Making the Switch – Changing Dog Food Slowly

Learning how to change dog foods slowly is important to keep your pup happy. Abrupt diet changes can cause vomiting, excess gas, constipation or diarrhea.

In order to avoid these symptoms, most experts recommend transitioning to a new food gradually. Start by mixing in small amounts of the new food (about 25 percent.) Over a period of 1-2 weeks, increase the proportion of new food every few days to 50 percent, then 75 percent, and ultimately 100 percent.

Why Change Your Dog’s Food at All?

There are a lot of good reasons to shake up your dog’s diet by switching to a new dog food. 

Maybe you’re transitioning from puppy food to adult food, or changing from wet food to dry food or vice versa. 

Perhaps your dog’s bowel movements have been irregular. Maybe they’ve been constipated or had hard stools or perhaps diarrhea has been an issue. Likely, they’re not getting enough of a certain nutrient. Low fiber diets, inadequate vitamins and minerals, and nutrient-deficient dog foods could be why your dog poops irregularly or has trouble with digestion.

Whatever the reason, sometimes dogs just need to change their diet. 

Changing Your Dog’s Diet Basics: Steady As She Goes

Transitioning your dog’s food gradually has the added benefit of helping your dog’s body adjust to the new food and develop a taste for the new food. Most dogs will take to new food without any issue but some dogs, just like us, can be creatures of habit. Changes in diet can be tough, so help your dog feel comfortable by making the transition gradual. 

Monitor your dog’s stool (poop) during the process. A normal bowel movement after each ratio change is a good sign. Pet owners should know that the appearance of their dog’s stool may change due to different amounts of dietary fiber and protein in the new diet. If at any point, however, your dog develops symptoms such as a loss of appetite, vomiting, loose stools, or other gastrointestinal problems, consult your vet immediately. 

Other Ways Pet Owners Can Help Their Dog

Important as it is, there’s more to a healthy life than a dog’s diet. As a loving dog owner don’t forget the importance of lifestyle. Just like we humans, dogs need a holistically healthy lifestyle that includes, in addition to nutritious food,  physical activity, occasional veterinary attention, and positive social interactions with you and other dogs.

Make sure your dog or dogs are getting enough water. Dehydration is a very serious issue and adequate water intake is crucial, especially in hot and/or dry climates. Make sure your dogs are getting plenty of fresh water to avoid dehydration. 

Don’t forget to exercise your dog. A largely sedentary lifestyle is just as unhealthy for dogs as it is for humans. Vigorous walks, play at the dog park and other activities that get your pets up and running are great for dogs. 

Exercise can vent excessive energy, prevent weight gain, build and maintain muscle, relieve muscle tension, and can help prevent dog constipation (a lack of exercise is one of the causes of constipation).   

Positive social interactions with humans and other dogs are also extremely important for your dog’s health. Dogs are very social animals and struggle terribly in isolation (this is the reason that dogs often suffer from separation anxiety). Make sure that you are giving your dog the attention that it needs. The occasional trip to the dog park won’t hurt either. 

And remember the veterinarian. When pets are seriously ill (physical injuries, bacterial infections, etc.), they need veterinary treatment but a visit to the veterinarian can be good for preventative care as well.    

FAQs About Canine Constipation and Diet Changes 

Can Changing Dog Food Cause Constipation?

Yes, sudden changes in diet are some of the most common causes of constipation. A diet change can also cause diarrhea, more or less frequent bowel movements, and even vomiting in some cases. 

Temporary constipation or diarrhea isn’t something to be too concerned about, but keep an eye on it. A constipated dog can be perfectly healthy as long as their bowel movement returns to normal soon. Dog constipation, if left untreated, can be very serious. 

There are many treatment options available if and when it does happen, but you need to be aware to take action, as more serious cases of constipation can be a problem. Monitoring stool is kind of gross, but it is important in monitoring your pet’s health. If constipation, diarrhea or any other gastrointestinal issues linger, or you just have any concerns or questions about the symptoms, consult a veterinarian. 

Can You Prevent Dog Constipation?

Not always, but there are things you can do to give you the best chance to prevent dog constipation or at least mitigate constipation’s effects when it does happen. Make sure your dog is eating foods with a lot of dietary fiber. Fiber is a crucial element in preventing constipation in dogs. 

Make sure your dog is drinking plenty of fresh water. Adequate hydration can help prevent constipation and aid in other digestive functions. 

Why Not Just Change to a New Food Right Away?

You certainly can, and it can work. Some dogs take to new food right away. Others have a hard time adjusting. A sudden switch to a new food can make a dog constipated, give them diarrhea, and have other unpleasant and uncomfortable side effects. There’s also the question of preference. Some dogs love their food and may hesitate to try, let alone switch entirely, to something new. 

Gradually mixing new food into the old food can help your dog, picky or otherwise, to develop a taste for the new food and prevent the unpleasant symptoms mentioned above. 

What if I Have Specific Questions About My Dog and Their Diet?

If you have any concerns or questions about your dog’s health or their diet, or if you’re just looking for tips on how best to keep your furry friend healthy, consult with your veterinarian. Your veterinarian will be able to give your dog a complete examination and determine what kind of adjustments need to be made to your dog’s diet.