How to transition to a new food

THUR 2 FEB 2017

When changing food for your pet, it is important to make the transition gradually. There are many reasons pet owners might decide to change food; you could be moving your puppy onto adult food, switching your old cat from adult food to a senior diet, or maybe you're just changing over to a higher quality or natural diet.

Whatever the reason for your change, it's important to transition your pup or kitty over gradually.

Why is a gradual change important?

Nutritionists worldwide recommend a gradual change when swapping your pet over to a new food. The main reason for this is to avoid gastrointestinal upsets. Cats and dogs are prone to diarrhoea and occasional vomiting when their diet changes, especially if they've been on the one food for a while.

You may be lucky and have a pet with an iron gut, who won't show any signs of a tummy upset with a quick change of food. Your pet is also less likely to react if you are making benign change, such as swapping from a chicken-based dry food to a beef-based dry food of the same brand. However, most people prefer not to take the risk, as diarrhoea on the carpet is never fun to clean up!

Most sources you read will recommend a 'gradual' change, and when googling the topic, you might notice there are a wealth of different methods recommended by different sources. So long as the time period allowed is gradual, there's not really any wrong 'method' and you might find that a different method suits you and your pet. However, after thoroughly reading up on the topic, we have based our recommendation on that made by nutritionists from both Hill's and Royal Canin due to their heavy backing of research into animal nutrition science.

Here's what we recommend:

Day 1-2: Mix 25% of the new food with 75% of the old food

Day 3-4: Mix 50% of the new food with 50% of the old food

Day 5-6: Mix 75% of the new food with 25% of the old food

Day 7 onwards: 100% new food

Keep in mind that your pet might try to 'train' you, and refuse to eat their new food. If you cater to their whim, you might end up with a number of pet food bags going to waste. Instead, be strong and continue to offer them the new food until they accept it. Dogs will eventually eat when they are hungry enough, however note that cats can on occasion actually starve themselves into a sorry state. If your feline friend hasn't eaten for a couple of days, unfortunately you might have to give in to save them from themselves.

Hopefully with this 7 day transition period, your pet will have a seamless change over to their new food. If your pet has signs of gastrointestinal upset despite transitioning slowly, always consult with your vet for advice.

Posted by Dr Carla Paszkowski

When Carla isn't talking about petcare at PetCircle, she enjoys playing mum to her fluffy little cross-eyed feline fur baby, Smudge.

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