The dietary needs of dogs and cats are influenced by stage of life (for example, puppy or kitten, adult, or senior), current activity level and lifestyle (for example, canine athlete, weekend warrior, or couch potato), and the presence of specific health conditions. Therefore, even when you are feeding a high-quality food to your pet, the time may come when you need to change your pet’s food. Here are a few helpful tips to make your dog or cat’s transition to a new food easy and healthful.
In most situations, owners are able to anticipate an upcoming diet change for their pet. Certainly the most common change is the switch from puppy or kitten food to an adult pet food. For cats and most dogs, this change can take place at approximately one year of age. However, giant-breed dogs (or mixes) mature more slowly and may take up to 24 months of age to reach their adult body size. Lifestyle and exercise also can dictate diet changes. For example, dog-sport enthusiasts may feed a performance diet to their canine athlete during periods of training and competition and change back to an adult maintenance food during the off season. Senior pets can benefit from foods that are specifically formulated for older pets. Finally, some pets may require a therapeutic diet to manage a health condition. In all of these cases, you should take the time that is needed to research foods, speak with your veterinarian about recommendations, and select a food that is best suited for your pet’s age, lifestyle, and health.
When you are ready to change foods, here are a few guidelines:
Certainly, the best judge of a new food is the pet himself. Once your dog or cat has accepted the new food and is eating it exclusively, feed the food for at least six to eight weeks before evaluating its effect upon your pet’s health and well-being. A food that provides optimal nutrition will support ideal body weight and condition, will promote healthy skin and a lustrous coat, and will result in normal stool volume and consistency. If you have switched to a therapeutic diet to manage a health condition, schedule regular visits with your veterinarian to monitor your pet’s response.
Regardless of the food that you choose, dogs and cats always should be provided with free access to fresh, clean water. It is also important to maintain a consistent feeding schedule and to regularly check your pet’s body weight and condition. Adjust the amount of food that you offer accordingly. And remember, dogs and cats need to visit their veterinarian regularly to keep them happy and healthy!