How to Transition Your Dog or Cat to a New Food
- You're bringing a new pet home and want to put them on a different formula
- Your pet has a food allergy or sensitivity
- Your pet is entering a new life stage
- Your pet needs to gain or lose weight
- Your veterinarian has recommended a specific diet for your pet
- You want to change your pet to a functional or minimally processed diet
Whatever the reason is for change, you should always consult with a veterinarian before transitioning your pet to a new diet. Dogs and cats can experience an upset stomach if you don't transition them to a new food gradually. Transitioning too quickly can lead to diarrhea, vomiting or even loss of appetite.
When transitioning to a new pet food, do so slowly over a period of about 7–10 days, mixing an increasing amount of new food with old food each day:
- Start with 75% old food mixed with 25% new food for approximately three days
- Then mix 50% old with 50% new for approximately three days
- Then 75% new, 25% old for approximately three days
- Then 100% new
Some pets may be easier to transition than others, and cats tend to be more finicky than dogs. Closely monitor your pet during the transition to ensure they are getting the nutrition they need. If you notice your pet refusing to eat the new food, or if your pet starts vomiting or has diarrhea or constipation, you should slow down the rate you are switching the food. If problems continue, consult with your veterinarian.
While we mentioned a few reasons you may need to change your dog or cat's food, with the risk of pet sensitivity to new food, why would you want to switch to a new food at all? Here is some additional informaiton to explain the likely scenarios, and what makes switching foods so important at these junctures:
As pets transition from puppies and kittens to adult dogs and cats, their nutritional needs change, and a diet less rich in calories, protein and fat is appropriate. Switching your pet to an adult formula can usually happen around one year of age, although it depends on their breed, their size and their sex. Smaller dog breeds tend to reach adulthood more quickly than larger dog breeds. Just to be safe, it's a good idea to consult your veterinarian before switching from a puppy or kitten formula to an adult formula.
Pets who are aging and have reached the mature adult, senior or geriatric stage of life also have unique needs. On average, dogs are considered seniors between the ages of seven and 10. Giant breed dogs can be considered geriatric as early as six years of age. Cats, on average, become mature adults between the ages of seven to 10 and seniors at the age of 12. They are usually considered geriatric if they reach the age of 15.
Pets have allergies and food sensitivities just like we do, and they can be either environmental or food-related. Some pets do better with grain-free foods. The most common food allergies include beef, dairy, wheat, and chicken. If you suspect your pet has a food allergy, you may need the assistance of a veterinary allergist or dermatologist. A special elimination diet may be necessary temporarily in order to pinpoint any allergens. Then you can choose the food that will be best for your pet, with the help of your veterinarian.
While some causes of weight gain in pets can be prevented (such as lack of exercise or overfeeding), others are sometimes unavoidable. Older pets, less active pets, spayed or neutered pets and female pets are more prone to experience weight gain. In some cases, you may need to switch your pet to a weight management formula to help maintain a healthy weight. Your pet may also be underweight and need a special diet. Again, always consult with your veterinarian before switching your pet to a new formula.
Many pet parents want to change pet food brands as soon as they bring their new pet home. Maybe they already have pets in the home and prefer a certain brand. Maybe they can't afford the current brand or it isn't easily accessible where they shop. However, before bringing your new pet home, make sure you find out what kind of food your new pet has been eating, and continue with that food initially. Transitioning to a new home is a lot of stress for a puppy, kitten or any new pet. It's better to wait until after your pet's initial visit with a veterinarian before changing her diet. This will allow them time to adjust to her new home, and will give your veterinarian a chance to do a complete physical and rule out any medical conditions or other concerns that might require a special diet.
There are some instances when your veterinarian may recommend a change in diet for your dog or cat, based on unique needs. Specific formulas can help address pet food allergies or sensitivities, hairball control issues, breed-specific or breed size needs, hip and joint health, skin and coat health, activity levels, indoor cat needs, weight management, sensitive stomach or oral health.
There are more types of dog and cat foods available today than ever before, including dry, wet, moist, semi-moist, fresh and raw, but most important when choosing nutrition is providing a complete and balanced diet for your pet. Appropriate amounts of protein, carbohydrates, fats, minerals and vitamins are extremely important for your pet's overall health and well-being.
Once you have a brand and formula that is working great to keep your pet happy and healthy, you can start to mix things up to keep her interested in meal times. Wet food brands provide the most variety of flavors, but should only be a part of your pet's complete diet. Try blending two parts dry food to one part wet food, or try adding gravies or broths to dry food. You can also rotate different proteins within the same brand of food.
When it comes to a diet, appearances are everything and a shiny, silky coat, with no dry skin, is a good sign. Once you find a formula that your pet likes, it's a good idea to stay with it to avoid an upset stomach.