Switching an Old Dog's Food to Homemade

by Deborah Lundin
    Gradual food transitions are easier on your dog's digestive system.

    Gradual food transitions are easier on your dog's digestive system.

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    As your dog ages, his dietary needs may change. Health conditions, allergy development and dental issues are all reasons to alter his diet. Making your dog's food allows you to address such issues and know exactly what you are feeding your dog.

    Reasons to Switch

    As your dog ages, changes may occur in his body that require different food textures and nutritional needs. Aging teeth or gingivitis makes it difficult to crunch on dry kibble. Digestive system changes may slow digestion. Soft, homemade foods contain more moisture that makes them easier to digest. Even if soft food is not necessary, changes to the diet may be required to address other issues. Although your dog may have eaten the same food his entire life, he can still develop allergies to a particular ingredient.

    Soft Food Vs. Dry Kibble

    Whether you prepare fresh meals or dry kibble will depend on the reasons you are switching to homemade dog food. Recipes exist for both types. As your dog ages, his body's ability to regulate water may reduce. Moist food contains a higher moisture content than dry kibble and may help him stay hydrated. If your dog enjoys the crunch of kibble, you may mix it in with the meals you make.

    Gradual Transition

    Changing a dog’s food, especially one with allergies, can cause stomach upset, diarrhea, loss of appetite or vomiting. Veterinarian Jennifer Coates recommends a gradual change over five days. On day one, mix 20 percent of the new food with 80 percent of their old food. On day two, increase the new food amount to 40 percent. Increase the new food amount by an additional 20 percent each day for the remaining three days. By day five, your dog will just be eating the new food. If, during this process, you notice changes such as diarrhea or vomiting, stop the new food and talk to your veterinarian. For fussy eaters or dogs with digestive concerns, reduce this gradual change to a 10 percent increase for 10 days.

    Considerations

    Before changing your older dog’s food, consult a veterinarian or canine nutritionist. As your dog ages, his activity level may decrease. He may not need as many calories and his serving sizes may need to be reduced. Many older dogs suffer with constipation. Increasing fiber in his new diet will help get things moving. Your veterinarian may recommend nutritional supplements in order to meet specific nutritional needs.

    Photo Credits

    • Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images

    About the Author

    Deborah Lundin is a professional writer with more than 20 years of experience in the medical field and as a small business owner. She studied medical science and sociology at Northern Illinois University. Her passions and interests include fitness, health, healthy eating, children and pets.

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