There are several reasons why you may need to change your dog’s kibble. Recommendation from the veterinarian, weight gain of your 4-legged friend, search for better quality, or simply age… Whatever the reason, it is essential to follow a protocol to avoid causing intestinal disorders or diarrhea. Indeed, your dog is used to a certain diet and a sudden change can disturb him. This is why you need to go through what is called food transition, which is a slow progression in changing food.
We explain how to successfully transition your dog’s food to allow him to change kibble without diarrhea.
Why change my dog’s kibble?
Our pets are not like humans. They do not need to vary their diet. Once a type of food suits them, it is better not to change it too regularly. However, there are circumstances during their life that modify their needs and cause them to have to change their diet.
In the case of illness, for example. If your dog becomes diabetic or has kidney failure or obesity, your veterinarian will recommend a new diet. Similarly, after castration or sterilization, your pet’s bowl must necessarily be adapted to the hormonal changes it undergoes.
In addition, the way of life is to be taken into account. During the year, your animal does not always practice the same level of activity, in particular, because of the seasons.
It also happens that the masters realize that the brand they were using is not of good quality. They want to improve their pet’s diet or turn away from certain ingredients.
Finally, the dogs themselves can suddenly refuse their bowl without the veterinarian having diagnosed the slightest health problem.
What are the side effects of changing food in dogs?
When we do not make a good food transition, the consequences of a change in diet can be very uncomfortable and sometimes serious for our doggies. Even if some are more fortunate than others, we cannot predict which ones will be preserved.
The main complication lies in the disturbance of transit, which is characterized, most often by diarrhea. The dog’s digestive tract has its own microbiota, its intestinal flora, ie bacteria that participate in digestion by producing digestive enzymes. However, these enzymes are specifically adapted to its diet. When the food is changed too quickly, the bacteria do not have time to adapt and your dog’s intestine becomes inflamed. He then produces soft or liquid stools or even vomiting. These disorders can become chronic. In this case, your companion’s meals are no longer properly assimilated, which has adverse effects on his health.
The consequences of a sudden switch to new kibble can therefore take different forms, which sometimes combine:
- Refusal of his bowl by your dog;
- Food intolerances or allergies.
How to make the food transition?
In the first 2 or 3 days, in phase 0, give some of the new kibbles to the hand as a reward, like treats. You will check at the same time that your dog does not turn away from it.
Then, the transition is done over 10 to 14 days depending on the dog. Keep the same amount (unless otherwise directed by your veterinarian).
- Phase 1: ¾ of the old kibbles and ¼ of the new ones for 3 to 4 days;
- Phase 2: ½ of each for 3-4 days;
- Phase 3: ¼ of the old and ¾ of the new for 3 to 4 days.
At each transition to a new phase, if your dog shows signs of poor tolerance, go back to the previous phase. Similarly, if you know that your dog already has digestive sensitivity, go directly to longer phases: 4 to 5 days.
Once they are on 100% of the new brand, you will adjust the dose according to their needs and the evolution of their weight.
How to support the food transition?
Several factors facilitate the food transition.
- Choose the best time: neither when your dog is weakened by an operation or minor daily ailments, nor in the middle of a heat wave, nor in the middle of winter. Indeed, under these conditions, if your animal is already weakened, it will manage the transition to its new diet less well. An exception, however: is if the modification is necessary because of his state of health. In this case, there is no need to wait.
- Opt for premium quality croquettes, balanced and composed of quality ingredients. They will be all the more digestible and will multiply the benefits on the general condition of your animal, in particular on its immune system.
- Some probiotics offered by veterinarians can boost the digestive system and help it get through the process.
How long does a transition from kibble take in dogs?
A transition that is too short, as we have seen, can create digestive disorders. On the other hand, a transition that is too long can lead to a blockage of the evolution of bacteria. Indeed, if the 2 feeds remain in parallel for too long, the bacteria can no longer produce the specific digestive enzymes.
In general, the transition, therefore, takes place on average over 10 days. If there is a general method, it is however advisable to watch your dog closely in order to adapt to it according to his reactions. If he has loose stools or other reactions, slow down, if he reacts well, you can continue the transition in accordance with the steps mentioned above.
How do I switch my dog to grain-free kibble?
A kibble, to have a solid consistency and not crumble, needs starch, a complex carbohydrate found in plants. Cereals were therefore introduced to obtain this solid, dry, and coated form. However, some manufacturers have abused cereals, which are less expensive than meat, and have made many masters lose confidence. Grain-free kibbles also need texture, so cereals are replaced with peas, sweet potatoes, etc.
Many masters want to switch to grain-free brands. Moreover, the scandal of mycotoxins, several years ago, found in the wheat that made up the croquettes, helped to divert consumers. Grain-free brands are also very useful when the dog is diagnosed with gluten intolerance.
To ensure the transition, everything depends on the starting brand. The more cereals and carbohydrates it contains, the more violent and difficult the transition to low-carb brands will be for your pet. The ideal is therefore to propose a gradual transition. It is sometimes necessary to use an intermediate mark. So you don’t go directly from a brand that has a very large number of cereals to a brand that has none, but to a brand that has less.
Then proceed with a classic transition, but in several stages. First from the high carb brand to a medium carb brand, then from that to a low carb brand. Depending on the starting mark, it may be necessary to go through more than one intermediate mark. To do this, refer to a kibble transition chart.
How is the transition from puppy to adult kibble going?
The years of your faithful companion modify his needs. Puppy specials are designed to promote growth and provide more protein and calories. In addition, castration often occurs just before the entry of the dog into adulthood and contributes to making him gain weight if we are not careful. It is therefore important, between 6 and 12 months depending on the breed and size of the dog, to make a dietary change.
In general, the animal will go from several daily bowls to two or even one per day.
Then, as far as the transition is concerned, it can be done over 10 to 14 days like a classic transition.
Is there a kibble transition chart?
There are tables similar to the Nutriscore for humans, which list most brands and rank them by the amount of carbs and quality of ingredients. Grades are assigned with a color code. These tables are updated regularly. They can serve as a basis for thinking about a change in kibble, but also for checking whether the food transition should go through intermediate brands or not.
How to succeed in the calculation for the kibble transition?
To calculate the portions of croquettes to mix, nothing beats a kitchen scale and possibly a calculator.
So, if your dog needs 100 grams per day, for example, you weigh ¼ during phase 1 or 25 g of new kibble and complete with 75 g of the old brand.
Then, in phase 2, you start again half and a half and in phase 3, you go to 25 g of the old and 75 g of the new.
If you don’t have a scale, you can use a special kibble measuring cup. You can find it at veterinarians and pet stores.
Remember to weigh your dog regularly, at least once a week, to ensure that the transition has been successful and that the amount is still suitable for your dog. If he loses weight or gains weight, adjust accordingly and consult your veterinarian to make sure you haven’t made a mistake.
Did you know? the pet food market in France was estimated at more than 4 billion euros in 2021, i.e. + 48% in 10 years. The French spend an average of $800 per year on their pets. Most of their expenses are for food.