Transitioning a cat or dog to a new diet can be tricky. If you're transitioning your pet to a new diet that's going to provide them with better nutrition, then you want to ensure that the transition is successful, without any yucky side effects like diarrhoea, vomiting and gas.
Here are my top 7 tips for successfully transitioning your pet to a new diet.
1. Start slowly
First and foremost, it's super important to transition your pet's diet s-l-o-w-l-y. The main reason is to avoid digestive upsets like diarrhoea. Not nice for your pet and not nice for you!
It's also best to go slow if you have a finicky eater - transitioning too fast might result in a food strike. If your pet doesn't eat, this might result in a number of health complications, such as hepatic lipidosis in cats.
The best approach is to start slowly adding in the new food and increase over a number of days / weeks. For example, start off replacing 1/4 of the old food with the new food. Then every few days increase the new food by another 1/4, decreasing the old food at the same ratio.
2. Keep an eye on their poop.
One way that you can tell how your pet is coping with the transition is to monitor their poop.You want their stool to be firm. If their stools are starting to appear runny, add the new food at a slower pace, say at 1/8 cup intervals.
If their poop is firm, then you know its ok to increase the quantity of the new food.
3. Add probiotics and digestive enzymes
Adding probiotics and digestive enzymes will help your pet's gut handle the transition and reduce the risk of digestive upset, especially if your cat or dog has a sensitive stomach. I recommend Synbiotic 180-S, a great gut health supplement which combines prebiotics, probiotics and digestive enzymes.
4. Maintain protein consistency
Continue to feed them their preferred protein. For example, if you're transitioning from a canned diet to a raw diet and you know your cat's favourite meat is beef, transition in raw beef rather than raw chicken. You've got more chance that they'll eat their favourite protein than a protein they're not so keen on.
5. Spark their tastebuds with toppers
If you have a finicky eater, increase the tastiness of the food by adding in some tasty toppers.
My cats love Ziwipeak air-dried and Balanced Life Companion Treats. And what's great about them is that not only do they contain 100% natural ingredients, they are completely air dried which means they retain all the nutrients found in the original raw product. K9 Natural / Feline Natural also provide a freeze-dried range which would also work as a nutritional topper and a treat.
If you're transitioning your pet from a kibble diet to a moist diet (canned, raw, home prepared), you can use the dry kibble as a topper, either as it is or crumbled into a powder. I recommend only doing this for any leftover kibble, not buying new kibble to be a topper. Kibble is nutritionally deficient so it's much better for your pet if you feed toppers that are nutritionally rich.
You can also try warming their food to increase palatability, especially if your furry companion is of the feline variety.
6. Add mince
Minced meat doesn't have the same nutritional content as chunks of meat, and for cats it doesn't sufficient contain sufficient taurine, however it is useful as a transition food and for sneaking in vegies or supplements that your finicky dog or puss cat won't tolerate. It's especially useful when transitioning from a kibble or canned food diet to a raw or lightly cooked diet.
If feeding mince, make sure it's human grade, single protein source (to ensure that it's not a mix of low-grade leftover meats) and that no preservatives have been added.
7. Feed at specific times
Allow your pet a chance to develop an appetite by feeding them at specific times ie NOT free feeding. It's also better for them, and more natural, to eat at designated times during the day. Leaving food out can attract pests and bacteria. Having food available all day can result in excess weight and if your pet is free feeding, it may mask reduced appetite and thus potential health issues.
So there you have it! My 7 tips for transitioning your pet to a new diet. Best of luck with the transition!
If you're thinking about transitioning your pet to a new diet, check out my free eGuide 'The 7 Secret Ingredients In Your Pet's Food'. It will help you to decide, or reassure you, what food NOT to feed your beloved furry friend.