Like humans, the nutritional needs of dogs change throughout their life. And owners should be aware of the diet their dog needs to support different growth, health and activity levels. However, an abrupt switch to different foods can cause anxiety in your pet. So find out why your dog’s food may need changing, and how to switch your dog to new foods gradually:
Why your dog’s food needs switching:
The amount of protein required by a healthy dog changes at key stages of its life. So a fast-growing pup needs plenty of protein and carbohydrates to support and fuel a high level of physical activity. Start changing your puppy’s diet to adult food when she’s about a year old, or when your vet suggests it.
- Small breeds usually become adults at 9 to 12 months
- Medium-sized breeds at approx. 12 months
- Large breeds at approx. 12 – 24 months
Adults don’t need the same amount of protein, as it’s now used to maintain and repair the system. The liver and kidneys of elderly dogs can actually be harmed by feeding them too much protein. And as older dogs are prone to arthritis, their food should contain supplements like chondroitin and glucosamine to help reduce joint stiffness.
Dogs can also develop food sensitivities that cause skin itching or stomach problems. You need to be aware that a food-intolerance can happen with a food your dog has been eating for years without any problem. If your veterinary believes this is causing your pet’s symptoms, she may advise you to switch to a protein food your dog hasn’t tried before.
How to change your dog’s diet to identify food intolerances:
- Chicken, dairy, eggs, beef and wheat are the most common foods causing symptoms of intolerance, so ensure the new food doesn’t contain any of these items as ingredients
- Do not give your pet any dog treats or human food scraps, for a minimum of 6 weeks, whilst trying to find a new diet they can eat without problems
- Gradual switching by substituting small amounts of their usual meat with the new meat works best
- Slowly increase the amount of new meat in your dog’s diet for at least 7 – 14 days
- If your dog has any more symptoms of food intolerance, see your veterinary for advice
- It can take as much as 3 months before your dog’s digestion settles down and accepts a new diet
7 day plan to switch dog food
Switching your dog’s food gradually allows you to find out exactly which foods may be causing her digestive problems. Or it may simply help her accept a different diet for a new stage of life. Switching too fast may cause stomach upsets or your pet may eat just the usual food and leave the new stuff. So always ensure you mix the new food into the usual food thoroughly.
Following a set plan to do the change is well-worth the effort.
Day 1 – 75% usual food to 25% new food
Day 2 – 70% usual food to 30 % new food
Day 3 – 60% usual food to 40% new food
Day 4 – 50% usual food to 50% new food
Day 5 – 40% usual food to 60% new food
Day 6 – 25% usual food to 75% new food
Day 7 – 100% new food
Tip: During any diet-change, your dog’s bowel movements may be softer than normal, so wait until its stools are firm before moving on to the next step in the food-swapping plan.
Choose the best diet for your dog
Some dog food manufacturers add a lot of ‘filler’ ingredients to their dog-foods, so although your pet may be eating good-sized meals, she may not be getting enough nutrition. Look for high quality foods that always have a type of meat as the first item shown on the Ingredients List.
Dogs also need vegetables, so another important ingredient should be some kind of vegetable near the top of the Ingredients List. Avoid dog foods that have unhealthy filler ingredients like ‘corn’ or ‘soy’ on the list. These cheap fillers do not contain any of the vitamins, minerals, fatty acids etc. that your dog needs to eat every day.