Sometimes it becomes necessary to change your dog's diet from one major protein source to another, such as from a largely beef-based diet to a chicken-based diet. The reasoning behind this needed change can be illness, allergies, cost; or perhaps simply wanting to add some variety to your dog's meals.
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Dogs can develop food allergies to one particular protein source, such as beef, if they are fed only that protein for an extended period of time. And allergy occurs when your dog's immune system determines, by mistake, that one ingredient or element of his diet is harmful to the body. His immune system begins to attack that ingredient with antibodies when it detects the ingredient or protein source entering his system. This leads to excessive itching, skin chewing, rashes, difficulty breathing and vomiting.
Choosing a New Brand
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If you're switching your dog's food due to allergies, consult with your veterinarian before selecting a new brand of food. She can more easily identify what may be lacking in your dog's diet or what protein source would make the best substitute. When choosing a new brand of dog food, inspect the ingredients closely. A bag that is labeled "chicken" may also contain tallow, a beef byproduct, or beef liver for flavoring.
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When introducing your dog to new foods, do it slowly. Incorporate a little of the new food with his old food over the course of a week, slowly increasing the proportion of the chicken to the beef. By the end of the week you should have phased out the beef, and he will be eating only chicken. Watch for loose stools -- if these occur, simply slow down on adding chicken, and re-add a little more beef for a couple of days, as your dog adjusts.
Loose stools are common when your dog is switching from one food to another, such as from beef to chicken. If, however, your dog begins to experience vomiting, increased itching, lethargy or extreme diarrhea, stop feeding the new food immediately. If you're switching from beef to chicken because of allergies, consider the treats you give your dog as well; many use beef flavorings and ingredients. Look for chicken only, or for ingredients such as turkey, lamb or pork.