A very common question but not always simple one to answer. For most pet owners, the real question is ‘would my pet do better on a different food?’ and the answer depends almost entirely on how your dog or cat is doing right now.
As a general rule, as long as your pet is fit and healthy (double check the list below) and you're both happy with the food then there's no reason to change right now. Even if the current food has a low nutritional rating, poor ingredients or a bad reputation, the best you can hope for from a change is to get back where you are now so there’s probably no benefit in rocking the boat. This is because different dogs and cats will always do better on different types of foods and while the ingredients list allows us to predict which foods are likely to be better for the majority of dogs, there will always be plenty of cases where an individual dog is better suited to one of the lower-rated foods than some higher-rated ones.
On the other hand, if your dog is showing signs of illness, even occasionally, then a change may indeed be in the best interest of your dog. A huge amount of health problems are a direct result of inappropriate diet and even when diet isn’t the sole cause, finding the right food can often really help in the management of the condition.
Fortunately, many of the signs of dietary issues are easy to spot. Unfortunately though, they are so widespread in the pet population that many dog owners have come to think of them as normal but they are anything but:
Digestive upsets: loose motions (often getting looser over the course of the day), excessive or very smelly wind, regular vomiting (particularly after meals).
Skin/coat problems: itching, bald patches, scurfiness, excessive dandruff, constant moulting, greasy and/or smelly coat.
Bad breath and/or a regular build up of plaque
Regular anal gland problems
9 times out of 10, all of these problems can be fixed by dietary changes alone.
More developed health problems can also be caused or exacerbated by incorrect diet but in these cases it’s usually best to consult your vet before making any changes.
Other reasons to change
Of course, choosing a dog food isn't just about health. You may want to change for financial or ethical reasons, for convenience or simply to give your dog a change, all of which are perfectly valid reasons for switching.
Making the change
Once you’ve committed to making a change for whatever reason, it’s essential you do it gradually so that it’s as easy as possible on your four-legged friend’s system.