There comes a time in the lives of most pets when their diet needs to change. Sometimes this is because a different life stage comes with different dietary needs, other times an illness or condition needs added nutritional support, or sometimes you may simply want to change your pet’s food. Whether it’s kittens and puppies growing into adults, a cat suffering from hairballs or a lactating dog needing extra energy, diet changes for pets are needed from time to time to support their nutritional needs.

When you reach a stage where you need to change your pet’s diet, thought should be given to how you manage that change so you minimise the stress on your pet’s digestive system and reduce the likelihood they’ll have a negative reaction to their new food.

Make the switch in stages

Making the switch to another diet, no matter the reason, should always take a little time. By slowly easing your pet on to their new food you will help to avoid stomach upsets, runny stools, and regurgitation. Generally, this process goes smoothly and takes about a week, but it is always a good idea to monitor your pet closely to make sure it is going well.

Begin by introducing the new diet as a low proportion of their old diet, then gradually alter the ratio of old food to new food over the period of about a week until they are completely switched over. For the first couple of days, work with a ratio of around 25% new food to 75% old food. As you are doing this, keep an eye on your pet’s behavior. Are their stools still healthy? Are they acting normally? Is their stomach at all tender? Have they vomited or regurgitated any food?

If all the signs are good after a couple of days, start to alter the ratio of new food to old, gradually upping the percentage of new food so that it is 50%/50% after four or so days, then 75% new/25% old after six days, then finally 100% new after seven or eight days.

Even though it usually only takes a week to completely move onto a new diet, you may find your pet’s digestive system takes a little longer to get used to their new food. Don’t worry. Any time you see signs of your pet not quite adjusting, simply reduce the percentage of new food in their diet for another day or so before stepping up the ratio of new to old again. If it takes a few extra days to make the transition, then it takes a couple of extra days. There’s no rush.

During this time, it’s also a good idea to keep up with the same feeding routine such as sticking to regular mealtimes and eating areas so your pet doesn’t become distressed by too many changes.

Keep an eye on them

Once your pet has taken to their new diet and is no longer being fed any of their old food, you should keep them on this new diet for at least two months so you can better gauge how well they are responding to it. The best kind of diet will show in your pet’s appearance, resulting in a healthy body weight, great skin and a shiny coat, on top of minimal stomach upsets and good stool quality. Pet owners that have placed their pets on a new diet for health reasons should ideally schedule a check-up with their vet to monitor their pet’s progress and see if their new diet is best managing their health condition.