How to Transition Your Pet to a New Diet

By Liz Moser, Community Resource Coordinator

While it is usually recommended that you maintain a consistent feeding regimen for your pets, you may find yourself needing to switch to a new food at some point. This may be due to a change in your pet’s age or health status or, as you may have experienced recently, food shortages or product unavailability.

The best way to modify your pet’s diet, and minimize stomach upset, is to slowly transition over a 10-day period. Start with a small amount of the new food mixed in with the old food. Day by day, increase the amount of new food and decrease the amount of old food in your pet’s bowl until the transition is complete. You may extend this routine for a longer period if your pet has loose stools or other gastrointestinal symptoms – just go back to the last ratio that worked for a few days and try again!

If you run out of pet food and are unable to transition slowly, there are still steps you can take to minimize potential issues. For dogs and cats, feed a bland diet of rice and boiled chicken, beef or whatever protein your pet is accustomed to until you purchase pet food. Slowly transition from the bland diet to the new food as outlined above.

When choosing a new food, it is best to stick with protein sources already familiar to your pets. Try to avoid large changes in the percentages of protein, fat or fiber, if possible. If your pet is unsure about the menu change, add a meal topper or wet food to make kibble more enticing or offer the new food as small meals throughout the day.

If you run out of rabbit food, ensure that your bunny has plenty of fresh hay and water until you are able to buy food. In the meantime, you may supplement their diet with fresh, delicious greens. If you introduce new greens, limit the snacks to one new offering every three days, and monitor your bunny for health issues related to the diet change.

For pets of any species, contact your veterinarian if any symptoms persist while you are transitioning to a new food. It is especially important to consult with your veterinarian if your pet is on a specialized diet as part of their treatment plan. Your veterinarian will be able to advise you on appropriate alternatives and feeding guidelines to ensure that your pet’s nutritional needs are still being met.

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