Why You Should Not Change Your Dog’s Food When Traveling

What you feed your dog is important. A healthy and well-balanced diet is an essential part of good health which is especially important if you are planning on traveling.

dog eating food

A change of environment and schedule can upset any dog. The goal is to keep the routine similar as much as possible prior to and during travel. If you change things too much, then your dog may become unsettled and perhaps even a bit nervous. As your dog is accustomed to the diet and the food that they receive every day, introducing sudden changes may cause effects more significant than you may expect. So, why shouldn’t you change your dog’s food while traveling?

Why do pet owners change their dog’s food?

Some typical symptoms that motivate pet owners to change their pet’s food are refusal to eat, nausea, unexplained itching, upgrading to a higher quality pet food or for convenience when traveling. Certainly, it is advisable to speak with your veterinarian before changing pet foods to confirm there are not underlying issues that could be causing these problems. Some pet owners just want to upgrade to a better quality of food for their pet or transition from wet to dry food for reasons of convenience.

There is a right time to change food, and there is a wrong time. The wrong time is before you are planning to travel or perhaps doing something else that necessitate changing your pet’s schedule.  Why is that?

Your dog may already be confused with watching you pack and get organized for a trip, and, if you then proceed to change their diet too, you could end up with a distressed and distracted dog. Before making changes, you have to ask yourself “is this the right time to change my dog’s food?” Your answer will establish when to change foods and why. Taking time to change your dog’s diet and not doing it just prior to traveling will help avoid digestive issues and tummy upsets.

Related: Changing Your Pet Food: Why and How?

Digestive Issues

Another reason why you should not change your dog’s food when traveling is, if changed suddenly, you can trigger problems such as a twisted tummy or other digestive issues such as small intestinal malabsorption, colitis, or even acute gastroenteritis. When you change your dog’s diet, this can affect their health more than you realize, and this can have a domino effect on other areas of your dog’s body. It can affect their stools, cause vomiting and weight loss.

When you are integrating a new food into your dog’s diet, or you are changing food completely, you need to make sure that you do so slowly by mixing small amounts of the new food with their current food, increasing the ratio over time. It is a good idea to have access to a veterinarian, just in case of an emergency. These digestive issues can cause a great deal of stress for your dog and leave them in a lot of pain if the more serious issues occur.

Nutrition Matters

Your dog needs to maintain the level of nutrition that it gets daily. If you start altering what food you are giving them (especially if you have not researched options beforehand), then you could end up giving it food that is nutritionally bad for them. Foodstuffs that may be lacking in quality nutrients will have an effect on your dog’s mood and behavior, and this is simply not something that you want to deal with while you are traveling. Getting the nutrition for your dog’s diet correctly blended and managed is an art that you need to perfect when you are at home and not when you are traveling somewhere new.

What Your Dog Needs

It is important that your dog still has access to all of they need  when traveling. Changing up their food may mean they might not get what they need to support their good health.

Nutrients and Vitamins

When it comes to making sure that your dog gets the vitamins, nutrients, and minerals that they need at all mealtimes, you need to first establish what they need. Things to consider are how much they weigh, what their nutritional requirements are based on their weight, the amount of exercise they get, and, of course, their age. Vitamins A, D, E, and K, as well as calcium and phosphorus are essential for a balanced diet. If your dog does not get these important vitamins and calcium in its food, then it can affect their immune system.

As well as vitamins, calcium, and phosphorus, your dog also needs to get a certain amount of fat, proteins, and carbohydrates. Proteins help build muscle and assist in preventing excessive weight gain which can oftentimes be a result of feeding your pet too many carbohydrates.

The best rule of thumb is to calculate 1 gram of protein per pound of ideal body weight. So, if your dog should weigh 40 pounds, it should be eating 40 grams of protein daily.  Ideal body weight is the recommended weight for your dog, not its actual weight. If your dog is overweight, then you should not use its actual weight in this calculation. You can ask your veterinarian what the ideal weight of your dog should be.

Access to fresh and clean water

If your dog does not have access to fresh and clean water when you are traveling and at mealtimes, then it can affect its digestive system, as well as its overall health and wellbeing. A dog’s body can consist of as much as 60% of water, and if fresh, clean water is missing from its diet, it may struggle from lethargy, and it may also suffer from other digestive issues in the near future, such as vomiting and diarrhea.

The additional stress resulting from traveling can result in excess panting leading to dehydration. This is the major cause of airline incidents, especially with snub-nosed breeds like Bulldogs, Shih Tzus, Chows, Persian and exotic cats and the like. If your pet is flying, get the largest water bowl that will attach to the door without interfering with your pet’s movement.

Weigh your dog’s food

When you introduce any new food to your dog, it is essential that it is weighed properly. It is very easy to underfeed or overfeed your dog, especially when using new food. To avoid uncertainty, it is important that you weigh food before you give it to your dog. If you are not giving your dog enough of a new food, it may not be getting the nutrients and vitamins it needs when traveling. It is also important to follow the manufacturer’s guidelines, and this cannot easily be done when you are traveling. For example, it is advised to integrate the food over a period of time and increasing the amount a little at each mealtime, as opposed to a straight swap.

Bring your dog’s food with you when you travel

If you are traveling by car, then bring enough of the food that your pet is accustomed to eating with you to last the duration of your trip.

If you are flying domestically, then pack an unopened bag or can of food in a box and check it at the airport. If you are flying internationally, then it is essential to research country regulations as to the import of food. For example, pets traveling to Mexico can only import enough food for their pet’s need for one day. Canada also requires that the food be of US origin, that your pet enters Canada with the food, and that the purpose of the food is solely to feed your pet.

Take your time

When you are thinking about making a switch to your dog’s diet, or you are even considering changing your dog’s food, you need to make sure that you give yourself plenty of time. Time is crucial to preparing your dog’s food to ensure that it is high in nutrients and rich in protein, especially if you are switching to a dry food diet.

These are a few reasons why you should not change your dog’s food when traveling. Changes to diets need to happen over a period of a few days or weeks and not hours. This is not something that you should arrange when you are traveling. If changes are made too quickly, then your dog may struggle to digest the new food, and it may end up getting sick as a result. Slow integration when changing diet is always recommended.

Maggie Hammond is the proud mama to two little people, and has one too many furry friends. She is passionate about alternative medicine, education, the great outdoors and animal welfare.


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