Is It Time to Change My Pet’s Eating Habits?

Maybe you started rewarding your dog with a treat every time he obeyed your call from the backyard. Or perhaps your cat’s getting a little older and less active, so it’s time to watch her calories more closely. Whatever the reason, you’re now faced with a situation where it’s time to take stock of your pet’s feeding habits and make a change. This is quite common for all pet owners, and sometimes it’s hard to know how or where to start. That’s okay! Your veterinarian is your best partner in assessing any changes you should make to your pet’s nutrition and eating habits.  Here are some of the things you’ll want to discuss to determine the best approach for your pet.

Start with Why

Why do you want to change your pet’s eating habits? That’s the first question you’ll want to discuss with your veterinarian.

Your vet can help you determine what kind of change is needed. Is your pet getting older and needing some additional health support? Are they overweight? Is your pet exhibiting signs of allergies? Each of these scenarios is unique to your pet and important to take into account. An overweight cat will need a vastly different diet than a dog with allergies, so working with your vet can help you determine your pet’s dietary needs and the food that will help your pet feel better. 

Putting the Plan into Action

Once you and your vet have agreed a new diet is in order, you can start transitioning from their current food to the new diet. Remember, once you’ve started transitioning, it’s important to follow through with introducing the new diet. Here are some “best practice” tips to avoid digestive upset: 
  • Take Your Time. Experts recommend a gradual switch over the course of seven to 10 days to sidestep any digestive issues. Try a mix of 25 percent new food with 75 percent old food for the first three days. Then 50/50 for another three days, 75/25 for the next three days, then finally, 100 percent new food.
  • Set up a Structure. Do you make food available to your cat at all hours, whenever he wants a nibble? Most experts believe that technique is a major contributor to pet weight problems. Consider instead a routine of three or four feedings a day, at set times. You could even take that further with a timed portion routine: The food is available for 30 minutes; after that, you take away whatever is left.
  • Block them from Begging. Some pets are notorious for their begging! To eliminate the temptation of sharing your food, consider separating your pet from your mealtimes. Sending your dog or cat to bed or to another room while the family is at the table for dinner may be a simple way to change begging and eating behavior.
  • Terminate the Treats. Most experts recommend pet treats be no more than five or 10 percent of your pet’s daily food intake. Consider alternatives to food when you want to reward your dog’s behavior. A nice belly rub or romp in the backyard with you, a stroll or a serious grooming session may be great substitutes. 
Visit Your Vet

At the end of the day, it’s always important to check with your vet to make sure you’re taking the right approach to helping your pet feel better. Your vet will have great insights into how your dog or cat’s diet is affecting their behavior and can help you determine the right food for their needs. 

At Royal Canin, we’re dedicated to improving the lives of cats and dogs through health nutrition.  Subscribe to our newsletter to receive information on pet health and nutrition, behavior and training, and pet lifestyle topics.