Introducing your pet to a healthy diet

Medallion_BowlCongratulations on taking the first step to improving your pet’s quality of life! The new food you are offering is made with human grade ingredients and is probably packed with many more nutrients than your furry friend is accustomed to. While some pets will make this change without incident, others may need more time for their digestive system to adjust to the premium food. In order to facilitate a smooth transition there are a few things you should consider when introducing your pet to a healthy diet:

The first thing to remember when changing your pet’s diet is that they will utilize this food much more efficiently than previously. As a result, the amount of food offered at each feeding should be reduced. At All Is Well we recommend feeding one cup (8 ounces) for every thirty pounds of body weight for dogs, which can be adjusted according to activity level. For cats we recommend 5 ounces of canned food or one half cup of kibble for every 8 pounds, although we don’t recommend feeding kibble to cats. (See our “Canned Food for Cats” handout.) Keep in mind that this is a starting point, and if you notice that your pet is gaining or losing weight when this is not the desired result, slowly cut back or increase the amount of food being fed.

If your pet is having difficulties making the transition to a healthier diet and experiences diarrhea or loss of appetite, there a few things you can try. When diarrhea is the problem, you can slowly transition your pet to the premium food. This can be done over a period of one to three weeks. Gradually add some of the new food while proportionately decreasing the old food. This allows your animal’s bacterial flora time to adjust. A little canned pumpkin can also be used to help with loose stools. Keep in mind that because your pet is utilizing the food better, they will have lower stool volume.

If your pet is experiencing a loss of appetite and you’ve already tried the slow transition, try heating the food (if wet) or adding a little warm water for dry food as animals are more apt to eat warm food over cold food. Most commercial pet foods contain a lot of sugar to entice your animal to eat, creating eating habits that are hard to break—pets can get addicted to junk food just like humans. If heating the food still doesn’t work, it is ok for your animal to voluntarily fast, as long as there are no health problems. Most dogs will be willing to eat after two days, but cats can go as long as 5 days without health repercussions.

Starting your pet on a healthy diet can bring about a cleansing reaction in some animals (particularly those in marginal health), causing hairballs to be thrown up, worms to be passed, or your animal could seem out of sorts for a few days. Please have patience as your pet’s health improves. Optimum wellbeing can take some time, depending on the amount of improvement that is needed.