By The Farmer's Dog | June 5, 2020

When you switch your dog’s diet from highly processed to fresh food, the long-term effects can include renewed enthusiasm for eating, a shinier coat, and, as many of our customers report, improved poops and healthy digestion.

While you’re in the process of transitioning your dog’s food, however, they may experience some mild, temporary stomach upset. Some dogs transition with no issues at all. But for some, any change in diet can take some adjustment from their digestive system. 

Here’s a quick guide to what’s normal during this time, and what may be a sign of another digestive issue.

Poop: What to watch for

What’s normal poop in general

First, it helps to have an idea of what’s “normal” before you factor in a diet change.

As a rule, if your dog’s stools are generally firm, log-shaped, easy to scoop, and a chocolate-brown color, those are all good signs and point to a healthy digestive tract. Research shows that dogs eating fresh food actually have smaller poops than those eating a diet of kibble! 

Poops in transition 

Anytime you change your dog’s diet, it’s common to see the effects in their poop. 

What to expect in the first week

While many people see no negative effects on digestion while they’re transitioning their dog’s food, you may see changes in consistency of your dog’s poop during this phase—your dog may have a softer stool or change in color as the GI tract adjusts to the new food. This should last a few days, depending on your dog, and how rapidly you’re transitioning.  As long as your dog seems fine otherwise, this “transition poop” should be nothing to be concerned about. 

What to be wary of when it comes to poop

Most dogs generally will have the occasional bout of diarrhea, resulting from what vets call “dietary indiscretion” and we call “street treats.” It’s also normal to see a small amount of mucus in your dog’s poop

While short-term diarrhea, lasting one or two days, should be nothing to worry about, keep an eye out for anything that indicates more serious digestive upset. 

These signs can include:

Diarrhea that lasts longer than a few days: Again, a few rounds of loose stools can be expected from time to time but if diarrhea persists, or is accompanied by other changes in behavior, like lethargy, or loss of appetite, consult your veterinarian immediately. 

Color changes: The appearance of other colors isn’t always a cause for concern, particularly if they’re reflecting something your dog may have eaten. But pay attention if you’re seeing unusual colors that you can’t explain, or that last for more than one poop. For example, black or red poop, or bloody stool can point to a number of digestive conditions and warrants a call to your veterinarian. 

What to expect poop-wise in the long term

One of the benefits of feeding a fresh-food diet is what we call a “high-quality poop.”  These are two terms that don’t normally go together, so we get that it sounds funny. But high-quality poops are a hallmark of a digestible diet that’s providing complete nutrition. 

Digestibility means, simply, how much of the food’s nutritional value can be absorbed into the bloodstream and used by your dog’s body. The Farmer’s Dog makes its recipes with clean, human-grade ingredients that are gently cooked and our recipes are proven to be highly digestible. Research shows dogs who are fed a diet of fresh food produce poops that are smaller in size because the nutrients are being absorbed more effectively into the body. Many of our customers report significant changes in poop volume and odor after feeding a fresh diet long-term.

Read lots more about decoding your dog’s poop here. 

Vomit: What to watch for

No matter how hard you try to monitor your dog’s health, vomiting happens. Like humans, dogs vomit occasionally to expel food (or other substances) they shouldn’t have ingested. In many cases, this type of one-and-done vomiting isn’t a cause for concern—unless you suspect your dog may have been exposed to a toxin, in which case call your veterinary care team immediately.

Here are some of the keys to decoding what’s coming up, and what’s normal and not.

Vomiting during food transition

While you can expect some changes in their stools during any diet transition, for most dogs, vomiting is not typically associated with the food-transition process. Dogs with extra-sensitive gastrointestinal systems may experience some vomiting, but it shouldn’t last more than one or two rounds. 

If your dog is vomiting, it could mean they’ve eaten something they shouldn’t have, or it could be a sign of an ailment. If your dog vomits once or twice only, and seems otherwise fine, it should be nothing to worry about. If your dog vomits more than that, if there’s blood in the vomit, or you notice lethargy or loss of appetite, consult your veterinarian. 

What’s to be wary of in vomit 

The color of your dog’s vomit can provide some indication as to what might be going on inside their body, and whether there’s an underlying issue to be concerned about.

Vomit that’s yellow or green, or looks foamy, usually contains bile, a substance that is produced by the liver and that assists with the digestive process. If your dog’s vomit is foamy it can indicate a buildup of stomach acid. Sometimes dogs will occasionally vomit bile if they go too long without eating or if they are vomiting on an empty stomach or with a high frequency. Vomiting of bile that occurs in the morning can be an indication of a disorder called bilious vomiting syndrome (BVS)—consult your vet for a diagnosis.

Bright-red vomit indicates that your dog is vomiting blood which can be a signal of gastrointestinal diseases, inflammation, injury, or ingestion of poisons. Black vomit or vomit that has the appearance of coffee grounds can also indicate bleeding and warrants an immediate call to your vet team.

Regurgitation vs vomit

Regurgitation can look like vomiting, but it’s different. Regurgitation is the reflux of food before it reaches the stomach—in other words,  the food comes up the same way it went down and it looks the same. If your dog regurgitates their food just once, it’s probably nothing to worry about. However, frequent regurgitation is not normal and can indicate a health issue so check in with your vet if this happens repeatedly. 

Other causes of vomiting 

Vomiting can have a wide range of causes from dietary indiscretion (eating something they shouldn’t have), to parasites, infection and even things like autoimmune disease.  

One of the most common causes of vomiting and diarrhea that vets report in city dogs is related to gastrointestinal parasites, transmitted through fecal-oral contamination. Meaning, if your pet is eating feces or sniffing poop on the sidewalk they are at a much higher risk of picking up one of these parasites.

Again, most dogs vomit every now and then. If they just vomit just once or twice, that is not a cause for alarm in most cases. Persistent vomiting (more than once or twice in 24 hours) can be a sign that something is wrong and it’s worth a conversation with your veterinarian. 

Read more about decoding vomit here.

If you have any questions or concerns about your dog’s digestion while transitioning to a new diet, ask our customer service team, or contact your veterinarian.


Photo by Justin Veenema on Unsplash.