Adding Variety Helps Your Dog or Cat Eat a More Balanced Diet
Healthy animals benefit from nutritional variety. Different types of proteins, fats, and carbohydrates contain various dietary building blocks in distinct amounts. By adding variety to your dog or cat’s diet via multiple proteins, food forms and formulas, your dog or cat will eat a more balanced diet.
Nutritional variety also prevents your dog or cat from becoming reliant on a single protein or formula to meet his dietary needs. Picky pets might latch onto a single food, which actually makes them more likely to develop a food intolerance due to daily exposure over many years. Variety encourages your dog or cat to try new things and not become singularly attached to one food. It also makes food transitions easier, in case your dog or cat must transition to a new food for health reasons.
But most owners add variety to their dog or cat’s diet because it’s fun. Giving new foods to a beloved dog or cat brings joy to many people, and pets seem to like it, too.
Helping Your Dog or Cat Transition Foods
Eating the same single food for months or years may make your dog or cat’s digestive system more sensitive to new foods. Avoid the risk of digestive upset by using a transition schedule that lasts at least a full week when adding new foods for the first time. Check fat contents between foods and add at least an extra week of transition time if the fat content of the new food is higher than 3% of the old food (based on dry matter).
Adding a digestive supplement that helps food break down or a prebiotic supplement that feeds the healthy bacteria in the large intestine can also make transitions easier.
Transitioning between foods is important for the first few months, but your dog or cat’s body will quickly adjust to the added variety. Over time, your dog or cat shouldn’t need any transition time at all; her body will have adapted and will be able to digest any food.
Slow transitions can also help dog or cats who are suspicious of new foods to acclimate to their new diets. Cats or dogs who refuse new foods may need to start with a different, more palatable food option. For dogs, toppers can be an excellent first step towards trying new things. Cats might appreciate a small amount of new food placed near their old food so that they can try it at their leisure.
Dietary Change Challenges
Food intolerances and allergies can make it more difficult to add nutritional variety. Animals that thrive on a L.I.D. diet can still benefit from adding variety, but be sure to check labels and introduce new foods slowly. Owners with dogs and cats on prescription diets for severe food allergies should check with their veterinarians before making any changes or adding any new foods.
Always consult your veterinarian before making a dietary change for a dog or cat that has pre-existing medical conditions. Diet plays a vital role in regulating many medical conditions, such as diabetes or kidney disease. Talking to your veterinarian will help you decide on a plan that will add greater nutritional variety while still supporting your pet’s overall health.
Some dogs and cats may have difficulty transitioning between foods, even with a careful transition schedule and digestive support. Owners who spot diarrhea or vomiting should stop feeding any new foods immediately. Dogs that don’t eat for 48 hours or who have diarrhea or vomiting 24 hours after stopping a new food should see a veterinarian. Cats who vomit for 24 hours, or who stop eating for 36 hours, should also go to the veterinarian. Not eating places cats at high risk for a serious condition called hepatic lipidosis (fatty liver disease).