We are regularly asked at the clinic if it’s bad to change your furry friend’s food. The short answer is no, as long as you are strategic and intentional about it.
When you vary your dog or cat’s food, you introduce new proteins and nutrients that contribute to a more complete and holistic diet that is beneficial for overall health. A varied diet can also help with food allergies and promote a healthier and more resilient digestive system.
Plus, the same ol’ food can become dull over time – even for our furry friends. Can you imagine eating the same meal every day?
However, it is super important to introduce new food gradually over time. Your furry friend needs time to adjust to the changes in his diet. Slow and steady wins the race!
So allow us to ease your anxieties about switching your dog or cat’s food and offer some recommendations from the holistic veterinary perspective on how best to vary your furry friend’s diet and improve overall health and nutrition.
How to Transition Your Dog or Cat’s Food
When switching from one primary food source to another, go slowly so as not to shock the digestive system. A dramatic change in diet can cause GI upset, just like it does for us humans. I’m sure most of us have experienced an upset stomach after a particularly rich or spicy meal. The same is true for our canine and feline friends.
Dr. Laurel recommends changing out ⅙ of the meal at a time while allowing 1 week between each incremental change. That means you begin the food transition with ⅙ of the new food + ⅚ old food. Then, after a week, try ⅓ new food and ⅔ old food for a week. As long as your 4-legged’s poop is staying normal, continue to ‘up the ante’ by ⅙ each week. The switch to the new food should be completed within six weeks.
How Long Does it Take to Adjust to the New Food?
If new diet elements are introduced slowly, the adjustment should take six weeks. That being said, some of our animal friends have more sensitive GI tracts than others, and the food transition can take longer. No matter what aspect of your furry friend’s meal is changing, only you know how sensitive they are to changes. Some of our four-legged friends have “iron guts” and can handle anything, whereas others have a sensitive stomach.
If your cat or dog’s poop consistency changes during the food transition process then continue to feed exactly the ratio that you are currently feeding at that time until the poop returns to its normal consistency. Continue with the same ratio for 5 more days. Once your four-legged has had normal poop for 5 days, you can continue with your food change.
Can you Mix Food Brands and Food Flavors?
Yes. Rotating food brands and proteins or key ingredients is an important part of varying your animal companion’s diet and ensures Fido is not eating the same protein all the time. The same is true for felines.
Additional Holistic Diet Tips
Remember that our animal friends aren’t so different from us.
Regularly switching your dog or cat’s diet will help her build a more healthy and resilient system, so those times that your furry friend gets some not-so-ideal treats under the dinner table, or the pet store is out of her regular food, it won’t cause as much GI distress.
Be kind to yourself. Be kind to your animal companions. Good nutrition is essential to us all.
If you live in the Asheville area, consider Nutritional Counseling at Sunvet. We’d be happy to help craft a custom diet plan for your four-legged friend.