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How should I introduce a new food to my puppy?

Can I? When do I? How do I?

Written by Dr. Steph Wenban

April 4, 2019

So you've decided to upgrade your puppy to a new food. Nice! *Virtual high five*

Grabbing the reins on your pup's diet is one the most exciting and empowering steps you can take as a new pet parent. But it’s not without its implications.

The first few weeks of your puppy's life have been a wild ride. New people, new places, an endless cycle of vaccinations - your pup’s been dealing with a lot. By the time he or she arrives at their home-to-be, their stress levels are bound to be at an all-time high.

Which is why at this stage in the journey, continuity is king. Introducing any new foods too soon or too quickly could rock the boat - not to mention your pup’s tum. (I’ll delve into this a bit further down).

That said, if there is a food that you believe better meets your puppy's nutrition needs, then you should definitely feel free to transition him or her onto it… just so long as you follow these three golden rules.

The golden rules of introducing a new food

  1. Wait until your puppy is settled in. Too many changes at once can cause your puppy to stress out and their tum to act up. So if you’re going to go shaking up the menu, wait until they’ve been with you for good 1-2 weeks before doing so.

  2. Make sure the food you’re switching meets your puppy’s unique nutrition needs. More on that here.

  3. Introduce the new food gradually. More on this below.

Your seven day plan for introducing new food

When introducing a new food into your dog’s diet, it’s always best to do so over a period of at least 7 days. Why? Because it gives their friendly gut bacteria time to adjust and reduces the chance of triggering an upset tum.

My recommended feeding schedule

Day 1 and 2

Switch out 1 quarter of your puppy’s old food with their new food.

Day 3 and 4

Switch out half of your puppy’s old food with their new food

Day 5 and 6

Switch out three-quarters of your puppy’s old food with their new food

Day 7

You made it! Ditch the old food and start feeding your puppy their new nosh!

Common complications

Tiny tummies can be sensitive. So don’t be surprised if your puppy experiences a few funky side effects when transitioning to a new food. This isn’t their fault. This isn’t your fault. It’s just their adorable little body doing its thing.

Soft poo and flatulence

The likely cause: Switching your puppy’s food too rapidly.

How to fix it: If the symptoms are mild, it’s nothing to stress about. Simply revert back to feeding your puppy a 50/50 mixture of their old food and new food and then gradually phase out their old food over the next 7 days.

Vomiting and diarrhoea

The likely cause: This is a common result of either switching your puppy’s food too rapidly, your puppy having an extra sensitive tummy, or both.

How to fix it: Move your puppy onto a bland diet (such as cooked chicken and rice) for 4-5 days before slowly transitioning them back onto the new food over the next 7 days.

However, if the vomiting or diarrhoea persists for longer than 24 hours, be sure to consult your vet as soon as possible to make sure the cause isn’t stemming from something more serious. Also, remember that vomiting and diarrhoea can cause your pups hydration levels to plummet so keep the H2o coming.

When all else fails

The best food for your pup is one that agrees with them. So if you find that your puppy continues to react poorly to their new food, it may be time to consult the experts.

For example, if your puppy continues to suffer from soft stools or flatulence for longer than 1-2 weeks, a trip to the vet will be in order to rule out any underlying health conditions like parasites.

If, after this, your puppy continues to show signs of an upset tum, it may be due to an intolerance. It’s important to note that food intolerances are quite rare in dogs and typically develop over time, usually in response to ingredients like soy, dairy, beef and pork. That said, if you do suspect that your pup is harbouring a sensitivity and want to transition them onto an alternative food, be sure to consult your vet first.

And of course, for any other feeding-related questions, you can always drop our team of Paws experts a line at experts@paws.com. We're ready and waiting to hear from you!

The takeaway

Puppies have some of the most temperamental tummies going around. So shaking up their routine in any way is bound to bring about some hiccups - not that you should ever let this stop you from making the decisions that you think will benefit your puppy in the long-term.

 If there’s a food out there that you believe will better suit your pup’s nutrition needs or (sophisticated) palate preference, you should definitely take it upon yourself to make the switch. Just remember: take things slow and pay close attention to what your pup's body is trying to tell you.

There’s more…