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DOG / nutrition

When Should I Change My Dog's Diet?

If your dog is older or has new health concerns, it may be time to switch to a new food.


Diet & life stage

Dogs’ nutritional needs evolve as they age. Take protein as one example: Growing dogs need lots of it; adult dogs need less. In senior dogs, too much protein can harm the liver and kidneys. Fortunately, there is dog food out there for each life stage. A puppy formula will have enough protein (and carbohydrates) for the bright-eyed and bushy-tailed youngster, while adult and senior formulas have different balances of ingredients. Senior-dog food also may include supplements such as glucosamine and chondroitin, which may ease stiffness in your old buddy’s joints.

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Diet & food sensitivities

If your pooch has symptoms such as an upset stomach or itchy skin, a food sensitivity may be to blame. Dogs can develop reactions to certain ingredients in their food—sometimes even after eating that ingredient for years with no problems. If your vet suspects that your dog has a food sensitivity, a diet switch is in order. Your vet may recommend trying novel proteins—a fancy way of saying “types of meat your dog has never tried.”

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Out with the old; in with the new

It’s best to change your dog’s diet gradually and systematically.

  • Transition your dog to a new food by substituting a little of the new stuff for the old in their usual meal. Swap out a little more at the next feeding, and so on, for seven days.
  • Wheat, beef, dairy, eggs and chicken are all common sources of sensitivity. Look for a new food that doesn’t include any of these ingredients.
  • Avoid giving your dog any treats or human food for at least six weeks while you’re experimenting with a new diet.
  • It may take as long as 12 weeks before you can tell whether a new diet regimen is working.
  • If your dog develops any new symptoms, talk to your veterinarian.

7-Day Schedule to Make a Food Switch

Day 1

  • 75% old food
  • 25% new food

Day 2

  • 70% old food
  • 30% new food

Day 3

  • 60% old food
  • 40% new food

Day 4

  • 50% old food
  • 50% new food

Day 5

  • 40% old food
  • 60% new food

Day 6

  • 25% old food
  • 75% new food

Day 7

  • 100% new food
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