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Switching Dog Food Brands? Here is The Best Way…

Feb 06, 2021
AUTHOR Dr. Ross Bernstein

Reviewed by Dr. Ross Bernstein

Dr. Ross Bernstein is a seasoned veterinarian who we’re fortunate to have as the head of our Board of Pet Experts. Dr. Ross earned his doctoral degree in veterinary medicine at the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, where he was trained under the guidance of some of the country's most renowned veterinary professionals.

Introducing new dog food to your pooch can’t happen overnight. It’s a gradual process that requires time and effort, as you need to monitor your canine closely and pay attention to changes in their behavior. 

Lots of people are anxious to get the process started. You need to remember that switching dog food doesn’t have to be harmful to your pet. In fact, it can be highly favorable. Dog parents just need to have patience and plan ahead. 

Sudden changes in your pet’s diet can upset their tummies and affect the stool. To make this process pleasing for both dog owners and their hairy companions, we decided to provide them with detailed instructions on how to handle the transition.

Before we start, remember that we are not affiliated with any dog food brand. Our team doesn’t advertise products, but we are simply trying to help you. So, let’s dive in! 

Preparing Our Guidelines

TheDogDigest team wants to give you all information you need to make the dog food transition period easier. We have conducted thorough research to gather knowledge on the best ways to introduce new dog recipes. We sought help from 

  • Dog lovers community
  • Veterinarians
  • Dog owners

Thankfully, we have received plenty of excellent advice, and we’re going to share everything with you! You can use this article as a personal guide for changing your canine’s diet. You’ll know what you need to pay attention to, and how to make the whole process as enjoyable as it can get.

Don’t forget that our primary goal is to give you accurate and relevant information. We at TheDogDigest love dogs and everything about them. As long as you’re happy, we’re happy.

Which Products Should You Look for When Changing Dog Food

High-quality products round off your pup’s nutritional needs. But how to find them? Unfortunately, top-quality products are usually the most expensive ones. However, most dog owners that we talked to emphasized that it’s wiser to feed your pups with improved formulas rather than having to buy them antibiotics and supplements later. The premium ingredients will keep your dog healthy.

Here are some tips on how to recognize high-quality brands and products. These formulas:

  1. Have named meat sources listed in the top five ingredients
  2. Don’t include meat or vegetable by-products, as well as grain, corn, or soy
  3. Meet the requirements of the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO)
  4. Don’t have ingredients that dogs are most often allergic to
  5. Don’t use artificial preservatives, colors, or fillers

Make sure you choose food products that are tailored specifically for your pooch. If you own a puppy, look for puppy recipes that contain more protein than other dog food recipes. In case your pooch belongs to smaller breeds, look for best dry dog food for small dogs If they’re a member of a larger breed, scout the shops for the best large breed dry dog food. Grandpa and grandma doggos deserve the best senior dry dog food that you can find on the market.

When Do Canines Need a Change in Their Diet?

There are several reasons why you might be considering changing your canine’s diet. Before you start, think about how big the transition is. If you are switching between two similar products, the whole process won’t be as challenging. However, in case you’re introducing wet food or shifting to a different brand, your pup will need more time to get used to it.

Before we come to the actual part of how the process should look like, let’s go through the reasons why your canine might need to change their diet. 

Your Pooch Is Sliding into a New Stage in Life

Whichever life stage your hairy friend belongs to, you need to make sure their diet is complete and balanced. Dogs require 37 essential nutrients to meet all their dietary requirements. Lack of any of those ingredients can lead to severe medical issues.

Puppies, adults, and senior dogs have different habits. While puppies love to run around causing troubles, our wiser doggos observe the situation quietly, reminiscing on their youth. The way our hairy companions spend the day should tell us a lot about the nutrition they should have. Different daily activities affect their bodies’ needs. 

The youngest beasties, our little maniacs on the dance floor, need lots of protein in their food. That amount of energy must be supplied somehow. They should not lack vitamins and minerals that fuel speedy growth and development. 

Puppies can start switching from milk to kibble between the age of three to four weeks. This shift needs to be done gradually. First, start by wetting their food with warm water to make it softer. These cute little monsters often think that the food is for playing. Put your finger in the bowl and let them lick the food off. Do this until they get used to the taste of food and stop touching food with their paws.

If your furry one is reaching adulthood, their body will require a different diet. However, to choose the best food for your pooch properly, you need to know your canine’s eating habits and lifestyle. Has your pup grown to love outdoor activities and long walks, or have they turned into a couch potato? The answer to this question will guide you in choosing the perfect diet for them. 

As our beloved pets age, their eating habits and dietary requirements can change. Grandpa and grandma pups usually need lower-calorie formulas that prevent obesity. They also need products high in fiber to improve gastrointestinal health.

Your Pooch Is too Skinny or too Chubby

Source: bulldogalcapone

Obesity can be life-threatening for your dog. As in humans, too much fat leads to severe health issues, such as

  • Joint ailment
  • Metabolic disorders 
  • Gastrointestinal problems

Obese canines are not active enough, and that state of insufficient activity results in a shorter life span. 

You can help your dog by making them exercise more and not allowing them to overeat. However, if a dog is old or too obese, you need to take extra measures, such as—changing their diet. If this is the case, your pup needs to switch to a special weight management nutrition, which can be significantly different from their previous eating habits.  

Some elderly dogs can have the opposite problem due to their poor appetite and slow metabolism. Their bodies can’t absorb all nutrients from the food, so you need to switch them to formulas of the highest quality. This way, they will get all they need in smaller portions. 

In case we are talking about puppies or adult dogs who refuse to eat, the problem might lie in the fact they don’t like the food you’re serving them. Their lack of interest in food can make them eat less than they are supposed to and become too skinny too fast. These picky eaters also need to get a diet switch and will benefit from trying new formulas and flavors. 

It’s Your Vet’s Recommendation

When your vet advises you to change your pup’s diet, there’s usually a good reason for it. Perhaps they are missing out on some essential nutrients in their current food that need to be either replaced or compensated for. 

If you feel like the transition would be too big for your pooch, check with your vet if they could recommend a milder starter formula, which can serve as a transition food. This food should contain ingredients from both the current and the future diet, and it will ease the transition. 

You Feel Your Dog’s Food Needs Supplements

Most dog parents like to give their dogs complete and balanced formulas because they know that they contain every nutrient their pooch requires. People who feed their pups homemade diets usually need to add supplements to their nutrition to match the diet. 

Supplements also represent a transition food. In fact, every change in nutrition does. However, you need to be extremely careful with supplements, as they can sometimes do more harm than good. 

Too much of anything can make your pup sick. If the supplements contain too much calcium, for instance, your buddy can end up with skeletal problems. Excessive amounts of vitamin A lead to dehydration and trigger joint issues. 

In case your pup displays some allergic and unpleasant symptoms, such as a poor coat, you should think about adding supplements to their diet or switching the formulas. Always check with your vet in case you opt for the supplements. You need to test your buddy to see what exactly is missing in their nutrition. 

In case you want to add supplements to your doggo’s nutrition, you can find some ideas in the top 10 best dog dental chews.

Your Pooch Suffers from Food Sensitivity

Source: dogs.lovers

If a dog has food sensitivity, you need to find them the right diet! It’s the ingredients in their current food that they’re having trouble with. In case you’re not certain which product they’re sensitive to, we advise you to consult with your vet. 

Trying out different products on a sensitive stomach can cause much worse, chronic problems with your pooch. It is always much safer to test your pup and find out what ingredients you need to steer clear of. Any swift change of fat and protein in the diet will upset their gastrointestinal system. 

Once you figure out which ingredients have been causing problems, you can start feeding your pup gradually with the new formula. Observe your pooch carefully in the first few days to see if they show any discomfort or negative reactions to the new diet.

You Are Bringing a Dog to Your Home for the First Time

Lots of dog parents have their new pet’s diet planned even before these cuties cross their home’s threshold. You need to take into consideration that this will be a huge change for them, and not just for their nutrition. This stressful period can affect their eating habits, so approach them gently.
Try to find out what the dog has been feeding on before you took them in. That will help you a lot in the process.

What to Do If a Pup Doesn’t Like the New Food

One of the reasons a pup can refuse to eat the new food is because you’re feeding them too many treats. As long as they eat outside their feeding schedule, they won’t have much appetite when the meal time comes! So, cut back on all the candy. 

In case your canine doesn’t want to eat the new food, it means they don’t enjoy its taste or smell. Luckily, they’ll show their dissatisfaction from day one, before their body gets used to a new diet. This means you can temporarily continue giving them the old food until you find some other solution.

Signs That Show Your Pooch Has an Upset Stomach

Source: dogs.lovers

If your dog can’t process new food properly, you’ll be able to see the signs of irritation quickly after feeding them their first meal. This can happen either because your pup is intolerant to certain food ingredients or in case you have introduced them to a new formula too quickly. Don’t be alarmed—as long as you react on time, your pup will be just fine. 

There are several signs that will signal you something is wrong. Pay attention to:

  1. Excessive tummy growling
  2. Fatigue
  3. Vomiting
  4. Diarrhea
  5. Hunched posture
  6. Slower movements
  7. Fever
  8. Barfing or gases

If your cutie has a sensitive stomach, think about upgrading your pet’s food choice. Expensive dog food products are often costly for a good reason. These formulas contain fewer ingredients that can make your pooch sick or cause any allergies. However, the rules of the gradual feeding of new foods refer to these products as well. You can never be too cautious with nutrition. 

Adhere to the Feeding Schedule 

Sticking to a feeding schedule is extremely important when changing your dog’s diet. Any deviation from it can cause extra digestive system problems. In our table below, you’ll find how often dogs should eat

AgeMeals per day
Two to four monthsFour
Four to six monthsThree
Six to eight monthsTwo to three
Eight months and olderTwo

How Long Does It Take for a Dog to Get Used to New Food

What do we mean by gradual transition? Well, in case your pup is perfectly healthy, the transition from old to new food should take about two weeks. In the beginning, you should slowly include the new food by mixing it with the old one. This refers to both kibble and canned food. 

Some picky eaters will not want to eat the old food at all. Once they get a sniff of a new, super-delicious formula, there’s no turning back. Well, there’s one trick that dog owners can use. Make sure you mix both formulas to the point they can differentiate between the two. This way, they’ll taste the flavor they like, and gulp down the whole blend. Pay special attention to this in case you are introducing canned food to your pooch. Wet food is usually more palatable than kibble, but you also need to bring it to the bowl slowly. If you’re searching for canned food, we recommend you to take a peek at the best canned dog food.

Introducing new food usually takes about two weeks, and it’s divided into four stages.

  1. First stage. In the first three or four days, give them 75% of old and 25% of the new food. Do not increase new food intake until their stool is firm. In case your furry friend has a sensitivity to new ingredients, they will most likely show it in the first stage. If your pup is feeling fine, you can move on to the next stage. 
  2. Second stage. In the following seven days, give your pet a 50-50 mix. Blend all the ingredients and give the mix to your beloved one. Keep checking their stool during those seven days to see if there are any changes. If their stool is firm once those seven days pass, wait one more day and proceed to the next stage.
  3. Third stage. Now reverse the first step. Give them 75% of new and 25% of the old food. If by now you haven’t noticed any extreme, adverse reactions, chances that your pup is sensitive to a new formula are very slim! Wait for three to four days before moving on to the final stage.
  4. Fourth stage. After two weeks, your gorgeous bestie is ready for a full food transition. Fill their bowl with 100% of the new formula and let them enjoy it.

Let’s Sum up

Introducing new dog food to your pooch can seem a bit scary at first, but it can turn out to be an enjoyable experience. It usually results in creating a special bond between the owners and their pets.

If you want to provide your pup with the best care, use our guidelines in the process. And remember, for each tummy you can find something yummy. 


  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dog_food
  2. https://www.quora.com/When-you-switch-dog-food-brands-why-do-you-need-to-slowly-transition-from-one-to-another
  3. Tjernsbekk, M. T., et al. “Raw Mechanically Separated Chicken Meat and Salmon Protein Hydrolysate as Protein Sources in Extruded Dog Food: Effect on Protein and Amino Acid Digestibility.” Journal of Animal Physiology and Animal Nutrition, vol. 101, no. 5, 2017, doi:10.1111/jpn.12608.

Robertson, Debora. Bone appétit: 50 Clean Recipes for Healthier, Happier Dogs. Harper Design, 2019.

Dr. Ross Bernstein

Member of Alpha Paw’s Board of Pet Experts

Dr. Ross Bernstein is a seasoned veterinarian who we’re fortunate to have as the head of our Board of Pet Experts. Dr. Ross completed his undergraduate studies at Duke University, earning his B.S. in Neuroscience with a minor in Economics and Psychology. He then went on to pursue his doctoral degree in veterinary medicine at the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, where he was trained under the guidance of some of the country's most renowned veterinary professionals.

After UC Davis, Dr. Ross completed a one-year rotating internship in Medicine & Surgery at the University of Illinois, College of Veterinary Medicine, and recently completed an additional year of further training in small animal surgery at the Las Vegas Veterinary Specialty Center, where he gained extensive experience in complex soft tissue, orthopedic and neurological procedures.

Dr. Ross shares his home with a Golden Retriever named Duma. We’re lucky to have someone as experienced, knowledgeable, and passionate as Dr. Ross in our pack – not only as our trusted advisor, but also as our good friend. Thank you, Dr. Ross!

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