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Day Three: How to Switch Dog Foods – Customizing Your Puppy’s Diet

Profile photo of Heather Venkat, DVM, MPH.By Heather Venkat, DVM, MPH, DACVPM


Imagine eating grilled cheese all your life then suddenly switching to a diet of rice and beans only.

This is how your puppy feels when you suddenly dish him a new kind of kibble.

During your puppy’s first days home, there’s a lot of new already happening.

The last thing you want to do is quickly force your pal into a completely new diet and upset his stomach.


So when you first get your puppy, ask the breeder which dog food they’ve been feeding your puppy.

Ask for a few samples or purchase a bag of the exact same food.

If you choose to continue using the same food long term, then go ahead and skip to the bottom of this post.

If, however, you decide you want to switch to a different mix of dog food, here’s how to do it.


How to Switch Your Dog to a New Food

First, if possible, look for a dog food that is similar to what your puppy is already eating.

For example, stick with chicken flavor if that’s what your puppy was doing well on.  

And make sure the new dog food is appropriate for his/her breed or size and is specifically formulated for puppies.

Then?  Plan for a slow transition.

Begin by mixing in a small amount of new dog food with the previous dog food.

Over time, slowly increase the new food while decreasing the old until you are feeding only the new puppy food.


Doing a slow diet switch could look as simple as:

  • Day 1-2: Mix 25% new food with 75% of the old diet.
  • Day 3-4: Mix 50% new food with 50% of the old diet.
  • Day 5-6: Mix 75% new food with 25% of the old diet.
  • Day 7: Feed 100% of the new puppy food.

Alternatively, you could spend a single day on each mix, reaching 100% of new food already on day four.

Two kinds of dog food in two different bowlsHowever fast or slow you choose to transition, be extra alert to how your puppy is responding to his/her new food.

Are her stools softer or a little more loose?

Is she picking out only the old food?

Or perhaps she is biased towards her new food?

If she’s picking one over the other, simply continue mixing both foods.  It may take longer to transition this way and that is okay.

If your puppy has severe diarrhea or blood in their stool, stop feeding the new food and contact your local veterinarian immediately.


Or maybe your puppy is choosy with her food and refuses to eat entirely.

If this occurs, know it is okay for a healthy puppy to skip a meal or two.

He/she should be ready to eat with gusto at the next mealtime.

If after two meals your puppy is still refusing to eat, consider trying an alternative puppy food.  Try to avoid giving people food to your puppy as this could make him or her even pickier.

Occasionally there may be something wrong with a bag of kibble and your dog’s hesitancy is your sign that something is amiss.

If your puppy continues refusing food, contact your local veterinarian for good alternative options.


Monitor Your Puppy’s Response

After you’ve made the switch to brand-new puppy food, around six to eight weeks in, do an extra monitor on your puppy’s health.

Ensure your puppy is developing:

  • a healthy body weight
  • healthy skin
  • luscious hair
  • normal stool both in consistency and frequency

If your puppy is lacking in any of these areas, contact your local vet and look for either alternative food options or healthy puppy supplements.


How to Choose a New Dog Food

What type of dog food you choose can vary based on your puppy’s age, size, preferences, and overall health.

Whatever the case, it’s always important to read the labels on every bag of dog food you purchase.

When reading the label, ingredients are listed in descending order by volume.  Meaning the first items present the largest quantities inside that dog food.


So on the ingredient list, look for lists that begin with wholesome ingredients such as meat, vegetables, proteins, and whole grains.

Ideal proteins include chicken, beef, fish, and turkey.

Additional ingredients should include things like Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids, fiber, and antioxidants.


Avoid ingredient lists beginning with animal by-products, grains, and grain by-products.

And always, steer clear of artificial preservatives, artificial flavors, artificial colors and dyes, and artificial fillers.

Also, if your puppy is a larger or smaller breed, you may need to buy a bag with different sized kibble so keep an eye out for those options as well.


Tips to Ease Switching Dog Foods

Remember your puppy is already facing so much change being in a new home without switching her daily diet.

Suddenly toss in new food and it may send your puppy into a tizzy.

Here are two ways you can introduce new food while minimizing puppy stress.

  1. Feed your puppy by hand.  That’s right.  For the first day or two, grab a handful of mixed dog food and let your puppy eat straight from your hand.
  2. Feed on schedule.  Ask the breeder when he was feeding your puppy previously then keep that same schedule.  Each day, feed your puppy at the same time and in the same place.  This way your puppy can learn quickly what to expect.


In Closing

Go easy on your puppy by transitioning slooowly into a new diet.

Look for wholesome puppy food.

Know that quality makes a difference in your puppy’s food.

And if you want to give your puppy the very best, grab a bag of this puppy kibble (or this if your puppy is a large dog breed).


Feed your puppy on a consistent schedule so he knows what to expect.

Last but not least, always always always make sure your puppy has access to fresh clean water.

Puppy eating new dog food with happy man observing.

If you’re still looking for your perfect puppy, come on over and meet these newest puppies for sale.

Next up we’ll look at crate training and how to get it right.

Don’t miss it.




Profile photo of the author Heather Venkat, DVM, MPH.Dr. Heather Venkat has been a veterinarian since 2013, working in companion animal medicine with dogs and cats, as well as veterinary public health. Her passion is in prevention, One Health, and strengthening the human-animal bond. A bonafide animal-lover, she competes in dog sports and currently shares her home with a border collie mix named Luna, three cats, and two leopard geckos.


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