Dog Food Allergies 101

Your dog won’t stop scratching, and you’re not sure why. Could it be his new food? Modern Dog magazine  gives us the full story.

Is your dog itching and scratching? Does she have frequent ear infections or poor coat quality? You could be contributing to your dog’s distress without knowing it if she’s allergic to what you’re feeding her. Food allergies are a rising concern with dog owners and it seems like more and more dogs are suffering from them.

But what exactly is a food allergy?

Food allergies are different from food intolerance. Food intolerance is the result of poor digestion, such as lactose intolerance. People and dogs with lactose intolerance are either missing or have low levels of the milk digesting enzyme lactase.

Food allergies are the over-response of your dog’s immune system to an invading protein. In the case of a food allergy, this protein is contained in your dog’s food. Proteins are present in most of the foods your dog eats. While most people recognize that meats are a source of proteins, there are also proteins present in grains and vegetables. Any one of these proteins has the potential to cause a food allergy.

Your dog’s gastrointestinal system (mouth, stomach, intestines) protects her from potential allergens each day. Approximately 70 percent of the body’s entire immune system is centered in the gastrointestinal tract. When your dog eats a meal, the food is first digested in the stomach. The large pieces of food are broken down into smaller pieces by stomach acid and then enzymes and stomach acid work together to break the complex protein structures down into smaller structures. The partially digested food then moves into the small intestine. The food is further digested until the proteins are broken down into their smallest parts, amino acids, which can then be absorbed into the body through special cells called enterocytes. Enterocytes act as both a welcoming hostess to amino acids that they like and want, and as bouncers (door guards) for amino acids they don’t like. When a whole protein is absorbed in the intestines instead of being broken down first, the immune system reacts and your dog shows symptoms of a food allergy.

When the System Works

The intestinal tract’s ability to prevent the absorption of whole protein is dependant on the health and integrity of the mucosal barrier. It is the proverbial guardian of the body at the gastrointestinal gate. The mucosal barrier (lining of the gut) is comprised of both structural components and immune system components. The structural components physically prevent the absorption of large proteins. The immune system component is responsible for recognizing potentially harmful contents of the gastrointestinal tract. The health and integrity of the gastrointestinal tract is dependant on the normal structure and function of the enterocytes, effective protein digestion, and the presence of the dog’s immune cells (called IgA cells) in the gastrointestinal tract.

The Gut and Immune System Together Prevent Food Allergies

IgA cells are a type of immune cell secreted in the intestine. Some of the IgA will float freely in the contents of the intestine while other IgA attaches to the wall of the intestine to prevent whole protein from coming in contact with the enterocytes. Just like volleyball players they bounce whole proteins back into the contents of the intestine for more digestion. The more effective protein digestion in the stomach and intestine is, the smaller the proteins are when they come in contact with the IgA. Small proteins and single amino acids do not get bound to the IgA and are allowed to pass by the IgA and be absorbed into the body as nutrients.

At a Glance

Some of the breeds most prone to food allergies include: Boxer, Cocker Spaniel, Springer Spaniel, Collie, Dalmatian, German Shepherd, Lhasa Apso, Miniature Schnauzer, Retriever, Shar Pei, Soft-Coated Wheaten Terrier, Dachshund, and West Highland White Terrier

Most common food allergens include:beef, dairy, and wheat.

Least common food allergens are fish and rabbit.

General signs and symptoms of allergies include: dry itchy skin, excessive scratching or licking, bald patches, a high frequency of hot spots, ear infections, skin infections, diarrhea, and vomiting.

When the System Fails

Malnutrition can affect enterocyte structure and function. A poorly functioning or damaged enterocyte can let whole proteins into the body. Once a whole protein has managed to breach all of the gut’s defenses, gut-associated lymphoid tissue (GALT) takes over. GALT can prevent the body’s natural immune response to a foreign protein. Most of the time this is what happens, but in the case of food allergies, GALT does not prevent the immune response and an allergic response (immune hypersensitivity) is formed.

Unfortunately, every time the food is eaten, this over-response of the immune response becomes greater. So continuing to consume the diet that caused the allergic response results in a greater and greater response every time. After this hypersensitivity is formed, each time the dog eats the food, mast cells in the body’s immune system release hertamine. If this hertamine release is large enough, it may manifest as diarrhea, itchy skin, chronic skin infections etc.

Isolating the Problem

The first thing you need to do is work with your veterinarian to make sure that your dog’s symptoms truly indicate a food allergy. If that’s the case, your vet will likely recommend that you try an elimination diet— feeding a food that has a different protein (meat) source and a different carbohydrate (grain) source than what your dog has had before. Common anti-allergy foods (novel protein sources) include kangaroo and oatmeal or venison and potato. This prevents the immune response from continuing to be triggered.

Your vet may also suggest that you try a hypoallergenic diet. These foods are made with hydrolyzed proteins. That means that the proteins are already broken down into pieces that are small enough that IgA won’t bind to them and they won’t trigger an immune response.

Lamb and rice foods used to be considered “hypoallergenic” when most commercial dog foods were made with chicken or beef and corn or wheat. Since most dogs had never had lamb or rice before, it was a good option for dogs that experienced allergies while eating a regular food. Now, however, many dogs are showing allergies to lamb and rice diets. This is to be expected since an allergy can develop to any diet. If your dog is allergic to lamb and rice you may need to find a food with different ingredients such as fish and oatmeal, or venison and sweet potato.

While your dog is on any special diet, it’s very important that she doesn’t get any other food such as cookies, treats, rawhides, people foods, etc. Since you don’t know yet exactly what she is allergic to, you don’t want to give her something other than her food and trigger the allergic reaction. Once you’ve got her on a food that she is not reacting to, you can start to reintroduce other foods. If your dog reacts, you’ll know exactly which food (or foods) causes the problem.

Preventing Food Allergies

Is there anything we, as owners, can do to avoid food allergies from developing? This is one of the toughest questions in dog nutrition today. While we still don’t really know how to prevent allergies entirely, there are things you can do that may help your dog fight off numerous allergies.

Promote a healthy mucosal barrier. This can be done by ensuring that our dogs, and especially puppies, have adequate nutrition and health care.

Watch out for gastroenteritis. There have been some theories that early gastroenteritis or severe gastroenteritis, especially in puppies or young dogs, can result in an adult dog that is more likely to develop food allergies. Preventing gastroenteritis, in theory, is easy— just don’t let your dog eat anything but dog food and treats. In actuality, this is much harder to deal with. Dogs eat a variety of things, some that are not harmful—grass, dirt, bark, wild berries (i.e., raspberries, strawberries), sometimes a little cow or horse dung—and some that are not good for them (rotten garbage or dead animals). It can be very hard to police what goes in your dog’s mouth.

If you suspect that your dog has gotten into garbage or eaten something that may cause tummy upset, it may be best to feed your dog a low-protein diet (boiled white rice or potato) until the suspected tummy upset passes or you consult your vet. In general, if diarrhea lasts more than 72 hours without signs of getting better or if the diarrhea seems especially severe or malodorous, you should consult your vet. In these cases, do not attempt to treat the dog yourself with over-the-counter medications because diarrhea is the body getting rid of bad things in the gut. To give something that stops the diarrhea can result in keeping the bad things in the gut and causing a serious illness.

Promote effective protein digestion. In general, your dog should have no problem digesting protein. If you are feeding a homemade cooked or raw diet, grinding or blending your protein source in a food processor can be helpful in improving protein digestion. In kibble-fed dogs, the protein is already ground before it is kibbled so there is no need to grind it.

Choose a dog food with exclusive protein sources. A food that only has one or two protein sources can be helpful in giving you more choices later on should your dog develop an allergy. For example, if you use a food with five protein sources (i.e., turkey, chicken, duck, salmon, and tuna) and your dog develops an allergy to it, you now have to find a food that doesn’t contain any of these protein sources. This can be challenging. Conversely, if you feed a diet with chicken as its sole protein source and your dog develops an allergy to it, you can easily find a diet that doesn’t contain chicken.

Preventing food allergies may be impossible in dogs that are prone to developing food allergies. Some breeds are becoming noted for food allergies (see sidebar p.82). As a result, it is possible that a propensity for developing food allergies may be genetic, in which case, we should avoid breeding dogs that have food allergies.

Don’t Give Up

Dealing with a dog with food allergies can be challenging and disheartening. Proper diagnosis of food allergies can make it easier and understanding why food allergies start can help us prevent future allergies from starting. On a personal note, my Labrador has had food allergies all his 12.5 years. It has been a long road and often a difficult one. It is so much easier to find novel protein sources now than it was 12 years ago. If you have a dog with allergies, take heart, it will get better.

– See more at: http://moderndogmagazine.com/articles/food-allergies-101/15131#sthash.s6lpcEUl.dpuf

Fearful and Anxious Cats – Explained

PEt360 Shares this article on fearful cats and how they become this way.

Signs & Symptoms of Fear and Anxiety

When frightened, a cat may hide, try to appear smaller by rolling into a ball, or place its ears back on its head and be immobile.

On the other hand, a cat may show signs of agitation or aggression, such as dilated pupils, arched back, pilo-erection (hair standing on end), and hissing.

Causes of Fear and Anxiety

There are many reasons that cats can develop fear and anxiety. Cats can develop a fear of people or other animals as a result of having only limited exposure to people and other animals when it was young. Socialization is an important aspect of raising a kitten. Without adequate, continuous, and positive interactions with people and other animals, cats may develop fears and exhibit fearful behavior.

Because the socialization period in cats begins and ends earlier (generally between 3-9 weeks) than it does in dogs, the early environment of the kitten is most important. Because of this, cats adopted as strays or from shelters may not have had adequate early exposure to new and novel things. Cats can also learn through the effect of even just one unpleasant experience that was intense or traumatic. This learning may then generalize to similar situations.

For example, a bad experience with a small child could result in a cat that is fearful of all small children. Sometimes a number of unpleasant events that were paired or associated with a person or animal can lead to increasing fear. For example, if a cat is punished or some disturbing event occurs in the presence of a particular person or other animal, the cat may begin to pair the stimulus (the person or other animal) with the unpleasant consequence (punishment or event).

Genetics and the early environment are other important contributing factors to the development of fear. Cats that are handled frequently and regularly during the first few weeks of life are generally more exploratory, social, and outgoing. There are some cats that are inherently timid and fearful. These cats may never become outgoing and highly sociable. Still other cats experienced poor nutrition or poor maternal care during fetal development or while kittens, and this affected their emotional development.

2015-02-11_1312Diagnosis of Fear and Anxiety

A behavioral consultation is needed for cats that are showing extreme fears and/or aggression. If the fears are mild, then owner intervention may help to prevent the fears from progressing.

First it is necessary to identify all of the stimuli that are making your cat fearful. This is not always easy and needs to be very exact. Which person(s) or animal(s) is the cat afraid of and where does the fearful behavior occur?  Often there are certain situations, people, and places that provoke the behavior more than others.

For treatment to be most successful, it is important to be able to place the fearful stimuli along a gradient from low to high. Identify those situations, people, places, and animals that are least likely, as well as most likely, to cause the fear.

Next, examine what factors may be reinforcing the behavior. Aggressive displays may be successful at getting the fearful stimulus to leave, and thus also reinforce the behavior. Any ongoing interactions that provoke fear need to be identified and removed. This could be teasing behavior, painful interactions, and punishment or overwhelming stimuli.  Some owners reward the fearful behavior by reassuring their pets with vocal intonations or body contact, which leads the animal to assume that what they are doing at that moment is appropriate.

Treatment for Fear and Anxiety

Before a behavior modification program can begin, you must be able to control your cat. This can be accomplished with a figure eight harness and leash or, if needed, a crate.  Cats can also be trained to respond to basic commands in exchange for rewards (e.g., sit, come, give a paw).  Next, teach your cat to pair a non-fearful situation with food rewards. The goal of this training is to allow the cat to assume a relaxed and happy body posture and facial expression in the presence of the stimulus.

For mild fears, cats may settle down with constant exposure to the stimulus (“flooding”) provided there are no consequences that aggravate the fear. For example, cats kept in a cage for a few days in a boarding facility will often get used to the situation and settle down, provided there are no events that add to the fear.

For most cats, a program of counter-conditioning and desensitization will be required to acclimatize the cat to the stimuli that cause the fearful response. Do this slowly. Start by exposing the cat to stimuli that are sufficiently mild that they do not evoke fear. Reward the cat for sitting quietly and calmly. Save all favored rewards for these retraining sessions so that the cat is highly motivated to get the reward. The cat soon learns to expect rewards when placed in the cage and exposed to the stimulus. Gradually the stimulus intensity is increased.

If the cat acts afraid during training, the stimuli are too intense and should be stopped. You must set the cat up for success. Over time, the stimulus can be presented at a closer distance, or in a louder or more animated manner. The situation may then need to be changed to advance the training.

For example, if your cat is fearful of a particular person, once the person can sit beside the cage while your cat eats, the person could then attempt to feed the cat favored treats through the bars of the cage. Next, the cat might eat and take rewards while out of the cage, wearing a leash and harness if necessary, initially going back to an increased distance to ensure success and safety. Over time the person can move closer at feeding times, until he or she can give the cat its food.

Cats that are fearful of other cats in the home might be fed in two different cages in the same room. Once the cats will eat with the cages next to each other during feeding times, you could begin to keep one cat in the cage during feeding with one out, and alternate at future feedings. Next, both cats could be fed while out of the cages at a distance, with one or both on halters, and then progress to having the cats side-by-side at feedings. This can then advance to play sessions, catnip and treat times, and other times when the cats can “enjoy” themselves in each other’s company.

Each time the cat experiences the stimulus and reacts with a fear response, the problem is likely to be further aggravated.  Each time the stimulus retreats or the cat escapes, the behavior has been reinforced.

On the other hand, any time the stimulus (e.g., other cat or person) threatens, retaliates, or displays fear toward the fearful cat, the fearful behavior has been aggravated. Try to avoid the fear-producing stimulus if possible. This may mean confining the cat when children visit, or when the house is full of strangers.

Drug therapy can also be useful to reduce fears and anxieties during times when the stimulus cannot be avoided. You can discuss possible drug therapies with your veterinarian.

Prevention of Fear and Anxiety

Early, frequent, and pleasant encounters with people of all ages and types can help prevent later fears. Genetics plays a role in the development of fears; therefore select kittens that are non-fearful and sociable. Since some evidence has indicated the father’s role in personality; assessing and observing the kitten’s parents, particularly the father, will give some insight into the personality that a kitten may develop when it grows up.

Join Us for the Brookside St. Patrick’s Day Parade!

It’s your pooch’s time to shine in the Brookside St. Patrick’s Day Parade!

2014-03-15 13.45.32Join the Barkery team on Saturday, March 14th at 2pm for this annual event and bring your pup along! We’ll be walking in the parade this year, so all dogs should be well-behaved and of course on a leash. The $20 registration fee will include:

  • a t-shirt
  • self-serve bath coupon
  • treats for your pup
  • St. Patty’s bandanas for all four-legged pals

You and your pup are sure to have fun with us this St. Patrick’s Day!

Interested in participating? Click here to read our rules and regulations and get registered today!

Take Care of Your Pup’s Paws

We’ve got great products to keep your dog and house clean during this snowy season! 

Stop in and check out our wide variety of items:

  • The Paw Wash and Paw Plunger – no more ruining nice towels and clean floors with muddy paws!
  • The Soggy Doggy – a mat perfect for wet dogs that absorbs all the moisture
  • Pocket Full of Baths – Pay for 10 baths up front, get the 11th free, plus 10x points!
  • Several Shampoos and Scented Sprays
  • Safe Cleaning Sprays
  • Self-serve and Full-serve Baths on site
  • Skilled Groomers

Treat your four-legged friend to a bath and stock up while you’re here – you’ll be glad you did!

 

The Importance of a PETicure

Modern Dog Magazine shares the importance of keeping your dog’s nails trimmed for reasons other than keeping your floors and furniture looking nice.

You and your beloved pet may share a lot in common: enjoying long walks in the park, snuggling up on the couch, or even taking a relaxing dip in the pool. But when it comes to an afternoon of pampering at the nail salon, our pets don’t typically share our idea of relaxation. Nevertheless, even if they find it unpleasant and stressful, clipping your pets’ nails is a crucial grooming technique for their overall health and well-being.

Leaving your pet’s nails untrimmed can lead to pain and discomfort from many different sources. “Nails that are too long can get hung on fabric, blankets, towels, etc and get torn off which is not only painful, but tends to cause a great deal of bleeding,” said Dr. Stacy Eckman, lecturer at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM). “Nails that are too long (especially the dewclaws) can also grow around and into the footpads causing pain and infection.”

Popular to contrary belief, dogs aren’t the only pets that require a routine clipping. Our feline friends need some nail pampering on a regular basis as well. “Outdoor cats who climb trees keep their own nails short, but with the majority of our cats living indoors, they too need nail trims,” Eckman said. “They will naturally sharpen their claws if given adequate substrate to do this on (i.e. a scratching post or wood), but may need additional trimming, especially on the back claws.” Keep in mind that it is natural for cats to also use scratching posts to mark their scent, and even cats that are declawed will “use” a scratching post for this purpose.

Trimming your pet’s nails can be done as often as necessary. For dogs, trimming their nails whenever you bathe them can be convenient for both of you. Since we do not typically bathe our cats, a thorough trim every 2 to 4 weeks is plenty.

To ensure the best nail trim for your pet, and to leave the difficult task to the experts, bring your pup to the Barkery! We’ll have your four-legged pal in and out and looking good!

5 Ways to Know Your Cat Food is Worth the Money

This article from Pet360  helps you understand why some cat foods may be a little pricier than others – and with good cause. Check out Brookside Barkery & Bath’s online store to see our wide variety of cat food, and always feel free to ask our knowledgeable staff about ingredients in the foods we carry.


Saving money makes sense for certain items, but not when you’re talking about skimping on pet food and getting the “cheap” brand. Your cat is wonderful companion and deserves a diet that will help keep him or her healthy for many years to come. How do know if your cat food is worth it? Let’s look a few key factors.

1. Where was the Cat Food Made?

Quality and safety is a concern for all pet food manufacturers, but some companies take particular pride manufacturing the food at their own facilities (versus co-manufacturing or manufacturing off-site) in order to uphold these two principles. According to Mindy Bough, CVT, vice president of operations for the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center and head of the ASPCA’s Pet Nutrition Services, manufacturing pet foods onsite allows for better quality control as it relates to ingredient sources and processes. Look for a statement on your cat’s food that says it is “manufactured by” the pet food company rather than “manufactured for” or “distributed by.”

2. Who Makes the Cat Food?

Formulating your cat’s food is not easy. In fact, quality pet food manufacturers employ nutritionists who must properly balance key ingredients in the diets (sometimes numbering more than 50 nutrients ) as well as individual nutrients and minerals to help maintain your cat at optimal health.

3. Artificial Flavors, Additives or Preservatives?

Premium pet foods use natural ingredients instead of artificial flavors, additives or preservatives that are often the source of “empty” or non-nutritious calories. Some preservatives are even known to be carcinogenic (cancer-causing) in humans such as butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) and butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT).

4. Has the Cat Food Undergone Feeding Trials?

According to Ashley Gallagher, DVM at Friendship Hospital for Animals, AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials) feeding trials are the gold standard when it comes to feeding trials for pet foods. Diets that have been substantiated via this type of feeding trial have been fed to pets under strict guidelines and found to provide proper nutrition. Look for a statement on your pet’s food label that reads: “Animal feeding tests using AAFCO procedures substantiate that [Name of Pet Food Company] provides complete and balanced nutrition.”

5. Does it have an AAFCO Statement?

Also called a “nutrition claim,” the “AAFCO statement of nutritional adequacy or purpose” is a statement that indicates the food is complete and balanced for a particular life stage, such as growth, reproduction, adult maintenance or all life stage.

 

Watch Out for these 6 Nutrients in Dog Food

At the Barkery, we care about giving your pets the best food possible. Pet360  looks further into the ingredients you should look for – and avoid – when choosing food for your dog.


 

“All animals need water, energy — from protein, fat, or carbohydrates — essential fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals,” says Tony Buffington, DVM, PhD, and Professor of Veterinary Clinical Sciences at The Ohio State University Veterinary Medical Center. These dietary nutrients provide our pets the nourishment essential for their growth and wellbeing. There are, however, some essential nutrients that can actually do more harm than good for dogs if fed in excess amounts. Pay extra attention to these nutrients in your dog’s food.

1. Protein

Even though dogs are omnivores, protein is an essential part of any dog food. Ideally, the protein should come from an easily digestible source, especially for dogs with renal disease. Poor quality protein not only causes issues for metabolism and digestibility, it can lead to weight loss, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.

2. Magnesium

Magnesium, though a necessary nutrient, is certainly a nutrient that can cause illness, sometimes severe and life-threatening. When fed in excess amounts, magnesium can have a negative impact on both the nervous system and heart, causing symptoms such as weakness, paralysis, cardiac arrest, respiratory depression, coma, and even death. Magnesium can also contribute to the formation of bladder stones. While both dogs and cats can suffer these effects, the problem is more commonly seen in dogs than in cats.

3. Sodium

Sodium is crucial for dogs in a numbers of ways — it helps regulate blood pressure, aids in the transmission of nerve impulses, and is partially responsible for maintaining the balance between acids and bases in the body. Despite this, excessive sodium found in a dog’s diet can negatively impact the heart, kidneys, and nervous system. In fact, dogs with heart and kidney disease should have their sodium intake strictly monitored, as excess levels can cause progression of these diseases. An excess level of sodium in the diet can even cause your dog to become dehydrated if enough water is not consumed to counter the amount of water being lost as the body tries to flush out the excess sodium.

4. Vitamin D

Feeding dogs abnormally high levels of vitamin D can result in increased calcium levels, causing a number of adverse symptoms involving the kidneys, bladder stones, gastrointestinal tract, nervous system, and cardiovascular system.

5-6. Calcium and Phosphorus

Calcium and phosphorus are two other nutrients that can have a deleterious effect if fed in excess to dogs. Of particular importance is the ratio of calcium to phosphorus in the dog food. An abnormally high level of either nutrient may alter the proper ratio and have a negative effect on bones. This is especially true in the case of large breed dogs that are in their growth phase.

Additionally, calcium and phosphorus intake is an important consideration for dogs with illnesses like kidney disease. Dogs with such illnesses will have different requirements depending on the stage of disease and the individual animal. An excess of either calcium or phosphorus can lead to a progression of kidney disease as well as contribute to the formation of bladder stones.

Is My Dog Food Safe?

The most important thing to remember about your dog’s diet is that it should be balanced and complete. No one diet is right for all dogs. Young growing puppies have different nutritional needs than do mature dogs. Likewise, dogs with medical issues may require modifications in the diet. Always consult your veterinarian for advice on what is best to feed your pet. Your veterinarian knows your dog’s individual needs and can help you determine which diet is most appropriate based on those needs.

Senior Cats: Health and Nutrition

A PROPER DIET IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN EVER AS OUR PETS BEGIN TO AGE

Did you know that you should start your cat on a senior balanced diet starting at age 7?

According to a recent article from the ASPCA this will help to maintain a healthy weight, along with slowing or preventing the development of chronic disease. You will also minimize or improve clinical signs of diseases that may already be present.

Health issues that the article mentions may arise along the way:

  • Deterioration of skin and coat
  • Loss of muscle mass
  • More frequent intestinal problems
  • Arthritis
  • Obesity
  • Dental problems
  • Decreased ability to fight off infection

Also, routine care for geriatric pets should involve a consistent daily routine and periodic veterinary examinations to assess the presence or progress of chronic disease. Stressful situations and abrupt changes in daily routines should be avoided. If a drastic change must be made to an older pet’s routine, try to minimize stress and to realize the change in a gradual manner.

How to Switch Dog Foods

Owners can find themselves in the position of having to switch dog foods for any number of reasons. Maybe your dog has been diagnosed with a dietary responsive disease. Perhaps it’s time to switch from puppy to adult food or from adult to mature food. Or maybe you’ve simply decided that your dog’s current diet isn’t the best choice for him anymore.

Whatever the reason for the change, owners commonly ask, “What is the best way to switch dog foods?” The pat answer that you’ll often hear is “gradually,” but this can mean different things to different people and it may not always be the ideal way to go. So, here’s my take on the best way to change your dog’s diet under a couple of different scenarios. Why does it matter what method I use to change my dog’s diet? Well, sometimes it doesn’t. If you have a dog with an iron stomach, you can probably get away with any method you want. After all, in comparison to some of the things these dogs eat with no ill-effects, moving from Brand A to Brand B, or a switch from a beef-based to a chicken-based diet is relatively benign.

But for the rest of you out there who are either uncertain of the nature of your dog’s gastrointestinal tract or, like me, know you have a dog that’s just looking for an excuse to develop diarrhea (or lose its appetite, vomit, etc.), gradually is usually the way to go. The directions I hand out to my clients under the circumstances I just outlined read as such:

    • Day 1 – Mix 20% of the new food with 80% of the old.
    • Day 2 – Mix 40% of the new food with 60% of the old.
    • Day 3 – Mix 60% of the new food with 40% of the old.
    • Day 4 – Mix 80% of the new food with 20% of the old.
    • Day 5 – Feed 100% of the new food.

*If at any point during this process your dog stops eating or develops vomiting or diarrhea, do not feed any more of the new food and call the office.

There are times, however, when I do recommend the cold turkey approach. In cases of gastroenteritis, heart failure, kidney disease, some type of bladder stones, canine cognitive dysfunction or food allergies, I will use a prescription diet as I would a medicine because I want the benefits to kick in ASAP. If we have reason to be particularly concerned about a dog developing gastrointestinal distress, I might recommend a slower approach or add a probiotic or other medication into the mix, but I’ve rarely had to do so.

On the other hand, if your dog is a picky eater or if you are dealing with a chronic condition like obesity or osteoarthritis, where delaying full implementation of the new diet by a couple of days won’t do any harm, mixing the old and new foods together for a few days can maximize the chances that your dog will be receptive to the change. As you can see, there is no one-size-fits-all method for changing from one dog food to another. Perhaps the best rule of thumb is to use the gradual approach unless your veterinarian recommends otherwise.

Dr. Jennifer Coates