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A Pawsitively Easy Way to Transition Foods

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Dog sitting beside 3 overflowing bowls of dog food

A Pawsitively Easy Way to Transition Foods

Adding a little variety to your pet’s day can be fun. Taking them to a new park, giving them a new bed, having them try a new treat, or maybe even enrolling them in a class. But another way is to give them new food! There are so many yummy, delicious, healthy options out there that you’re bound to be interested in more than one for your furry friend. Or perhaps it’s time to make a dietary change due to health concerns or allergies. Whether you’re switching from dry food to wet food, wet food to dry food, or trying a completely different brand, introducing your pet to a new diet needs to be done in a certain way so as not to overwhelm their body or upset their digestion.

 How do you do this?

Gradually. The key to transitioning your pet’s food is to do so slowly. This can be done through a number of methods, but all follow the essential idea of not making the change all at once. It allows your pet’s body the necessary time to adjust. If you were to change their food suddenly, cats and dogs have very sensitive digestive systems, and they may experience unpleasant side effects like vomiting, diarrhea, changes in appetite, or nausea. Skip the discomfort, and start the process of transitioning your pet’s food now.

Each method of switching your companion’s food is done by feeding them a mix of both their old and new food over the course of five to seven days. There are several plans out there that suggest feeding them a certain percentage of both foods throughout the transition period. Which one you choose depends on your pet’s individual personality, how strong their stomach is, and their tolerance for change.

PetMD suggests the following:

  • Day 1 - Mix 20% of the new food with 80% of the old.
  • Day 2 - Mix 40% of the new food with 60% of the old.
  • Day 3 - Mix 60% of the new food with 40% of the old.
  • Day 4 - Mix 80% of the new food with 20% of the old.
  • Day 5 - Feed 100% of the new food.

Other programs are fairly similar, the only difference being minimal changes in the percentages they feed to their pet. For example, some may choose to follow this course from American Kennel Club instead:

  • Day 1 - 25% new diet and 75% old diet.
  • Day 3 -  50% new diet and 50% old diet.
  • Day 5 -  75% new diet and 25% old diet.
  • Day 7 - 100% new diet.

Increase or decrease the amount of new food you give to your cat or dog each day depending on their ability to adjust. If at any point during the transition period they start to experience gastrointestinal problems, you should decrease the amount of new food you give them and lengthen the duration of the overall transition. The negative reaction may be occurring due to a number of reasons. It may be a result of the change happening too quickly, causing your pet’s gut health to be thrown off. Your pet may not be comfortable with the change, causing anxiety. This anxiety can in turn cause digestive issues. Or they could be suffering from allergies to the new product. It’s always best to consult with your veterinarian on what approach is appropriate for introducing your pet to a new diet and dealing with the mentioned issues.

As an aid, they may recommend your pet to use supplements - particularly probiotics and prebiotics. Probiotics are live organisms that have the task of balancing the “good” and “bad” bacteria in your pet’s gut. Unbalanced levels of these bacteria are often caused by transitioning your pet’s food, which is what leads to the previously mentioned gastrointestinal upsets. Probiotics can also help with obesity, liver disease, and mood and behavior disorders. They work even better when paired with prebiotics. These are non-digestible fibers that promote the growth of probiotics (healthy bacteria). It’ll help the probiotics to last longer in your pet’s system and act as a source of energy for the intestines to work properly. 

Above all, remember to take the process of transitioning your pet’s food step by step! It may be a long process, but with the right time table, right food, and perhaps even the right supplements, they’ll be enjoying their new food in no time!

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