Changing dog food: the dangers of doing it too quickly

Have you found yourself scraping liquid poop off the grass lately? If you had gone about changing dog food, it might be why. We don’t have to be Sherlock Holmes to think those two might be linked.

Of course, diarrhoea can be the result of all sorts of problems, ranging from allergies and intolerances to separation anxiety and more. But it can also be the result of switching foods too fast.

When you’ve got new food for your pup, it can be tempting to just switch them over to it immediately. Or if you run out of their usual, you might just give them what you have to hand. It’s understandable, but it’s not good for your pooch’s tummy. 

Changing them onto a new food isn’t as easy as it sounds. They have sensitive digestive systems and can’t handle an immediate switch. This is why it’s so important for it to be a gradual transition. If not, you’ll stay scraping liquid poop off the grass and might even have to deal with some scarier symptoms like vomiting and hunger strikes. So how do you do it?

Changing dog food

If you’re planning on changing your pup’s food, here’s how to do it safely:

  • Day 1-3: 25% new food mixed with 75% of the old
  • Day 4-6: 50% new and 50% old
  • Day 7-10: 75% new with 25% old

After that, you can go on with 100% of the new food.

Pups with sensitive stomachs, food allergies, and other GI disorders and diseases may need a longer transitional period. But for your average woofer, this ten-day transition plan should be perfect.

If you notice any issues like consistent diarrhoea, vomiting, or changes in appetite it’s a good idea to slow it down. If there are still issues, it’s always best to check with the vet. And some foods just don’t sit right with your dog’s stomach, so you may need to discontinue, try a different flavour, or put them back on their old food until you’ve discussed it with your vet. 

Problem poos

Every dog is different. The only way to have a successful transition onto a new food is to monitor them and do what’s best for them. But let’s look at some of the problems transitioning too fast can cause.

Diarrhoea is the main symptom in pooches who are struggling with a new food. And when you make the change too quickly, their bodies struggle to adapt which causes this issue.

When their intestines come in contact with a new food too suddenly, it can begin secreting water into the intestines, giving you that puddle of poo you end up awkwardly wiping off individual strands of grass. You might notice your pup needs to go more frequently or urgently, and you may even find blood in their poop.

On the flip side, changing food too quickly can cause constipation.

This may be down to the higher fibre content of their new dish. But dehydration can cause constipation too. And different types of dog food contain different moisture levels. 

Typically, dog food moisture content is:

  • Wet food – 70-80%
  • Raw – 60-75%
  • Kibble – 8-12%

So if your pooch is used to sloppy wet food, an immediate shift to kibble might make them constipated if they don’t drink enough water to make up for losing moisture from their meals. 

Another cause of constipation is over-processed foods. They’re difficult to digest and are ruff (see what I did there?) on your pooch’s digestive system. A high-quality, nutrient-dense diet should keep your pup constipation free. 

Something in the air tonight

And then there are farts.

They’re never going to smell great. We accept that. But farts that make you throw your head in the opposite direction as you fumble to pull your T-shirt over your nose as a makeshift gas mask are the sign of a problem.

Changing dog food too quickly upsets their stomachs and causes those silent but deadlies. But it can also cause excessive gas too.

Vomiting is another common side effect of changing diet too quickly. Their little stomachs can’t handle such a change. They need time to adjust. This can then affect how much they eat. Your pooch may go on a hunger strike or eat less than they should. This is because the rapid change is making them feel (or actually be) sick. Fair play – if our food made us feel sick, we’d probably go on a hunger strike too.  

Changing behaviours

Most of these effects probably don’t come as much of a surprise. Their insides are struggling to deal with the rapid change, so of course there’ll be GI symptoms. But this side effect may surprise you: behavioural changes

Yes, if you change food too quickly, your pup can start behaving completely differently. It sounds scary, and trust me, it can be.

Some dog food, in general, can cause hyperactivity. Particularly when they contain additives and other chemicals. And when you give them no time to adjust to their new food, it can send them off the rails.

It isn’t just chemicals and additives that can trigger hyperactivity. Grains and starches typically cause spikes in blood sugar, too. And all this energy needs to go somewhere, so pups usually end up ripping apart cushions, shoes, and anything else lying around the house that they can sink their teeth into. This is just one example of how new food can send them into a mood swing.

Another one? Their entire temperament could change. Sometimes your loveable, cuddly baby can become aggressive. Or it could exacerbate existing mental health issues like anxiety and depression. Yep, our pooches can sadly be anxious and depressed. And the wrong food makes it worse. You may even notice them lose interest in something they once enjoyed and shy away from other people.

By transitioning slowly, you can monitor their mental health and behaviour as they switch over. This way, you can tell when a new food isn’t going to work before it becomes a real problem.

The big clue

Here’s our tip: the clue is in the poo

If you’re considering changing dog food, make sure to monitor their poop. Sure, it’s not glamourous, but it’ll tell you an awful lot about how well their body is handling it and can indicate if you should slow their transition down. If you’re struggling to interpret your pup’s fresh steamy gift, check out our poo blog which will tell you exactly what it means.

Like humans, the key to optimal health lies in the gut. We can’t be happy and healthy if our gut isn’t on top form, and the same goes for our fur babies. This is why it’s not only essential to introduce food slowly, but also why your pup’s food should be nutritionally dense, giving them everything they need while being tasty and easy on their tummies. We might be able to help with that…

Swagwags is a nutritionally complete dog food that’s designed to be gentle on sensitive tums. Using only natural ingredients, you can be certain your dog gets the best. And the prebiotics in each range will help your pup absorb all the goodness while keeping their tummies happy. Happy dog, happy pawrent. Check out our kibble range now.

If you’re ever concerned about potential allergies, take one of our sensitivity tests. It’s non-invasive and takes 5 minutes to do – a small price for perfect pup health!