The new year is typically the time that people re-evaluate their lifestyle choices, and diet is often one of these. It’s also a great opportunity to think about your pet’s diet and see if there are any adjustments needed when you consider their life stage and lifestyle.
Are They Ready for Grown-Up Food?
Did your puppy or kitten celebrate their first birthday recently? If so, and they’re currently eating a diet specially formulated for puppies or kittens, they may be ready for the switch to an adult formula. However, while puppies and kittens are officially considered adults at age one, some puppies may not have reached their adult size yet and may benefit from remaining on a puppy formula a little longer.
For example, toy dogs reach their adult size at 8 to 10 months, but giant breeds may not finish growing until 18 to 24 months. Every puppy grows at a different rate, so if you aren’t sure if your puppy has finished growing, check with your veterinarian on when to switch to an adult food.
Senior Pets Can Benefit from a Senior Diet
If your pet is “of a certain age,” they may benefit from a diet specifically formulated for seniors. Not sure if your pet is a senior? One rule of thumb for dogs is to consider them seniors when they reach the last 25 percent of their breed’s predicted lifespan. Senior cats range from 11 to 14 years and geriatric from 15 years or older.
If your senior pet is healthy, in good condition (not too thin or heavy) and they’re eating good quality adult food, there may be no need to change. But if they show signs of age-related changes (e.g., vision loss or decreased energy) or one of the common senior-related diseases (e.g., diabetes, kidney disease or obesity), then they may benefit from a senior-specific diet formulation.
Is Your Pet Tipping the Scales the Wrong Way?
Overweight dogs and cats make up more than half of the U.S. pet population. Too much food, too many treats and too little activity or playtime are common causes for a tubby tabby or portly pup. If you think your pet may be on the heavy side, check out these posts that explain how to assess your dog’s or cat’s weight, or speak with your veterinarian.
If your pet is overweight, your veterinarian may recommend feeding a specifically formulated pet food to help your pet lose weight safely and slowly. That’s because weight management diets are designed to supply all of the nutrients your pet needs while reducing the number of calories eaten.
Specialty Diet Formulations Can Help Manage Health Issues
A healthy diet can protect your pet’s health, but a diet containing appropriate ingredients can also help manage health-related issues. If your pet has been diagnosed with a health issue (e.g., diabetes, obesity, sensitive skin or kidney disease), your veterinarian may recommend a change in diet to help manage the condition.
Similarly, if your pet has a sensitive stomach, your veterinarian may recommend an easily digestible diet that contains a limited number of ingredients and may include probiotics to help restore the balance of beneficial bacteria in the digestive tract.
Slow and Steady Diet Change
A sudden change in diet can upset your pet’s digestive tract, so if you or your veterinarian do decide to change your pet’s diet, make the switch to the new diet gradually, over the course of 10 to 14 days. Start by feeding three parts of the current diet mixed with one part of the new diet. Over the next few days, gradually mix in more of the new diet and less of the current diet until your pet is eating only the new diet at the end of the transition period.
If you have any questions about your pet’s diet and whether it’s time to switch to a different formulation, be sure to speak with your veterinarian.