Is it safe to give my dog different brands of food?

Nutrition plays a major role in your dog’s health, life expectancy, and overall well-being. Your pup needs a well-balanced, high-quality diet adapted to his individual needs to have a healthy, happy life. But choosing the right diet for your furry friend can feel overwhelming. There are just so many choices and brands, not to mention viral trends and expensive marketing campaigns. 

No wonder pet parents have so many questions about canine nutrition. You want to buy what’s best for your pup, but how should you decide which brand is it? And can you feed your dog different brands of food or should you always give him the same diet? Is it ok to just switch to a different brand? 

It’s apparent that pet owners want to know more about dogs’ nutrition. So here are the answers to those frequently asked questions ☺️

This post may contain affiliate links, which means I may receive a commission, at no extra cost to you, if you make a purchase through a link. Please see my full disclosure for further information.

While I am a veterinarian, this article is not intended to replace professional veterinary advice. If you have any medical concerns about your pet, consult your vet immediately. Always seek professional assistance if you are unsure of your pet’s health.

Dog eating from a bowl

Canine nutrition basics

Canine nutrition is a hot topic, and nutritional trends change faster than you would think possible. 

Suddenly you can find so many self-proclaimed experts with no medical knowledge going viral, promising that this one trend is the one and only. And if you feed anything else than that, your pup will be sick, sad, and ultimately dead very soon. 

I hate that. I hate the feeling of “not good enough” they try to instill in people. If you don’t follow this or don’t buy that, you don’t love your pet enough, you don’t care enough, you are not a good pet owner… 

First of all, I know you care, otherwise, you wouldn’t have landed on my blog 🙂 Someone who doesn’t care doesn’t spend his time and energy researching canine nutrition, trying to find answers to all those questions. 

Secondly, I can sum up your dog’s nutritional needs in one sentence:

Your dog needs a high-quality, well-balanced diet adapted to his individual nutritional requirements.

There are a lot of different types of dog food and they all have their pros and cons. But it doesn’t really matter if you choose commercial dog foods or a home-cooked raw diet. As long as it’s well-balanced, of the highest quality, and adapted to his individual needs. 

This is the key. But that’s not all. 

At my University, we studied canine nutrition for two semesters, yet it wasn’t enough. There is now a whole new field of veterinary medicine dedicated to small animal nutrition. American College of Veterinary Nutrition and the Canadian Academy of Veterinary Nutrition are just a few of those new programs that specialize in animal nutrition. 

Qualified veterinary nutritionists possess extensive knowledge about the diverse nutritional needs of our furry companions and can create individualized feeding plans even for challenging medical cases. 

But as a pet owner, you just need to know the basics about canine nutrition to be able to choose the right diet for your pup.

Although classified as carnivores, dogs are actually opportunistic eaters due to domestication, and thus require a different diet than their wild counterparts. And contrary to some popular trends, you cannot feed a dog only meat. Or you can, but it can result in some very serious health issues

High-quality proteins, fat, carbohydrates but also fiber, minerals, and vitamins are essential for your pup’s wellbeing. Your dog should eat a well-balanced diet adapted to his nutritional needs. 

Six nutrients that are essential in a dog’s diet:

  1. Proteins
  2. Carbohydrates (including Fiber!)
  3. Fat
  4. Vitamins
  5. Minerals

The exact amounts depend on many factors. 

Your dog should have access to clean water at all times

However, your dog’s nutritional needs change over time. A puppy needs an entirely different diet than a senior dog or a lactating dam. A Great Dane needs another diet than a French Bulldog. 

Dogs with food sensitivities or adverse reactions to certain proteins need specialized veterinary diets to help manage the condition. 

Factors that directly influence your dog’s nutritional needs:

  • Age and Life stage
  • Size
  • Breed
  • Physiological changes (pregnancy, castration…)
  • Health
  • Activity level

As it happens, a dog needs several different nutritional profiles during his life. I promise that it’s not a marketing strategy of pet food brands. There’s real scientific research behind all those different types of dog foods. 

Puppy Nutrition:

Your puppy’s diet is key for healthy development and growth and directly impacts his future health. Puppies go through several development stages, and they have different nutritional needs during each stage.

On top of that, puppies have sensitive stomachs and immature immune systems. So be very careful what you feed your new furry friend. I highly recommend buying specialized puppy food from a well-known brand.

How to be sure that your dog’s food meets his nutritional needs

Due to the complexity of canine nutrition and the sheer number of brands available, choosing the best food can be overwhelming.

But it doesn’t have to be. 

There is a relatively easy way how to make sure the diet you want to feed your pup covers all his nutritional needs. And no, it’s not Google! 😛 Don’t rely on marketing or the newest trends. Rely on science. 

It’s actually quite simple: The dog food you buy should follow AAFCO or FEDIAF guidelines. That’s your baseline.  

Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) is a non-profit organization, that makes sure pet food products have undergone the appropriate analyses and have all necessary, required nutrients.

FEDIAF represents the European pet food industry. I love their simple Nutritional fact sheets, they are worth checking out 🙂

The leading provider of nutrient recommendations for cats and dogs is the National Research Council (NRC) of the US National Academy of Sciences. Associations like the European Pet Food Industry (FEDIAF) and the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) have developed individual guidelines and regulations for dogs and cats for different countries.

Just FYI: the World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA) also has several feeding guidelines that are worth checking out.

A nutritional adequacy statement by the AAFCO or FEDIAF will help you identify products that meet your pup’s daily nutrient requirements.

But there’s another even simpler way to make sure your chosen brand is good for your dog:

Ask your vet! ☺️

I know that some people rather trust someone with no medical knowledge than their vet when it comes to their dog’s nutrition. I don’t know when and how this happened, I suppose it goes hand-in-hand with all those big pharma / bad doctors conspiracy theories. 

For me, it comes down to this: if you have a pet, find a vet you trust. Trust is essential. You have to believe that your vet is doing everything he can to help your pet. And you have to trust him to have the necessary medical knowledge to do so. 

So again, find a vet you will trust and ask him about the best nutrition for your pup. 

printable pet planner

Cheap vs expensive dog food and why mixing them is not a good idea

I prefer not to use the terms “cheap” or “expensive” when it comes to dog food because what’s affordable for one person may be out of reach for someone else. Instead, let’s focus on the quality of the food.

Low-quality dog food is typically made with inferior ingredients and contains fewer vitamins and minerals. This can result in a diet that doesn’t provide your dog with everything he needs to stay healthy. 

In contrast, high-quality dog food, when fed according to the recommended guidelines, can ensure that your dog receives all the necessary nutrients daily.

Now, mixing those two doesn’t really help. Think of it this way: you are diluting the high nutritional content of your premium dog food. 

Super premium diets have their nutritional requirements calculated for each daily dose. When you “dilute” the daily dose with low-quality food, your dog might still suffer from malnutrition or deficiency. 

Also, with some low-quality brands you have to feed your dog a higher amount of food per day to cover his nutritional needs.  Their feeding guidelines are adapted to their lower nutritional value and they intentionally recommend feeding more. 

On the other hand, many superpremium brands know exactly how concentrated their food is and their recommended daily doses are much smaller.

In the end effect, you might be paying the same amount of money when feeding your dog food of lower quality, because you need to buy more 🤷‍♀️

Should I always give my dog the same food?

Your dog shouldn’t get the same dog food his whole life. His nutritional needs change over time and should be reflected in his diet. 

A puppy requires a nutritious diet that supports its growth and development. 

As dogs age, they may develop individual needs that require special attention. For example, a mature adult dog with skin problems, an active lifestyle, or a sensitive gastrointestinal tract may require a specialized diet.

Similarly, a senior dog may benefit from a specially formulated senior diet to help maintain their quality of life.

Dogs with specific health issues, such as food allergies, kidney disease, diabetes mellitus, or pancreatitis, require a special diet that meets their unique nutritional requirements.

It’s important to consult with your veterinarian to determine the right diet for your dog based on their individual needs and health concerns.

There are several good reasons for changing your pup’s diet over time.

But, once you’ve found the right diet for your dog, you can feed him the same food as long as it covers his actual individual needs. Nowadays, pet food is highly palatable, comes in many different flavors and most dogs have no problem eating it every day. 

However, it’s ok to change it from time to time if you want to ☺️

And sometimes, there are indications that your dog is not getting what he needs. 

Most common signs that your dog needs a diet change:

  • A dull, flat coat: skin and coat often show the first signs that something is not right. 
  • Loose stools
  • Flatulence (hello Frenchies 🥰 )
  • Low energy levels
  • Decreased appetite
  • Overweight or obesity: you might be overfeeding your pup, or, he isn’t active enough. If your dog is already obese, the best way to lose weight safely is to switch to specialized weight loss diets. This is more effective than restricting his rations. 

❗️ In all those cases, talk to your vet before you change your pet’s diet. Those signs can also mean your dog is suffering from an underlying health condition ❗️

I also need to mention, that when you change a dog’s diet, let’s say because he doesn’t have a shiny coat, it takes up to 2 months to see the full benefit of their new nutrition. Nutrition can work wonders, but it takes time.

So after you change your pet’s diet, wait at least 6-8 weeks to see if it’s doing him good or not.

How to safely switch your dog’s diet

When you want to switch to a new diet, it’s important to know how to do it safely. Otherwise, your pup might get diarrhea or an upset stomach. 

You should avoid any abrupt change to your dog’s diet. If you want to feed your dog a different pet food brand, do it gradually over a period of at least 6 or 7 days. 

If you’re thinking about introducing a new brand to your pet, here’s how to make the transition smooth and comfortable: 

Firstly, try introducing the new food as a small part of their old diet, and gradually increase the amount of new food over a week. 

For the first 2 days, mix 25% new food with 75% old food, and observe your pet’s behavior and appetite. 

If everything looks good, you can increase the ratio of new food to old. 

After 2 days, try a 50:50 ratio, and after 4 days, try a 75% new food to 25% old food ratio. Finally, if your pet is doing well, you can switch to 100% new food after a week.

It’s important to stick to your regular feeding routine and keep mealtimes and eating areas the same. If you have any concerns, don’t hesitate to talk to your vet.

Changing a diet slowly is especially important when you have a puppy. Puppies have highly sensitive digestive tracts and often suffer from puppy diarrhea. Any abrupt change can harm your small furry friend. 

The only exception to the 7-day rule is if you are not changing the brand, but just the flavor. In that case, your pet should be fine even with a more abrupt change.

How to safely switch your dog's food - infographics

Is it OK to switch dog food brands often?

That depends on how your dog reacts to frequent diet changes. Some dogs have highly sensitive gastrointestinal tracts and react badly when you feed them something new. 

Be careful when you have a French bulldog or Bulldog, these breeds can turn into small fart machines when you change their diet.

However, if your dog has no problems with new food, you can change it up from time to time. 

Can you feed a dog 2 different brands of food at the same time?

It’s not uncommon for dog owners to wonder if they can feed their dogs two different dog food brands at the same time. The answer is generally yes, but it depends on a few factors.

Firstly, don’t mix different dog food brands if your dog has specific dietary needs or health problems that require the long-term use of a specialized diet. In these cases, stick with the prescribed diet recommended by your veterinarian. 

If your dog doesn’t have any specific dietary needs or health issues, you can switch or mix two different brands of food as long as you do it gradually.

Secondly, it’s important to keep in mind that different brands of dog food may have different nutrient profiles and different feeding guidelines. By mixing them, you can easily either overfeed your pup or cause deficits in important nutrients.

Obesity is a huge risk factor for many health conditions.

What to add to your dog’s food if you have a picky eater

If you have a picky eater on your hands, feeding time can be a frustrating experience. Fortunately, there are a few things you can do to make your dog’s dry food more appealing and encourage them to eat.

Here are a few tips you can try:

  • If you’re feeding dry dog food, consider adding a bit of warm water. This will soften the dry kibble and make it easier to eat, especially for dogs with dental issues or older dogs who may have trouble chewing.
  • Try adding a small amount of wet food to your dog’s kibble. Wet food has a stronger smell and flavor, which can make dry food more enticing. Start with a small amount and gradually increase the portion as your dog gets used to the new taste.
  • Store your dog’s food properly. If you leave dry food open for longer periods, it will change its aroma and flavor. Spoiled food can be dangerous for your pup. 
  • Add some broth to your dog’s dry food. You can use low-sodium chicken or beef broth, or make your own bone broth at home. Please don’t use bouillon cubes! The broth will add flavor and moisture to the kibble, making it more appealing to picky eaters.
  • Try diets specially formulated for picky eaters. They usually have a stronger aroma and are more palatable than normal kibbles. 
  • Try diets with different protein sources.
  • Change your dog’s diet. There are many different foods you try. Some dogs like dehydrated or air-fried dog food, while some prefer raw diets. Just remember that all types have their pros and cons. 
  • If your dog is still reluctant to eat, you can try adding some cooked meat or vegetables to their dry food. Chicken, turkey, beef, and fish are all good options, as are veggies like carrots, green beans, and peas. Just be sure to avoid any human foods that are toxic to dogs, such as onions, garlic, and grapes.

It’s important to talk to your veterinarian if your dog’s picky eating persists. He can rule out any underlying health issues and offer guidance on how to ensure your dog is getting all the nutrients he needs. 

Choosing the right diet can have a significant impact on your pup’s overall health and well-being. Keep in mind that your dog needs a well-balanced high-quality diet to lead a happy and healthy life. 

Your dog’s nutritional needs will change over time. And while it’s ok to change his diet, just remember that any sudden changes can result in an upset stomach. A gradual transition to a new kind of food will prevent any gastrointestinal issues. 

I know it can be overwhelming for many pet owners to navigate the various brands and different types of food. The best thing you can do is talk to your vet. He knows your pet and can recommend the best dog food for his current nutritional needs.

Please talk to your vet if your dog has some specific health problem, has a dull coat, lacks energy, or has some digestive problem.

So that’s it from me. Let me know how you feed your pup ☺️

Happy pet parenting! ❗️

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