To ensure your pet is getting all the right nutrients they need to live their very best life, your veterinarian might recommend a different food than what you’ve been serving up. But hold the dinner drama! Changing your dog or cat’s food doesn’t have to be a huge to-do—but there are some steps pet parents should take to make the transition as smooth as possible.
Why You May Want to Transition Your Pet to a New Food
Just like you may have to make some adjustments to your own diet to keep yourself at your healthiest, you may similarly have to change your pet’s diet to keep them in tip-top shape.
Has your picky eater suddenly decided that they don’t like their kibble? Has your kitten grown up into an adult feline? Consult your vet—they may recommend that it’s time to transition your pet to a new food. In addition to an unexpected dislike of their old food or transitioning into a new life stage, other reasons why your veterinarian may recommend changing your dog or cat’s food can include:
- Your pet’s current food causes gastrointestinal (GI) upset, like gas or diarrhea
- Your pet is overweight and needs a weight-loss food
- Your pet has allergies that may be alleviated through a specialized diet
- They’re suffering from aliments like dull haircoat or poor energy that can be alleviated through additional nutrients (such as omega-3 fatty acids) in their diet
- Your pet has been diagnosed with a health condition that requires a specific diet to help treat
- It’s otherwise been determined that their nutritional needs aren’t being
You may also find yourself considering a diet change-up if you want to purchase a food made and sourced in the United States, or be forced to find a new food if your pet’s old grub has been recalled or discounted. Just be sure to keep your vet in the loop: You should always consult them before making changes to your pet’s diet.
How to Transition Your Pet to a New Food
When changing your dog or cat’s food, the last thing you want to do is toss out all of their old grub outright. While some pets can tolerate such an abrupt switch in their diet without much issue, suddenly switching foods can cause stomach upset, vomiting, diarrhea, increased gas and nausea. Your pet can also flat-out refuse to eat the new food. (It’s a big change, after all!)
In order to guarantee the best chance of a successful diet switch, it’s best to transition to the new food slowly. Generally speaking, it should take 3-5 days to completely switch from one food to another.
To introduce a new food, pet parents should first mix the formula with the old or current food. Over a period of days, slowly increase the ratio of the new food to the old—without increasing the overall amount of food given. For example, if you feed your dog one cup of food daily, follow the schedule below to switch to the new formula.
Schedule for Changing Your Dog or Cat’s Food:
Day 1: Feed 1/4 cup of the new food mixed with 3/4 cup of the current food
Day 2: Feed 1/2 cup of the new food and 1/2 cup of the current food
Day 3: Feed 3/4 cup of new food and 1/4 cup of current food
Day 4: Feed 1 full cup of the new food
Assuming there are no negative reactions, by the end of the week, your pet should be fully transitioned to their new diet. Congrats, you two!
But What If There Are Negative Reactions?
The most common problems associated with switching your pet’s food are gastrointestinal in nature. If at any time during the food transition your pet develops soft stool, vomits, or refuses to eat, go back one day in your transition schedule and try again. If the problems persist, go back to the old food for one week. (Remember that patience is key!)
If your pet eats the old food for one week without any problems, you can begin transitioning to the new formula again—but go slower: Start with 1/8 cup of the new food, and 7/8 cup of the old food, and so on. It can be especially difficult to get cats to switch foods. They may only like dry or canned food (or only eat kibbles with star shapes instead of round!).
If you continue to have problems switching your dog or cat to the new food, it could be that your pet is sensitive to something in the formula and you should give you’re a vet a call to see how you should proceed.
Take care to ensure that your pet is eating throughout the transition. While you of course don’t want to see your fur baby go hungry, cats especially can end up with liver damage if they go without eating for more than a couple days.
Which Is the Best Pet Food for My Pet?
There is a bewildering number of pet foods available on the market today, and it can be hard to find the right one for your pet. Overall, the best dog or cat food is determined by the health and nutritional needs for your specific pet, which is why your vet is best resource when it comes to your fur kid’s diet.
But there is a difference between premium pet food and grocery store brands—and it has to do with more than just price. In general, premium pet food brands, such as Orijen and Acana, contain no fillers, synthetic colors, preservatives, artificial flavors, growth hormones or antibiotics.
Pets are similar to us in that they are what they eat. Feeding a premium pet food that meets guidelines for a complete and balanced diet as set forth by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO)—a voluntary membership association of local, state and federal agencies to regulate the sale and distribution of animal feeds and animal drug remedies—and that contains nutrients sourced from minimally and carefully processed high-quality ingredients positively impacts the health of your pet the same way eating whole, fresh foods instead of McDonald’s french fries impacts your body. For instance, Orijen Original Grain-Free Dry Dog Food is made with 85% quality animal ingredients including fresh chicken and turkey and cage-free eggs, while Acana Free-Run Poultry Recipe + Wholesome Grains Dry Dog Food features free-run poultry and wholesome, high-in-fiber grains.