Wednesday, Mar. 11th 2020

How To Change Your Pet’s Diet

Pet's Diet

Picture of a homemade dog food

How to Change your Pet’s Diet

If you’ve been getting our newsletters for a while, you are probably aware that we recommend minimally processed balanced foods for your pet’s diet  (not random home-made mixtures from internet recipes not formulated by a nutritionist).  However, it’s possible you’ve seen your pet suffer tummy troubles or loose stools in the past that make you anxious about changing their diet.

OR, perhaps you’ve learned that introducing a variety of different foods to your pet can help their gut be healthier and more resilient so that they are less likely to have issues with new foods. 

This newsletter is a step-by-step guide to new food introduction.  The point of using the slow transition outlined below is to allow the bacteria in the gut to shift to appropriate proportions to handle the new food.  Without time for this shift, foods will not be properly broken down or absorbed which can lead to gas, GI upset, or other issues. 

First, choose the new food or foods you hope to introduce.  We recommend they follow guidelines found in our Pet Food Selection Tips Newsletter.  Less processed foods with no artificial ingredients, and preferably without wheat, corn, and soy (due to potential for herbicide contamination) are preferred. You can ask Dr Leonard for more detailed guidance if you wish since food can be used therapeutically.

Second, remember that all diet changes should be 10% or less difference from the day before.  The first day of introduction, you will use 90% of their current food, and 10% of the new one.  The second day, you will do 80/20.  On the third, 70/30 and so on.   Some pets with more sensitive systems may need 5% per day changes rather than 10%.

Third, while you are transitioning, make an effort to observe your pet’s stools at least once daily.  At any sign of looser stools, either go back one step in the transition, or hold at the current level until stools are again firm.  Then you may proceed.  If they don’t firm up, or continue to get worse, it is possible that your choice of new food is not appropriate for this pet.  For example, some dogs simply can’t handle the more intensive digestion raw food requires.

If you wish to introduce more variety into your pet’s diet, you can follow the above transition plan but hold when you get to 50/50 of two diets.  Then you can select a third food and continue the slow transition by introducing it 10% per day until you are feeding equal parts of all three over the course of a day.  It’s OK to introduce the new food in only one daily meal while keeping the other at the 50/50 amount of the two established diets, but don’t go over the 10% change rule.  Once you are feeding 1/3 of three different foods over the course of the day, you can bring in a fourth food in the same way, until the daily food has 25% of all four.  Then you can introduce a fifth type of food, going to 20% of five different foods over one day’s time.  Once you get to this point, your pet should be able to handle food changes more easily, and you can just routinely cycle through a wide variety of foods, making sure they continue to get 2-4 different foods each day to keep the gut bacteria appropriately varied.   Just remember if you introduce a food very different from what they have been used to they may again need a careful introduction.  For example, if you are using kibble and a variety of canned foods, your pet may have some GI upset if you suddenly introduce a raw diet to them. 

Keep in mind that some pets will not be able to handle some foods.  Raw, for example, isn’t right for every pet and some may have difficulty digesting it.  The same goes for kibble.  Some pets will have difficulty with certain ingredients or additives in some foods.  This is why you should monitor stools whenever a new food is being tried. 

At Whole Health Pet Center, we believe variety in the diet is helpful to make sure your pet is getting good nutrition.  Even if a food is labeled as a balanced diet, it’s possible your pet may need slightly more or less of certain nutrients because of their breed, activity level, or even the time of year or certain health conditions.  Thus, feeding more than one food may help to ensure a more well-rounded nutritional profile.  And conversely, feeding only one food for long periods of time may contribute to low-grade nutritional deficits that could affect their health. 




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