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veterinarian has recommended a diet change for your pet. Easy, right? Maybe
not. It may seem daunting, but here are a few steps you can take to successfully switch
over to a new food or way of feeding.
two diets will have differences between them — even if these differences are
subtle. These differences are probably why your veterinarian recommended the diet
change in the first place. This change may affect your pet’s response to the
new diet, as well as the response of his or her digestive system. Just like people, the digestive systems of pets contain a number of normal intestinal
bacteria that help with the digestive process. When a diet change is made, your
pet’s system is receiving a new formulation of nutrients that could cause a shift
in the numbers and types of beneficial intestinal bacteria. These shifts are
usually subtle but may be noticeable if they happen quickly. For example, a
new diet that is higher in fat or has a different amount of dietary fiber could
contribute to soft stools or gas if the change is not made slowly. This doesn’t
mean the diet won’t work, only that a more gradual change may be needed to
allow the bacteria time to adjust. For this reason, diet changes should usually
be made over a period of at least a week. And if your pet vomits, has persistent
diarrhea or gas, refuses to eat or seems lethargic, call your veterinarian.
rely heavily on their sense of smell and connect the scent of a diet with how
they feel when they smell the food. For that reason, sick pets may associate
feeling poorly with the diet offered at the time, causing a food aversion
(reluctance or refusal to eat the food). If this happens, the pet may be unlikely
to eat that diet later. For this reason, it’s best to make diet changes once
pets are discharged from the hospital and feeling better. If a diet change
absolutely has to be made before your pet has recovered, check with your
veterinarian on how to achieve this for long-term success.
when and where your pet is fed can also affect your pet’s willingness to eat a
new diet. It is best to feed your pet in a quiet area without other pets around
so that he or she will not be distracted or feel the need to compete for food. If
pets need to be fed different diets, it's best to keep them separated during meal
change works better as a deliberate process. Several strategies can be
pets need time to accept a new diet as “not new anymore” before they try it. At
mealtime, offer the new and the old diets in separate bowls. When meals are
done, throw out the uneaten portion of the new diet. This seems wasteful, but
it’s important. The food’s smell and texture changes as it is exposed to air,
so offering fresh food at each meal is more attractive than offering leftovers.
After a week, gradually decrease the amount of the old diet and increase the
amount of the new diet, until your pet is fully transitioned to the new diet.
You may also make the new diet more attractive by adding a bit of something
extra-tasty — although check with your veterinarian first before adding anything
to make sure it is safe for your pet and whatever his or her medical condition
is. Once the transition is done, decrease the amount of the extra item until it
strategy is mixing the two diets together, starting with 90 percent of the old diet
and 10 percent of the new diet, with a gradual shift in proportions each day until
your pet is fully transitioned to the new diet. Again, adding a bit of
something extra-tasty (check with your veterinarian) may make the transition
easier. This item can be withdrawn gradually once the transition is complete.
veterinarian should let you know how much of the new diet your pet should be
eating each day and whether he or she should stay at the same weight, gain or
lose weight. If weight gain or loss is the plan, guidelines for how much your
pet’s weight should change per week or month and how to adjust the amount to
feed each day to achieve these goals, are also needed. Sometimes pets eat less
during the diet transition, which is usually not cause for alarm. If you notice
this, discuss it with your veterinarian and be able to describe how much of each
diet your pet is actually eating. This helps your veterinarian to decide if
changes to your pet’s feeding plan need to be made.
you’ve seen that making a diet change isn’t necessarily simple. To help make it
successful, make a plan. Decide how you will monitor your pet’s intake of the
new diet, how much of the new diet you will need to purchase at a time, where
you will purchase the new diet (some therapeutic diets are available only
through veterinary hospitals or with a prescription) and when you will have to
re-order it. Also, think about how feeding will change for your other pets. Free-feeding
is common in multi-pet households, so changing one pet’s diet generally means
that either all pets will change or that pets can’t be allowed to eat each
in mind that the change is important for your pet’s health, so continuing to
feed your pet’s old diet may not be recommended.
you foresee or have difficulties with making a diet change, such as a pet who
absolutely refuses to eat the new diet, discuss your concerns with your
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