Guest essays and contributions

How to introduce new food to dogs

Our guest writer Micah Coyle shares her tips on safely transitioning to a new diet for your dog. Micah is the founder of K9 Rocks, whose mission of thinking is: What’s in it for the dog? A dog also has a soul, and its life also has high value.   

There are several ways to introduce new food choices to a dog. Start from selecting the right food to initiating gradual changes and making meals more appealing to provide your dog’s best choices. The acceptable way to introduce new foods to your dog is by adding a new choice to their regular diet. This will help make the transition as smooth as possible. Here are 12 steps to remember as you introduce new food to your dog.

1) Make sure to introduce a high-quality new dog food

Read the list of ingredients. The ingredients make your dog’s food; without them, it would not be a complete meal for your pet. Look for high-quality ingredients in the commercial diet that are easy to digest, such as chicken and rice, and avoid foods that can cause allergic reactions in some dogs.

Read the label. Don’t be misled by marketing claims or fancy packaging — read the label! Many pet owners fall for expensive branded dog foods with less essential nutrients. You want a well balanced and complete diet.

2) Gradual switching is safest

The best way to introduce new food is to mix it with the old food, then slowly increase the amount of new food. It is called a “sliding scale” or “progressive change.” Start by giving your furry fellow a small amount of the new food mixed into his old food. Feed this mixture for two or three days and then increase the amount of new food until he is eating 100 percent of it. The changeover should take about ten days total, with only one new ingredient introduced at a time. It will allow your dog’s digestive system time to adapt and avoid any stomach upset or diarrhea.


3) Follow the new diet protocol
a. 1st Day: Mix 25% of new dog food with 75% of old dog food.
b. 3rd Day: Mix 50% of new dog food with 50% of old dog food.
c. 5th Day: Mix 75% of new dog food with 25% of old dog food.
d. 7th Day: Offer 100% new dog food without mixing

4) Pursue professional advice

Ask your veterinarian what nutrient is Grade A for your canine friend, considering his age, breed, health conditions, and lifestyle. Puppies and senior dogs have different nutritional needs than adult dogs. If you have an active dog, look for foods that are high in energy density (calories per cup). A hypoallergenic food is suggested if your dog affected from allergies or skin complications. Also, if your pet is prone to obesity, you should select nutrients that don’t contain too much calories.

5) Keep things positive

When presenting new diets, it’s significant not to do so when your pooch is already stressed out or nervous about something else — such as being left alone at home or starting obedience classes. If your dog has been through a traumatic event recently (such as being boarded at the vet) or has been doing poorly in training classes lately, wait until things settle down before making any changes.

6) Introduce one new food at a time

It is vital for any food change, principally if you’re switching from commercial food to home-cooked meals or vice versa. It’s best to introduce one new food at a time and then wait two weeks before adding another. If you want your canine buddy to eat raw chicken and beef together — which can be challenging because they smell very different — you’ll need two weeks. It will give you time to see how your dog reacts to each new ingredient and identify any allergies. 

7) Make the new diet delicious & appealing

Make sure that you choose foods that smell like something that your dog will eat. Try different brands and flavors until you find one that your dog likes best. Make new food delicious by adding some extra goat milk, steamed veggies, peanut butter, and cheese; your dog will probably be eager for more! Also, try mixing in some of her old favorites with the new ones — this can help make the transition easier for both of you.

8) Give choices rather than forcing your dog

If your canine friend is accustomed to eating only one type of food and refuses to eat any other food, then you can try giving them choices between two kinds of food without mixing. Alternatively, offer your pet a choice between two bowls: one with his current food and one with the new food. This way, your dog can decide whether he wants. It may work out well as long as there are no adverse reactions from either one or both types of foods given at the same time.

9) Be patient and take it slowly

Don’t try to change a lifetime of eating habits overnight. Dogs are susceptible to their owner’s emotions, so when introducing new foods, be patient and try not to get frustrated or discouraged. And if you don’t want your canine friends to eat one thing forever, they must be exposed to various flavors, textures, and smells to accept anything new eventually.

10) Introduce new food choices before a meal and after exercise

When you want to introduce a new diet, make sure that your dog has not eaten anything for at least four hours. By doing this, you will avoid the possibility of gastrointestinal upset, which may be caused by the rapid absorption of nutrients in the intestine. Hence, it is superlative to present a new foodstuff earlier the mealtime or just after exercise when your furry friend is starved.


11) Provide warm and moist food
If your furry friend doesn’t seem interested in the new food, try warming it up slightly, so it smells more like what he already eats. Refrigerated or frozen kibble will feel strange when first chewed on, so don’t let your pet get accustomed to eating kibble cold. Warm or microwave the dry kibbles (or canned
food
) for 30 seconds before feeding to your dog.

12) Closely monitor adverse reactions
It would be best to keep an eye on your dog for signs of skin allergy, food intoxication and digestive distress such as vomiting, diarrhea and enteritis during this period. Stop feeding if your dog seems sick after eating his new food. If you notice any changes in his behavior, such as loss of appetite or lethargy, consult your veterinarian immediately, as these could be signs of illness rather than just an adverse reaction to a new diet.

When switching a new food to your dog, slowly and gradually mix the new food with old food for 7-10 days. The main thing to do is to ensure that you are feeding a balanced diet to your dog. Changing to a new dog food can be overwhelming with the number of choices, types, and brands available out there, but with planning and dedication, it can be done.


References:

  1. https://www.vetfolio.com/learn/article/diagnosis-and-management-of-food-allergies-in-dogs-
    and-cats
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4960977/
  3. https://www.abacademies.org/articles/testing-theory-of-planned-behavior-and-product-
    properties-to-examine-intention-to-buy-dog-food-evidence-from-thailand-12840.html
  4. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25006071/
  5. https://www.mdpi.com/2076-2615/5/1/43
  6. https://www.magonlinelibrary.com/doi/abs/10.12968/coan.2020.0094
  7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6515799/
  8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7380597/
  9. https://www.mdpi.com/2076-
    2615/5/1/126/htm?sa=X&ved=0CDwQ9QEwEmoVChMIo96EndTxxgIViy2ICh3_1w0a
  10. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/2669576/
  11. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/9781119108641.ch8
  12. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21486641/

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