How to Transition Your Pet to a New Food
Consult your veterinarian and do it slowly, the experts say.
It's important to you that your pets lead healthier, happier lives. Whether you want veterinary advice, behavioral insight, or the best-in-market pet essentials that make every day more joyful, for both you and your cat or dog, The Well-Balanced Pet offers practical tips you can use.
If you're considering swapping your pet's chow, it's important to know that the process is not quite as simple as filling his bowl with a new brand or formula. According to veterinarians, there is a right—and a wrong—way to transition your dog or cat from one food to another. Here's why you might want to make a switch and tips on how to do so successfully.
First, ask yourself why you're thinking about making a switch.
Sometimes, changing your pet's food is appropriate because of a life change—he's grown from a puppy or kitten to a dog or cat, for example, says Becky Krull, D.V.M., owner of Green Bay and Allouez Animal Hospitals. But other times, your pet may show signs of struggle with his current food, such as inconsistent stools, refusing to eat, or exhibiting allergic reactions, explains Renee Streeter, D.V.M., veterinary clinical nutritionist. In that case, it's important to speak with your veterinarian about changing his food, as "switching your meals can help address these issues, and undercover important information about what types of diets your pet does better on," she says.
Consult your veterinarian.
Before switching your pet's food, it's important to talk to your veterinarian, who can weigh in on what foods might address the underlying issues your pet is experiencing. "This is important to ensure you're getting the right diet [for your pet]," Streeter says, "and it's a required step if your pet needs a prescription diet." However, speaking to your veterinarian before making the switch is a smart idea even if your pet doesn't have underlying issues, Krull suggests. Your veterinarian can help pick the best food, and walk you through how to make the transition smoothly, she says.
Make the transition slowly.
When it's time to make the swap, you can't do it all at once, Streeter warns. Instead, you should transition your pet slowly to the new food—unless your veterinarian instructs you otherwise. Here's why: "Pet's digestive systems are different than the human digestive system," she says, "and an unexpected change may upset their stomach." Streeter recommends you start by filling your pet's bowl with 75 percent of their old food and 25 percent of their new food. Gradually, over days, you will increase the amount of new food until you're only using that new food.
By the third or fourth day, Krull suggests a 50-50 mix of foods; by the fifth or sixth day, you can transition your pet to a mix that includes 75 percent new food and 25 percent old food; and about a week to 10 days in, she says, you can fill up your pet's bowl with 100 percent of the new food.