Critter Culture
10 Signs Your Pet Needs a Food Swap

10 Signs Your Pet Needs a Food Swap

Critter Culture Staff



Food nourishes us for growth and gives us the energy we need to live optimally. A poor diet, lacking the nutrients for health and well-being, can also take a toll on your pets. For example, dogs may develop a dull coat if they lack Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids.

Here are some other signs and behaviors that indicate your pup may benefit from a change in pet food.


Food recalls

Hungry brown dog with empty bowl waiting for feeding, looking at camera, Zontica/ Getty Images

A food recall is a pretty clear sign, albeit an external one, that you need to change what your pet is eating. Food recalls usually affect one or two specific products and not a brand's entire range.

As soon as you get wind of a recall on products or flavors with a manufacturing date identical to the one on your pantry, you should stop including it in feedings. Find as similar a product as possible from the same brand so your dog can take to it quickly.



Low angle closeup image of black and white labrador retriever puppies eating from a dog bowl Stefan Cristian Cioata/ Getty Images

Life stages can affect your pet bestie's diet. You can feed any commercial pet food to just about any dog, regardless of age. But the foods aimed at puppies and kittens aren't a marketing gimmick—these babies need more protein and calories because they develop quickly.

Without adequate nutrition, animals can become sick or stunted. A 'growth' product is optimal, and when the year is up, you can switch to an adult food product with fewer calories to prevent unhealthy weight gain.



couch potato bulldog sleeps on sofa marcoventuriniautieri/ Getty Images

A weak-looking pet is never a good sign. Stressors such as new pets, grief over the loss of a companion, surgery, and pregnancy could be the source of the listlessness. Bad table scraps and overeating can also cause energy levels to drop. But if there's no apparent reason for your pet's behavior to change, you should set up an appointment with your vet to understand what's happening before assuming a dietary change is necessary.



Two dogs sitting behind the kitchen table waiting for food fotyma/ Getty Images

Do you eat the same meal three times a day, every day of the year? Probably not. Your pets will want variety, and you can experiment if they seem unhappy.

Small breeds like Chihuahuas can be fussy and won't eat as much if they're tired of a particular food. Don't make drastic changes or introduce too many new things at once—easy does it.



funny boxer with tongue exposed lying on wooden background with an eye closed feedough/ Getty Images

The ingredients in pet food may cause an allergic reaction in some animals, and you'll notice GI disturbances or itchiness. An elimination diet will reduce the possible culprits and problematic protein and carbs. Your vet may recommend so-called hypoallergenic foods that use rabbit, for example, as a protein source.


GI Issues

Doctor and senior owner looking at dog on bed in veterinary clinic IPGGutenbergUKLtd/ Getty Images

You love your furry companion, but you could do without their stinky farts. Chronic flatulence and watery poop are worth checking out with your vet. It could be a stress-related GI issue, a medical condition that's best tended to early, or it could be a reaction to the food.

The doctor can tell you whether Fido has a sensitive tummy and needs to change to another type of food gradually.



Fat dog sitting in the corner Dejchai Kulawong/ Getty Images

It may occur to you randomly one day—lil' buddy is not so little anymore. Quite the opposite, in fact. If you've been liberal with the treats and haven't taken your pooch for that many walks recently, the pounds can pile on, and doggy will get fat.

Your vet can tell you how problematic the weight gain is, but going 20% over the ideal body weight for the breed and age is considered obesity. Obesity affects mobility, increases the likelihood of developing chronic diseases, and shortens lifespan. A weight loss diet is generally the way forward; wet food can help a dog feel full with fewer calories.


Old age

Big white dog sitting on the veterinarian scales while doctor inspects the dog and owner behind the dog. RossHelen/ Getty Images

We've already established that your dog's life phase will be a factor in feeding. Senior dogs tend to struggle with aches and pains that impact their lifestyle. Dogs that were once active may become sedentary, and their diets should reflect this.

Without changing to a food with fewer calories, obesity and its health implications can become an issue too. Products for golden oldies often include glucosamine for aging joints.


How to choose the best pet food

Portrait of glad positive pleasant family couple with dog choosing dry food in pet store JackF/ Getty Images

There are so many pet food options on store shelves that it can be overwhelming for a new owner. Kibble from trusted brands should tide you over until you've had a chance to meet with a vet who can assess your puppy or rescue dog. The vet may prescribe food or recommend products, and you can make an informed decision based on the animal's condition and needs.

Read the label on the dog food you're considering to ensure it includes the AAFCO nutrition adequacy statement. Without this statement, a product may be labeled as a supplement to the primary food source, i.e., a treat or a nutritional boost rather than a balanced and age-appropriate meal. Reputable pet food companies should be able to answer the questions about quality control posed by the World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA).


How to switch foods safely

Domestic life with pet. Feeding hungry labrador retriever. The owner gives his dog a bowl of granules. Chalabala/ Getty Images

It's not as easy as swapping one type of food for another at the next meal—the sudden change can result in gastric upset and a lack of appetite. Instead, you need to mix the old food with the new over a week-long transition, increasing the proportion of new food incrementally by 25% every second day.

On day one, three-quarters of your dog's bowl will be the old product. Keep an eye on your dog's response to the new food, and extend the transition period if you notice vomiting or loose stools. Contact your vet if these symptoms persist and your dog fails to get a 3 or 4 on the Fecal Scoring Chart. They may suggest using digestive enzymes and probiotics.


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