Hi stranger! Signing up for MypetMD is easy, free and puts the most relevant content at your fingertips.

Get Instant Access To

  • 24/7 alerts for pet-related recalls

  • Your own library of articles, blogs, and favorite pet names

  • Tools designed to keep your pets happy and healthy

or Connect with Facebook

By joining petMD, you agree to the Privacy Policy.

petMD Blogs

Written by leading veterinarians to provide you with the information you need to care for your pets.

Subscribe to
Nutrition Nuggets
Your dog's nutrition is important for a healthy & happy life. petMD experts help you to know what to feed your dog, how much food to feed, and the differences in dog foods, so your dog gets optimum nutrition.
Nutrition Nuggets is the newest offshoot of petMD's Dog Nutrition Center. Each week Dr. Coates will use her expertise and wisdom to blog about the intricacies of dog nutrition.

How to Switch Dog Foods

February 10, 2012 / (2) comments

Whatever the reason for the change, owners commonly ask, "What is the best way to switch dog foods?" The pat answer that you’ll often hear is "gradually," but this can mean different things to different people and it may not always be the ideal way to go. So, here’s my take on the best way to change your dog’s diet under a couple of different scenarios.

Why does it matter what method I use to change my dog’s diet? Well, sometimes it doesn’t. If you have a dog with an iron stomach, you can probably get away with any method you want. After all, in comparison to some of the things these dogs eat with no ill-effects, moving from Brand A to Brand B, or a switch from a beef-based to a chicken-based diet is relatively benign.

But for the rest of you out there who are either uncertain of the nature of your dog’s gastrointestinal tract or, like me, know you have a dog that’s just looking for an excuse to develop diarrhea (or lose its appetite, vomit, etc.), gradually is usually the way to go. The directions I hand out to my clients under the circumstances I just outlined read as such:

  • Day 1 – Mix 20% of the new food with 80% of the old.
  • Day 2 – Mix 40% of the new food with 60% of the old.
  • Day 3 – Mix 60% of the new food with 40% of the old.
  • Day 4 – Mix 80% of the new food with 20% of the old.
  • Day 5 – Feed 100% of the new food.
  • *If at any point during this process your dog stops eating or develops vomiting or diarrhea, do not feed any more of the new food and call the office.

There are times, however, when I do recommend the cold turkey approach. In cases of gastroenteritis, heart failure, kidney disease, some type of bladder stones, canine cognitive dysfunction or food allergies, I will use a prescription diet as I would a medicine because I want the benefits to kick in ASAP. If we have reason to be particularly concerned about a dog developing gastrointestinal distress, I might recommend a slower approach or add a probiotic or other medication into the mix, but I’ve rarely had to do so.

On the other hand, if your dog is a picky eater or if you are dealing with a chronic condition like obesity or osteoarthritis, where delaying full implementation of the new diet by a couple of days won’t do any harm, mixing the old and new foods together for a few days can maximize the chances that your dog will be receptive to the change.

As you can see, there is no one-size-fits-all method for changing from one dog food to another. Perhaps the best rule of thumb is to use the gradual approach unless your veterinarian recommends otherwise.

Dr. Jennifer Coates

Image: Elisabeth Hammerschmid / via Shutterstock

Subscribe to Nutrition Nuggets

Comments  2

Leave Comment
  • It will be Hard!!
    03/25/2012 02:53pm

    Our pets may not be used to eating the new foods. We are taking them out of their comfort zone. As such we should be very conscious of their vitamin intake. Using supplements throughout the transition can reduce the effects of not getting enough vitamin in their diet.

    Dov Shore, NoviPet


  • 10/14/2015 09:00pm

    While I respect your view, it does seem a bit like a plug for NoviPet's dog vitamins...

    Fact of the matter is most dogs likely do not need supplements and in fact they could even hurt in certain circumstances... to say nothing of trying to get your dog to switch foods AND ply them with unnecessary supplements at the same time.

    Useful link on the subject;




Photo of Jennifer

... graduated with honors from the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine in 1999. In the years since, she has practiced veterinary medicine in Virginia, Wyoming, and Colorado. She is the author of several books about veterinary medicine and animal care, including the Dictionary of Veterinary Terms, Vet-Speak Deciphered for the Non-Veterinarian .

Jennifer also writes short stories that focus on the strength and importance of the human-animal bond and freelance articles relating to a variety of animal care and veterinary topics. Dr. Coates lives in Fort Collins, Colorado with her husband, daughter, and pets.