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Transitioning Your Pet’s Food

Nutrition needs are highly individual and evolving. Many pet parents find that they need to make diet changes. Whether it’s a long-term switch to a new food, or rotating in different types of proteins or diets, making changes too quickly can cause digestive upset. Here are some steps for a successful transition.

Gradually Mix in New Food.

Unlike us, our pets often eat the same diet for months or years and are not used to sudden changes.

Switching foods abruptly can cause vomiting, diarrhea or excess gas. So it’s important to change diets gradually.

The Ratio Method.

Keep the ratio of old to new food the same for several days. If at any time during transition your pet experiences gastro-intestinal upset, increase transition time at the previous ratio to allow them time to adjust.

Decrease the Amount.

High-quality, high-meat content foods are nutrient dense and usually higher calorie-per-cup than cheap alternatives. Feeding the same amount of a nutrient dense food can cause diarrhea or weight gain from over-feeding. Use the guidelines on the packaging for feeding recommendations. But remember, it’s just a guideline. Your pet may need less to maintain their ideal body weight. So, it’s a good idea to cut down on the amount you feed when you switch to a better food.

Measure Appropriately.

Use an actual dry measuring cup to correctly portion your pet’s food. Using a different scoop can result in overfeeding, which in turn can cause loose stool or weight gain. Remember, the feeding guidelines on the bag are the pet’s total intake per day, not per meal.

The Cold Turkey Switch.

In some cases, a slow transition is not possible. If an old diet isn’t available or is causing the issue, it may be best to switch foods without mixing. Another exception to the gradual switch is switching from grain-based kibble to a grain-free or raw diet. Grains have a slow digestion time and when the two types of food are mixed, the different rates of digestion can cause digestive upset. If a gradual change isn’t working or isn’t possible, follow these steps:

Fast Your Pet. Skip one meal so their stomach is empty of old food contents. Don’t skip more than one meal though, especially with cats.

Feed Less. For just the first day, feed half the recommended amount, so too much new food isn’t introduced at once.

Add Digestive Aids. Pumpkin and probiotics are always recommended with a cold turkey switch.

Use Digestive Aids.

A pet with a sensitive stomach will benefit from some extra help during either type of food transition. Plain pumpkin is a great source of soluble fiber and will help firm up stool. Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that can help the digestive system adjust to the new food and help prevent gas or other gastro-intestinal upset.  Either of these supplements can be added directly to the pet’s food to help maintain the delicate balance of bacteria in a pet’s digestive system and avoid unpleasant side effects.