Switching dog to new food - how long to mix the old food with the new (if at all)?
We have been feeding our dog Nutro Natural Choice Lamb and Rice, but with the number of concerns popping up online about liver issues and other health problems since the packaging and formula changed, we've decided to switch our pup to something else (definitely made in the USA with all ingredients from here as well). I'm stopping after work to pick up new food, but was wondering how to go about switching to the new food. If we didn't have any concerns about the old food, I'd be more willing to take it slowly...but I'm wondering how we should go about doing the switch given our concerns about the Nutro (to clarify, we haven't noticed any changes in our dog's appetite and haven't noted any health issues yet...but want to change before any problems pop up).
Are we better off going cold-turkey to the new food? mixing for a few days?
But, having been in your shoes a lot lately (switching foods), I guess I would think about it this way:
1) If you have a dog with a sensitive GI tract, who normally ONLY gets their dog food and nothing else, chances are pretty good that you're going to end up with loose stools if you switch cold turkey. Even dogs with rather robust GI tracts can have issues when switched abruptly. So, best practices is to start mixing with more of the old, a little of the new, gradually swapping that ratio over the course of 7-14 days. If you've got enough of the old food handy (that hasn't been causing any problems) and can do that, I would.
2) If, on the other hand, your dog is having issues on the current food, you're completely out of the current food, and/or you don't mind dealing with some GI upset, you could just swap and take your chances.
What I've found is that I don't have trouble switching from a higher protein/lower fiber diet to a lower protein/higher fiber diet when the protein source is the same. But if the protein source changes (i.e.: chicken to say fish) or if the protein level goes up significantly, loose stools happen for a few days even with my otherwise healthy dog if I switch abruptly.
I would've preferred not to make a quick switch at all, but due to illness with my other dog and the fact that he will often finish off the healthy dog's meals, I didn't want to keep the old food around when doing a food trial.
If you're really concerned about the old food, why not switch immediately to chicken and rice or hamburger and rice, then slowly add in the new food. That's what I had to do with my very sensitive collie.
"We can judge the heart of a man by his treatment of animals." ~Immanuel Kant
I once switched food all of a sudden with my two dogs (will skip the long story). One was fine and one got the runs something fierce. I would either do LauraKY's suggestion, or at least phase out the old over a week.
We don't get less brave; we get a bigger sense of self-preservation........
I often switch all at once and rarely have any issues, but I am usually going from the same type of food to the same type of food--protein, fat and calorie levels roughly the same, sometimes changing the protein source, sometimes not.
Were I concerned, but still wanting to switch all at once, I'd think about adding some pumpkin to help keep the stools firm and perhaps go half rations through the change for a day or two.
I switch around "cold turkey" all the time and have never had a problem- I don't think it's healthy to feed the same brand/type of food day after day, month after month.
However, if you've fed your dog nothing but one brand/type of food for months you may have accidentally created a "sensitive stomach" so you might want to change over slowly over the course of a few days and watch for any signs of upset- if you see any such signs, back off and do the change-over more slowly.
I'm the same as wendy-I switch my five dogs around all the time and feed lots of different kinds of non-dog-food-kibble food to them. I switch mine on a dime and have never had a problem. I think b/c they always get a variety they are able to handle new menus easily.
I guess I just feel the need to chime in and mention that if a pet has been on the same food for awhile, adding a new protein/more fat (whether via a new dog food or getting into the garbage or getting table scraps) can trigger pancreatitis.
Pancreatitis can be painful at best and deadly at worst. Some dogs can eat garbage or swap around foods with no problem at all, but some can't. So while some folks like wendy or cowboymom have good luck with the variety and have done it from day one, that doesn't necessarily mean it's safe for every dog.
We lost a dog to pancreatitis after she got into the kitchen garbage a few years ago. My dog got pancreatitis after counter surfing and eating a bunch of salmon.
Perhaps that's an argument FOR a varied diet. As i said, I'm not a veterinarian, I just would hate to see a dog get sick because they all of a sudden are getting a bunch of different foods.
I still don't think that swapping to a new dog food is going to be a huge problem and I would do it if I felt I needed to. But there's a reason that it's recommended, even right on most dog food bags, to switch foods gradually.
A good horseman doesn't have to tell anyone...the horse already knows.