The Water Bowl
Breed & Health Resources

Switching Dog Food: When to Switch & Selecting a Diet

By Dr. Patty Khuly

terrier eating out of metal bowl

Last month, veterinary cardiologists took the unprecedented step of issuing a nutritional alert on behalf of dogs nationwide. Not since the Great Pet Food Recall of 2007 have so many brands of pet food been potentially implicated in the snowballing flak over one ingredient. This time it’s not about too much of one ingredient (melamine), rather it’s over too little of another.

Taurine is at issue in today’s pet food scandal. And grain-free foods are the focus. According to a study published this past August (which is only now making its rounds within veterinary circles), an insufficiency of taurine in these diets may be responsible for certain diseases of the heart muscle in dogs.

We’ve long known that taurine is essential for cardiac health in cats (some of the same researchers were involved in this new study), but dogs? Now, that’s news!

The newfound importance of this nutritional variable has hastened a fresh round of hand-wringing over what’s best for our pets. Given that nutrition plays such a crucial role in the home-delivered health of our pets, many dog owners are now asking themselves if it’s time to either switch brands or apply themselves to home-cooked recipes with renewed vigor.

Given the growing concern over feeding exclusively grain-free diets, along with my recent post on getting cats to switch over to new kinds of cat foods, I felt it was only á propos to explore the same subject in dogs. This is a fruitful topic, I believe, not just because it’s timely, but because switching diets is a fact of life for modern dogs.

When to Switch Dog Food

Pet food recalls and shifting nutritional recommendations (as in this recent example) are perhaps the least common reason to seek out a new kind of pet food. More common are the following:

  • change in life stage (puppy to adult, in particular)
  • change in eating habits (for example, some dogs start to prefer wet diets once they’ve lost a few teeth)
  • healthcare condition (diabetes, kidney disease, food allergy, inflammatory bowel disease, liver disease, heart disease, etc.)
  • gastrointestinal sensitivity (not necessarily considered a true healthcare “condition”)
  • optimizing coat condition
  • need to administer medications (sometimes it’s easier to switch over to wet and offer meds therein than to try and trick dogs into scarfing down a pill pocket or “cream cheese surprise”)
  • finickiness (this is perhaps the least defensible reason but it’s the one I’m most often treated to)
  • better selections in the marketplace (price, quality, location of distribution, etc.)

These are all reasonable reasons. But recognize that sometimes you don’t need to change foods altogether. Adding in supplements or specific ingredients can often get you to the same place without having to make a big switch.

Explore Your Dog Food Choices

Wet vs. dry, therapeutic diets (aka veterinarian-recommended “prescription” diets) vs. supplemented diets, standard supermarket brands vs. super-premium pet store or Internet brands, home-prepared recipes vs. commercial diets, raw vs. cooked, etc.

The choices seem almost endless. Actually, given that home preparation is always an option, the available options are truly infinite.

If you suddenly have more time on your hands (you just retired or sent your last kid to college), you might just want to home-prepare. If you just got that promotion and have a larger pool of disposable income (lucky you), it might be time to step up and feed a brand with more selective ingredients. If your pet has just been diagnosed with a disease that’s amenable to nutritional therapy, you’ll want to make some changes.

Then there’s the possibility that you just might want to hedge your bets and start mixing home-cooked with your existing commercial diet, or add in a pricier brand, or start switching over to wet after your pet’s recent round of dental extractions.

Whatever your life circumstances, there are choices to explore. Your veterinarian is always a good place to start, but recognize that some veterinarians don’t make nutrition their forte. Reading credible online sources (please don’t rely on Facebook for this one) may be the best way to learn. Either way, you’ll have to invest some time doing your research.

Okay, ready to switch? Then you’ll want to read my article on how to switch dog foods.

While you can't predict when your pet is going to get sick or injured, you can protect yourself from expensive veterinary bills. Embrace Pet Insurance gives you the freedom to do what’s best for your pet without stressing over the cost. Easily personalize your coverage to fit your budget and your pet’s needs, then visit any vet for nose-to-tail coverage. Check out what the Embrace plan covers or compare pet insurance providers to learn more.

Mind if we pay your vet bills?

Related Articles

Connect with Us

Copyright 2005-2019

Pet health insurance is administered by Embrace Pet Insurance Agency, LLC and underwritten by one of the licensed insurers of American Modern Insurance Group, Inc., including American Modern Home Insurance Company d/b/a in CA as American Modern Insurance Company (Lic. No 2222-8), and American Southern Home Insurance Company. Coverage is subject to policy terms, conditions, limitations, exclusions, underwriting review, and approval, and may not be available for all risks or in all states. Rates and discounts vary, are determined by many factors, and are subject to change. Wellness Rewards is offered as a supplementary, non-insurance benefit administered by Embrace Pet Insurance Agency in the United States. © 2016 American Modern Insurance Group, Inc.