Switching Your Pet’s Food Safely
At some point, most of pet owners face the need of switching their pet’s food. There are a lot of reasons behind this decision, but certainly the biggest concern is, is there a safe process to switch pet food?
If you’re in the process of switching your pet’s food, there are certain ways to do so, to ensure your pet remains healthy and happy. The process is easy to do and you can do it properly in just one week.
To begin, you want to put a small portion of the new food in with the regular food that your pet is used to eating. You continue this process for the entire seven days, increasing the amount of new food each day. This process is the same for cats and dogs.
The seven-day schedule for switching your pet’s food:
First and second day: 25% new food mixed with 75% old food.
Third and fourth day: 50% new food mixed with 50% old food.
Fifth and sixth day: 75% new food mixed with 25% old food.
Seventh day: 100% new food.
If you’re staying with the same brand of food, this gradual change is not necessary.
For example, if you go from Pedigree to Acana then the seven-day switch is required. But, if you just go from Acana chicken to Acana beef, you don’t need to do the gradual switch.
Once you’ve got your pet on their new diet, you should avoid giving them human food or pet treats for about six weeks as they get adjusted.
When to switch your pet’s food
As your puppy or kitten gets older, they will require different things from their diets. If we look at a puppy, they need lots of protein to grow, while fully grown dogs need less protein. Finally, senior dogs (eight years old or more) can experience liver and kidney problems if they consume too much protein.
Luckily there are a ton of different pet foods available for each stage of life and for each pet’s individual needs. Looking at puppy formulated foods, they usually have lots of proteins and carbohydrates which are great for their energy levels and needs.
Adult and senior dog formulas will consist of different ingredients with senior foods usually containing glucosamine and chondroitin which are supplements needed for stiff joints. Once your puppy reaches a year, you should transition them onto an adult food.
Large breeds and small breeds have different needs so be sure to take that into account as well. Something else to remember – larger breeds should transition to senior foods at a quicker rate than medium and smaller dogs.
Usually by the time they’re five years old, and pregnant/nursing dogs require energy-dense foods that are high in calcium which means they should be transitioned onto puppy food.
If your dog has a health condition, be sure to check with your veterinarian on what type of food you should be giving it.
Switching pet food easier
If you’re having troubles switching your pet’s food, there are some things you can try before reaching out to your veterinarian. If you’re used to free feeding your pet, instead try scheduling its meals.
For example, instead of just leaving the bowl of food out for your pet to pick at as they please, try placing the bowl down at a certain time and remove whatever food your pet doesn’t eat after 30 minutes.
If your pet isn’t enjoying the food switch, this practice may make them more inclined to try the food because they’re on a schedule and experiencing a little more hunger from not being able to eat from their bowl as they please.
For cats, it is common for them to be pickier. So, if possible, you should expose them to a variety of foods when they’re young. This includes dry foods, canned foods, different types of kibble and more.
If you are having trouble getting your cat to eat, you want to take action before it reaches 24 hours because at one full day without eating, they can experience hepatic lipidosis which is a serious condition that affects the liver.
If you’re trying to get your cat to eat canned food, you can warm it up a little bit so the smell draws them in. Another thing to try is breaking up the daily amount of food into smaller and more frequent meals.
Food sensitives are perhaps the number one reason behind switching your pet’s food. If they’re experiencing an upset stomach, diarrhea, vomiting, itchy skin or chronic foot or ear infections, it could be because of a food sensitivity.
Lots of ingredients can cause these problems including eggs, wheat, beef, dairy and chicken. Your pet can develop a sensitivity at any point, even if they’ve been eating the ingredient for years.
If you suspect your pet is suffering from a food sensitivity, you should speak with your veterinarian so they can help you identify the ingredient. Testing can be done to detect the ingredient causing issues and if they do suspect your pet has a sensitivity, your veterinarian will assist you in switching your pet’s diet.
Often times, they will recommend that your pet try a protein that they haven’t tried before. If you’re having troubles finding the root cause of your pet’s problems, it might be dermatology related which is also something your veterinarian can help with. Sometimes it’s not an easy fix and the process may take lots of patience and trial and error, but just remember your pet will thank you.
At Animal Food Bank, we can help you, too. If you have finished the process and still remains some food, we can receive it to help other pets. Reach out here.
Updated: Jan 18, 2023
Originally Published: Aug 15, 2021