Switching Dog Food Gradually — Guidelines for Success

Unlike people, who can eat many foods a day with no problem, your dog’s digestive system is much more sensitive. The key is switching dog food gradually.

Switching dog food gradually
Your puppy doesn’t know a thing about switching dog food gradually. But now YOU do.

Unlike people, who can eat a variety of foods in a single day and not have any digestive upset, your dog’s digestive system is much more sensitive.

On average, your dog will need a seven-day transition period when switching to a new food. If you change his food too quickly, you may find your pet becoming sick, which will involve a messy cleanup for you.

Although the average amount of time it will take for you to switch your dog’s food is a week, it may take some dogs longer to become completely accustomed to the new chow.


For example, if you are currently feeding a kibble that is high in grain and corn, like Pedigree or Hill’s Science Diet, and you want to switch to a more natural grain-free dog food — like Nature’s Variety Instinct, Taste of the Wild or Natural Balance LID — the extreme ingredient differences between the two types of food may cause the transition period to be longer.

The following is a good set of guidelines for transitioning your dog between two foods with similar ingredient panels.

Transitioning to a Different Dog Food, Gradually

  • Days 1-2: During the first couple of days of starting a new food, mix 75% old with 25% new food. You want to feed these two together, not separated. Examine the feeding guidelines on the new bag of food — overfeeding is the top reason dogs are overweight.
  • Days 3-4: If you notice that your dog has loose stools or an upset stomach after the first two days, continue to feed less of the new stuff before increasing the percentage. If your dog has diarrhea or loose stools, along with slowing the transition, adding a small amount of canned pumpkin in the diet may help firm up the stools again. (Oddly enough, pumpkin can act as both stool firmer and softener.) In the case that he seems to be okay, change the percentage to 50% old and 50% new.
  • Days 5-6: At this point, you can change the percentage to 25% old and 75% new. Always look for signs of an upset stomach so you can slow the transition if needed.
  • Day 7: You can now start feeding your dog 100% of the new dog food.

If you have more than one dog, I highly suggest feeding them separately or watching the dogs finish their meal. If one finishes his food and there are leftovers, pick up the bowl and keep it out of reach of both dogs to ensure they are eating the correct food.

Rotation Diet

Certain foods (Nature’s Variety Instinct, for example) have formulas that allow dogs to rotate between raw, kibble and canned foods regularly. When feeding a diet like this, you can change the food daily, weekly or monthly, and the dog’s digestive system will remain stable.

The different forms of this particular food change only in the main protein. In fact, feeding a diet that allows for rotation gives your pet optimal balance and nutrition.

But, Be Aware…

Not all dog foods allow you to rotate like this. I do not suggest jumping around between flavors within one brand of food such as Iams; often the protein mentioned on the front of the bag is not the main protein ingredient in the food. Ingredients from one flavor of food may be completely different in another flavor of the same brand. Rotate only with foods that specifically suggest it.


Whether you are switching dog food gradually from a premium or store brand to a natural food or changing the flavor of an existing brand, you must monitor your dog during this time period. Each dog has a different sensitivity level to dietary changes.

Are you currently changing brands, or have you done this in the past? Tell me about it in the comments below. I look forward to hearing how it went with your pet.

Photo: EraPhernalia Vintage/Flickr


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