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Most dog owners will feed a range of different foods to their dogs over the course of their lives, because dogs have different nutritional requirements at different ages and life stages. Additionally, most of us will change our dogs from one brand or type of food to another at various stages too, to reflect our own preferences in terms of what we feed, and what our dogs enjoy eating and what they turn their noses up at!
However, any time that you change your dog’s food for a different brand or type or want to switch them over to a different diet, the change should be made gradually over the course of a week or two, gradually phasing out the old food and introducing the new food slowly.
This allows your dog to get used to the change, and can help to avoid problems like digestive upsets from a dramatic switchover between food types. That said, it isn’t always possible to plan a change and introduce it gradually, and you might find that at some stage in your dog’s life, you will need to swap them over to a different food without having the time to make a gradual transition.
This may be because you’re down to the last couple of portions of your dog’s old food and find that it has been discontinued or is out of stock, and you have to find an alternative lest your dog go hungry – or because your dog food has suddenly been recalled due to a quality or health concern, which necessitates that you stop feeding it to your dog immediately.
In situations like these, you may have no choice about making an immediate change – but how should you tackle this in order to avoid problems, and keep your dog on an even keel? In this article, we will provide the answer to this question. Read on to learn more.
If you have to change your dog’s food suddenly because their old food is no longer available rather than because you simply want to change their diet, you may be able to ease the transition by choosing a food that is as similar to the old food as possible.
Sometimes this will be simple enough, such as if your regular kibble is not available but there is a different flavour in the same range and brand that contains mostly the same ingredients – but at other times it can be more challenging.
Even if you have to switch brands, try to keep to a food with a similar balance of the same or similar ingredients, and avoid introducing something that your dog hasn’t eaten before or doesn’t normally have – like grains, if your dog’s previous food was grain-free.
Additionally, it is not a good idea to make a sudden switch from say, wet food to kibble or vice versa, so try to pick a food of the same type too.
Dogs will eat most things that are put in front of them and will also often scavenge and eat scraps of all types with no adverse effects, so you might find that even a sudden change to something pretty different won’t have a negative impact on your dog.
However, if your dog has a sensitive stomach or is prone to digestive upsets, changing their food suddenly can cause problems. One way to ease the transition over the course of a couple of days is to feed them something very plain and bland – like boiled chicken mashed up with brown rice – with just a little of the new food mixed in to see how your dog tolerates it, gradually increasing the amount of the new food over a few meals.
Whilst feeding something like chicken and rice won’t provide all of the nutrients your dog needs within a complete diet for the long term, it is fine to feed them a meal like this for a couple of days to help them to adjust to a new diet.
When you first start feeding your dog a new food, don’t fill their bowl and hope for the best – start off by giving them a handful of kibble and allowing them to digest it for a few hours and see how they get on before gradually increasing their portion sizes to their normal rations.
Any time that you change your dog’s diet, you should keep an eye out for signs of problems like diarrhoea, loose stools, or digestive discomfort. If the new food seems to be causing a bad reaction in your dog, try feeding something bland again to help to settle them down, and consider if the issue will resolve itself as your dog gets used to the food, or if it is not a good match for them.
If your dog is fed a special veterinary prescription diet for a health issue of any type, you shouldn’t change or stop feeding the food without speaking to your vet first.
Most prescription diets have a suitable alternative on the market produced by another brand, and your vet will be able to advise you on a good alternative, and help you to make the change – as well as being able to predict and mitigate against any potential problems.
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