Caitlin UltimoNutrition / Pet Diet Tips

Tips for Transitioning Your Pet to a New Food

If you have a pet, this has probably happened to you: Your pup or cat will happily eat a beloved food every day, until one day he decides that he hates it and won’t touch it. Frustrating! For other pets, they might love their dog or cat food, but it may cause them tummy issues or allergic reactions. In either case, there’s likely going to be a time when you need to change your pet’s food. This can be a tricky process; if you go too fast, your pet can experience some digestive issues like runny stool or even diarrhea. Here’s how to make it easier on the both of you.

Introducing New Dog or Cat Food

When switching foods, think carefully about why you need to make the switch. If your pet just seems bored with the flavor, you can switch to a different kind within the same brand without too much trouble. But if your pet has allergies or other issues, your vet may suggest a more drastic shift, like going from a traditional kibble to a grain-free kibble .

If you’re just switching to a new flavor within the same brand, such as going from Solid Gold High Protein Red Meat with Buffalo to Solid Gold High Protein Chicken, the transition should be pretty easy. Recipes within the same line will usually have the same secondary ingredients—it should just be the first ingredient that changes for flavor. The majority of the nutrients and vitamin quantities should remain consistent, too. If you know your dog tolerates chicken just as well as buffalo, you can usually make the change in just two or three days without any issues by following the transition tips below over the course of a few days rather than a few weeks.

When doing a bigger transition, however, like switching to a grain-free food such as Go! Fit + Free Grain-Free Chicken, Turkey & Trout Recipe or CANIDAE Grain-Free PURE Elements with Lamb, you’ll need more time to transition your pet to his new diet. In this case, for example, changing your pet to a grain-free diet means he’ll suddenly shift from getting the bulk of his calories from grain to getting it from protein. This is a huge shift for his body, and your pal’s digestive system will need to work harder to manage this new mix of nutrients. The transition will need to be much more gradual to keep your pet feeling good.

Switching to a New Diet

To successfully switch to a new dog food and cat food, start slowly. On the first one to three days, mix ¼ of the new food into ¾ of the old food to meet your pet’s daily allotment. After a few days, if your pet is eating normally and doesn’t seem to be gassy or have trouble going to the bathroom, up the percentage to 50% of the old food and 50% new. After just a day or two of this, assuming there are no negative reactions, mix it so that the majority of the food is the new one. At this point, there are usually no more side effects and you can then transition to feeding the new food entirely on its own.

If at any point, your pet seems to lose his appetite, is constipated or has diarrhea, take a step back and decrease how much of the new food you’re feeding him. Some pets can transition in just a few days and some need as long as a week to ten days. More sensitive pets with delicate stomachs can take even longer. Also be sure to check the back of the bag of the new food to see if there are specific recommended transitioning guidelines. For instance, Instinct Raw Boost Chicken recommends transitioning over a period of 5 to 7 days, while Stella & Chewy’s Dandy Lamb recommends transitioning over the course of 7 to 10 days.

What if My Vet Recommends a Special Diet?

If your veterinarian recommended a prescription diet and your pet is refusing to eat it, you can coax her into it. Try topping the dry kibble with the complementary wet food. Adding a small spoonful of wet food can tempt even the most stubborn cat or dog; just stick to a wet formula that matches the dry formula your vet recommended. When it comes to prescription diets, you want to avoid mixing in table food or other treats, as this could have a detrimental or opposite effect from the prescribed food.

Whether you’ve transitioned to a new food because the store ran out of your favorite brand—which is why Chewy’s Autoship comes in handy!—or because your dog’s or cat’s nutritional needs have changed, you can switch your pet over with success. By being patient and slowly mixing in the new food, you can introduce the new diet to your friend without upsetting his system.