Dr. Edward Moser, a veterinarian, animal nutritionist and adviser to several top U.S. pet-food companies, answers commonly asked questions on how to safely switch a pet’s food.

I’ve tried to switch my dog’s/cat’s food before, and it really messed up her digestive system. Why is switching food so disruptive?

Some dogs/cats have stomachs that are sensitive to a dietary change. It can be for a multitude of reasons relating to the food, the animal’s health or sometimes to their eating behavior.

Commonly, digestive upset associated with the introduction of a new food is the result of the new food’s novelty; dogs and cats will wolf down the new food, overwhelming the digestive system. Or, it may simply be that the new food has a stronger flavoring system they aren’t used to.

What’s the best way to switch my dog/cat to organic food?

The most cautious way of switching a dog or cat to any new food is to introduce the new food over the course of 4 to 7 days by mixing in small amounts of the new, while decreasing their current food. Each day, add more of the new and remove an offsetting amount of the current food. Watch your dog/cat closely during the change. If some digestive disturbances occur, then take the changeover a bit more gradually, extending it over a few additional days.

What will happen if I switch my dog’s/cat’s food too quickly?

If no problems occur, then all is OK. Some dogs and cats switch quite easily. If, however, your dog or cat is sensitive to a change in diet or dietary habit, then it is most common that feed refusals, vomiting or diarrhea will be observed.

My dog’s/cat’s food seems fine. She eats it when I give it to her. Why should I consider switching?

Switch diets if you feel the food is not meeting your pet’s nutritional, functional or performance needs. You should also switch if there is concern regarding the origin of the food, its safety, freshness or consistency.

I’ve heard that organic foods are safer. Are they really worth the extra money?

Organic certification is a “seal of approval” or “quality-control check” for the ingredients and food preparation facilities used in the production of the pet food. This extra degree of scrutiny provides more confidence that no synthetic ingredients, preservatives, pesticides, herbicides and other unsafe compounds have been added to the food.

Photo courtesy of ARA