Switching your dog food is tricky. If it’s not making them sick, there’s no real harm in keeping the same food right? Well, not necessarily. Here are some expert-approved reasons why you should check your current brand and see if switching food is right for you.
1) Transitioning to Adulthood
This one seems pretty obvious, but if your dog isn’t a puppy anymore, then you need to transition from puppy food to adult dog food. According to Dr. Donna Raditic, nutrition and integrative medicine consultant from Athens, Georgia, puppy food has higher calories to help fuel young dog’s dramatic growth spurts. Adult dogs don’t need as many calories since they only need calories to maintain weight, instead of growing and making new tissues and cells. Dog and puppy foods also have significant differences in fat and protein levels as well as concentrations of various minerals and vitamins. This varies because different levels of growth require more or less of each vitamin.
Just like their human counterparts, pregnant dogs have different nutritional intake requirements due to lactation and pregnancy demands. Consult with your vet if your lovely lady dog becomes pregnant to go over the specific nutrients to look for in food and any nutrient supplements you need to ensure she and her puppies stay healthy.
3) Just Got Spayed or Neutered
It’s not uncommon for dogs to put on weight after getting neutered or spayed. This becomes even more prevalent in dogs that are still being fed puppy food post-procedure. This can be easily countered by making a diet change during the post-procedure transition. A good rule of thumb is this: if they’re not growing anymore, then don’t adjust for growth with high-calorie food. Dogs that aren’t fixed need more calories to maintain their body weight than dogs that have been spayed or neutered. When in doubt consult with your vet before taking your dog home to find what’s best for your pet.
4) Getting Older
You should reassess your dog’s food when they’re in their senior or middle age years. Dr. Julie Churchill, a clinical professor in the Univ. of Minnesota’s Department of Veterinary Clinical Sciences, cautions pet owners that it’s not wise to simply grab a bag of “senior” dog food when your canine companion reaches a certain age. The nutritional needs of the dog depend on a variety of factors. “Senior dog food” is more of a marketing term, not necessarily a scientific one. The calorie and nutrient requirements from one company’s senior dog food to another wildly vary and should be researched before making a purchase. Churchill explains, “I do recommend reassessing and realigning food, but it doesn’t have to say ‘senior’ on the bag because ‘senior’ doesn’t tell you what the nutrient composition is.” She continues to say that there’s a big difference in caloric needs between an older active dog and a sofa surfing pet that lounges 80% of the time.
5) Weight issues
Switching food is a simple solution if your pet is under or overweight. This does depend on how much weight your dog needs to gain or lose. For dogs that have one to three pounds to adjust, you can reduce or increase food by one-quarter cup accordingly. For dogs that are overweight by over three pounds, a specially tailored weight loss diet will be a better option. If you reduce the diet of your dog too drastically, it can lead to health problems such as vitamin and nutrient deficiencies or even organ issues. Adult food blends have specific formulas for all the nutrients based on the assumption that you’re feeding your pooch the recommended amount. Therefore, if you reduce the amount too drastically, you’re keeping your dog from getting all the nutrients they need to remain healthy. Weight loss specific diets, on the other hand, are formulated to be distributed at a reduced calorie level without sacrificing crucial vitamins and nutrients. They are safer and have proven results.
6) Food Allergies
While not the most common problem, dogs can develop food allergies. Food hypersensitivity can occur at any point in a dog’s life even without any previous history. Diagnosing allergies can be tricky as it can be any number of factors from food, environment, or chance interaction with an irritant. Food allergies and environmental allergies can have similar symptoms including, but not limited to, itchiness, skin infections, ear infections, and hair loss. Vomiting, diarrhea and gastrointestinal issues are a more specific indicator of food allergies. If food allergies are a potential problem, consult with your vet immediately to get a plan nailed down.
Changing your dog’s diet can help with a variety of things from increased energy to a healthier coat. The most important thing is to consult with your vet before any dietary changes to ensure that you get the most out of your canine’s kibble.