Do you know when to change your pet’s diet? Here are 5 key times when you should be considering a diet change! Some are not as obvious as others, but it’s important to know when you should be seeking a dietary recommendation from your vet team or nutritionist. It is quite common to consider a diet change when things go wrong, but we also need to remember there are other reasons to consider a diet change that are perfectly normal and healthy. Keep in mind, a change in diet doesn’t necessarily need to be dramatic, it could just be feeding a different type of food or adding in a variation of the same diet.
How does your pet’s stool measure up? If your pet is experiencing diarrhea or soft stools as an ongoing issue, and has no other signs of ill health (and your vet can’t find anything else wrong) you may need to look into changing your pet’s food to something more suitable for their sensitive tummy. The same goes for very hard or infrequent stools – often a lack of fibre in the diet can be a trigger for these issues and switching to a food that is higher in fibre can dramatically improve both stool consistency and the health of your pet’s microbiome through the addition of prebiotic fibres. In addition to a lack of fibre, pets can also have dietary sensitivities; although they are uncommon, they can be a reason for ongoing soft stools even if you’ve changed diets.
2. Entering a new lifestage
As our pets age, their needs change. Feeding a puppy food to an adult, or an adult food to a puppy can cause issues ranging from mild to severe. Feeding a diet specific to your pet’s lifestage ensures they are getting the right balance of nutrients for their age and avoiding a nutritional excess or deficiency. It’s a good idea to think about the diet you’d like to feed in your pet’s next lifestage as they begin approaching it; if you know your pup is going to reach adulthood at 12 months of age, start considering their adult diet from around 9-10 months of age once they’ve reached their adult weight. For seniors, most pets reach their senior years around 7 years of age. We recommend a blood test and a wellness check before changing diets; this is to check for any age related conditions such as kidney disease that may need to be managed before switching to senior diets, however many senior pets will benefit from a diet with highly digestible protein, fatty acids and supportive joint supplements.
3. Newly diagnosed health condition
As I touched on above, yearly wellness checks and blood testing can occasionally pick up on new health conditions in our pets. Many of these conditions such as diabetes, thyroid disease, or kidney disease, can be improved, managed or entirely treated with a change in diet. In addition to therapeutic nutrition where we directly feed a diet for a condition, a change in diet can also be supportive of symptoms of conditions that can’t be managed with diet alone.
4. Poor skin/coat
Itchy, dry, scaly skin and patchy, sparse hair can be a sign that your pet’s diet is lacking in essential fatty acids and healthy oils that support the health of the skin and coat. It may also be a sign of overall poor nutrition, nutritional deficiencies, hormonal conditions or allergies (environmental or food related) which again, can be improved with a dietary change. Before adding supplements, it’s always important to check with your vet that your pet is healthy, as supplements may not be necessary but a simple diet change is usually all that is needed.
5. Unexplained weight loss or gain
Always check with your vet before changing the diet in this case to rule out any health conditions that are causing weight loss or gain. If there is no medical reason for your pet’s weight loss or gain, your pet’s diet may not be ideal for their needs – some animals will continue to gain weight on a low calorie food, whereas some pets will not gain weight regardless of how much they eat. In these cases, it’s worth switching to a diet that is more targeted to their metabolism and lifestyle. Some diets are also more nutrient dense than you think, and you may be overfeeding without knowing so a personalised feeding plan may also be helpful.
Did this post make you think about changing your pet’s diet? I now offer nutritional consultations, available for purchase through my website. These can be conducted remotely, so you do not need to live in Australia to take up the offer. You can see all the plans and inclusions on the ‘Nutritional Consultations’ tab.
Does your pet need a change? What signs do you notice when your pet needs a new diet? Let us know in the comments below!