the puppy, limited-ingredient food for our allergy-prone pup, and high-protein and high-calorie for our agility dog. And I’m in the process of transitioning our senior dog to a fresh food diet. Enough to make your head spin, am I right?

1. Changing Nutritional Needs

As your dog grows and ages, their nutritional requirements may change. Puppies, adult dogs, and senior dogs all have different nutritional needs, so it’s essential to adjust their diet to meet those needs.

For example, puppies require more protein and fat for their growth and development, while senior dogs might need lower-calorie food to maintain a healthy weight. Pay close attention to your dog’s energy levels, weight, and overall health, and consult your veterinarian if you’re unsure about the right diet for your dog’s life stage.

2. Food Allergies or Sensitivity

Some dogs develop food allergies or sensitivities, which can cause symptoms like itching, ear infections, and digestive issues.

If you suspect your dog has a food allergy or sensitivity, read Does My Dog Have Allergies?

Consult with your veterinarian, as they may recommend an elimination diet or allergy testing to identify the specific ingredient causing the issue. Once identified, you’ll need to transition your dog’s diet to a new, allergy-friendly food to help alleviate their symptoms.

Here are my recommended Hypoallergenic Treats, Food, and Bones for Dogs with Allergies.

3. Health Condition

Certain health conditions may require a change in your dog’s diet. For instance, dogs with diabetes may need a low-glycemic diet, while those with kidney disease might need a diet lower in protein and phosphorus.

If your dog is diagnosed with a health condition, work closely with your veterinarian to determine the most appropriate diet to help manage their condition.

Remember, whenever transitioning your dog’s food, it’s essential to do so gradually to prevent gastrointestinal upset. Slowly mix the new food with the old over a period of at least a week to help your dog’s stomach adjust.

4. Rotational Feeding

There is not one perfect food for any one dog and feeding a rotational diet can help keep them balanced.  Would you thrive on one recipe for every meal?

two dog food bowls, one with kibble, the other with fresh organ meat

Choosing the Right Dog Food

When transitioning your dog to a new food, it is crucial to choose the right food for their needs. And with thousands of choices, it may feel impossible to know what the right food is.

Kibble, Fresh or Raw

In the past, kibble was the obvious choice to feed our dogs. It’s convenient and easy to pour into your dog’s bowl and be done. But we are learning that kibble isn’t necessarily the healthiest choice.

You may have noticed the rise in fresh dog food delivery options. We are testing The Farmers Dog with our senior dog, Bear. More on that to come.

Choose the highest quality you can afford, whether that’s kibble, fresh or raw food for your dog.

Consider Dog’s Age, Size, and Activity Level

The age, size, and activity level of your dog play significant roles in determining the right food. Dog foods are often tailored to cater to specific life stages, sizes, and breed types.

  • Age: Puppies require food with higher protein and calorie content to support their growth and development, while senior dogs need a lower-calorie diet to maintain a healthy weight as their activity levels decrease. Adult dogs need well-balanced diets that meet their energy requirements and support their overall health.
  • Size: Nutritional needs vary accordingly. Large breeds require specific nutrients to support their bone and joint health, while small breeds may benefit from a smaller-sized kibble for easier chewing and digestion.
  • Activity Level: Active dogs need more calories and nutrients to sustain their energy levels, while less active dogs require fewer calories to prevent obesity.

Consult Your Veterinarian

If you are unsure, consult with your veterinarian to discuss which food to transition your dog to. But it may surprise you that most vets are not educated on dog nutrition. So do your research before and after talking with your vet.

How to Safely Transition Your Dogs Food

Gradual Transition Method

When switching your dog to a new food, it’s important to take a gradual approach. This method involves slowly combining the new food with the current food over a period of several days. By doing this, you will help your dog’s digestive system adjust to the new diet without causing any upset or discomfort.

The most popular transition schedule involves the following ratios for new and old dog food for 7 days:

  • Days 1-2: 25% new food — 75% old food
  • Days 3-4: 50% new food / 50% old food
  • Days 5-6: 75% new food / 25% old food
  • Day 7: 100% new food

Dog Food Transition Chart

dog food transition chart

Time Frame

While the 7-day schedule works well for many dogs, it’s important to remember that some dogs might need a longer transition period. If you know your dog is sensitive to change, then extend this schedule to 14 or even 30 days.

Adding Probiotics

Giving a probiotic supplement to your dog can help to transition to new foods easier on their digestive system and improve their overall health.

A good probiotic/prebiotic can help your dog with constipation or diarrhea, gas, lack of energy, coat, eyes, ears, bad breath, and even a weakened immune system. I recommend every dog take a high-quality probiotic.

Throughout the years, I’ve had the opportunity to try out numerous probiotic brands that are highly regarded online. My decision-making process involved reading online reviews and listening to recommendations from friends.

Although I believe all of them had some positive impact on my dogs’ well-being, none of them truly blew me away. However, everything changed when I discovered Daily Dog by FullBucket. It genuinely impressed me and exceeded my expectations.

Monitoring Progress

Pay close attention to your dog’s behavior and any changes in their bowel movements during the switch. Check for any signs of discomfort, indigestion, or adverse reactions. If you notice any issues, consider adjusting the food ratios or consulting your veterinarian for advice.

Trouble changing dog food

Refusal to Eat

If your dog refuses to eat the new food, slow the transition down, adding smaller amounts of the new food at a time until your dog will eat. Adding in bone broth, peanut butter or other food toppers can help entice your pup to eat their new food.

Digestive Issues

If your dog is experiencing digestive issues, like diarrhea, vomiting, and gassiness, slow down on the transition and add in pure pumpkin.

Allergic Reactions

As you transition your dog to a new food, be vigilant for signs of allergic reactions, such as:

  • Skin conditions: itching, redness, or hives
  • Gastrointestinal issues: vomiting, diarrhea, or excessive gassiness
  • Respiratory problems: sneezing or coughing

If you notice any of these symptoms, stop the new food and consult your veterinarian. They may recommend adjusting the transition plan or trying a different food.

dog food diary and dog food transition chart

Using a Dog Food Diary

By keeping track of all the foods your dog has eaten will help you determine what brands and proteins they do best on. Make note of the date, brand, protein, and any reactions to the food.

I created this Digital and Printable Dog Food Diary to keep track of our dogs nutrition to ensure they are getting the best nutrition possible. Click here to get your copy.

Remember, patience is key when transitioning your dog to a new food. With a gradual approach and careful monitoring, you can overcome potential challenges and ensure your dog’s smooth adaptation to their new diet.

What’s Next?

About the Author

Debi McKee

Debi McKee is the expert behind Rescue Dogs 101 where she guides you in your journey of adopting and raising a rescue dog every step of the way. She is a mom of 3 human kids and 4 dogs and volunteers for a local dog rescue and Humane Society. Click here for more about Debi and her passion for helping you and your dog.

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