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Six Signs it’s Time to Change Your Pet’s Food

Change Can Be Good

By Jessica Vogelsang, DVM

It’s a long-held myth that pets should be on the same pet food their entire lives. The truth is, we now know our pet’s dietary needs can and do change over time due to factors like their life stage, their overall health, and their activity level. Do you think it might be time for a change? Check out our top six signs you may want to get a brand new bag of pet food.

1. Dull, Flaky Coat

Diets rich in essential fatty acids are a key component in keeping a pet’s skin healty, and therefore his or her coat, in tip top shape. Many pet foods are designed with skin and coat improvement in mind. Look for a diet containing both Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids to make your pet’s coat shiny and bright in no time.

2. Lethargy/Weakness

If your pet had recently undergone a stressful event, illness, or surgery, he may understandably be a little worn out. Diets with high levels of antioxidants can help boost the immune response to accelerate your pet’s recovery and get them back on their feet in no time. Remember: a pet who is suddenly acting lethargic and weak should be evaluated by a veterinarian before making dietary changes.

3. 'Senioritis'

Depending on the size of the animal, pets are considered middle-aged to senior around 5-7 years. And as our pets age, their nutrient requirements change too. Senior diets, for example, are generally lower in calories but higher in fiber, and often have supplements specific to this lifestage such as joint support and antioxidants. AAFCO does not have requirements for senior pets, however, so look for a food labeled for “adult maintenance.” This is because an “all life stage” food is formulated with kittens and puppies in mind. It will also deliver too much fat and nutrients your senior pet does not require. In fact, the pet food could even be harmful to a senior pet.

4. Hefty Midsection

It doesn’t take much for a pet to wind up with some extra weight on their frame — and this is particularly noticeable with small pets. If your pet needs to lose a few inches, a diet specifically designated for weight loss will ensure that they still have the proper amount of essential nutrients, vitamins, and minerals while ingesting fewer calories. These diets take advantage of the latest research in pet weight management to ensure your pet is on their way to a healthier weight in no time! If your pet is extremely overweight or obese, however, it's best that you consult with your veterinarian for a therapeutic nutritional solution.

5. GI Disturbances

Chronic flatulence, loose stool, or rumbly stomachs can be the result of food intolerance or the low quality of food that you’re feeding your pet. Some pets simply don’t tolerate certain diets or ingredients as well as other ones. GI upset is an inconvenience to owners as well as being uncomfortable for your pet. If this is an ongoing problem for you, ask your health care professional to diagnose the problem. The solution may be as easy as switching to premium food or a sensitive stomach diet that’s right for your pet.

6. An Itch that Won’t Quit

Allergies are common in pets, and food is just one of several possible causes. Regardless of the cause, though, allergic pets may benefit from a low-allergen diet that reduces the amount of potential allergens they are exposed to. Your veterinarian can recommend either a prescription diet or an over the counter sensitive skin diet, depending on your pet’s particular needs.

Plan for Success

Choosing the proper diet is one of the most important ways owners can ensure their pet’s long term health, but it’s no substitute for medical care. If you suspect your pet may have a medical condition that would benefit from a new diet, be sure to have a checkup with your vet to make sure you’re on the right path before making any changes! Good food and good choices lead to a long, healthy, happy life.

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Comments  7

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  • Always dump the kibble
    02/01/2013 12:52pm

    It's long past time to change your dog's and cat's food if it is kibble.

  • Portion Control???
    02/01/2013 07:06pm

    Why is the picture you have used depicting an overflowing bowl? To start with, our pets are designed to graze, which is outlined in the NRC's latest book, complete with pages and pages of references to back their statements: http://tinyurl.com/3y7c55n

    The suggestion that a bowl of food that large is a good idea, suggests that turnover of food in the bowl is definitely not frequent enough to be adequate for health, let alone any other problem that might be developing due to the use of the ingredients in the food.

    I am also wondering at the term, "brand new bag" of pet food. Are you suggesting that pet food is best purchased in bulk? While I don't agree with Rod Russell's fanatical "kibble" stories because he prefers to eat raw, I do see some serious problems developing with the dry food not being used quickly enough, or improperly stored. There is no mention of the fact that the dry food you depict could turn rancid, or if in a moist climate, will easily develop aflatoxins that can make a pet very sick.

    Personally, that picture shows me that owners who think giving their pet food is loving them, will possibly interpret that this form of "love" is an acceptable way to feed an animal.

    Maybe you could change the picture you have used? And no, Rob, good quality ingredients in fresh dry foods are a great way to feed pets who need small frequent meals to keep tummies shrunk and prevent obesity. While we mix the foods we feed, only the dry can have meat "meals" that have the fat and water content rendered off in the processing, which allows for great portion control and weight reduction without punishing the pet with hunger. Our charges have been nutritionally healthy and die of age related issues - nothing to do with feeding dry food.

  • High End?
    02/09/2013 03:54pm

    I have been buying Hills Science Diet ZD for 8 years. My dog seemed to have a sensitive digestive system. It seemed to help until the end of 2012. I recieved a new bag and within two days my guy had very! soft stool. I thought maybe he had gotten a parasite. Needless to say after hundreds of dollars of testing and another bag of food (which is not cheap)it turns out that Hills has changed their formula. Oops did not tell the vet. I found out by researching. Also I found out that one of the ingredients is "sawdust". really!!! I am so disappointed. Changed dog food and my guy is doing great! He doesn't even smell like he use to.


    Side note- after having to have anal glands drained every month this problem has disappeared also!

  • Cjaz
    02/17/2013 01:50pm

    Which food did you switch to from Science Diet? My dog has problems with his anal glands too.



  • Cjaz
    02/17/2013 08:44pm

    To say that pet foods have "sawdust" is a rather sensationalizing misrepresentation. In reality, "cellulose" from plants makes a good high fiber diet for pets that need it, although beet pulp and rice bran are proven to be better intestinal substrates for our pets. Please check the reference material attached to your sources before spreading misinformation.

    The term "cellulose" is a reference to the supportive tissue that keeps plants upright, such as the strings in celery as a simplified example. All our guts need fibers of one sort or another to support the good gut bacteria that help the body break down the food you feed into the needed nutrients. Here is a website with some reasonable information on this: http://www.felineconstipation.org

  • High End
    03/22/2013 08:16pm

    To Cjaz......

    I would like to know what food you switched to for the anal gland problem. I must have my dogs cleaned monthly also.


  • 11/11/2014 07:31pm

    have been buying Hills Science Diet ZD for 8 years. My dog seemed to have a sensitive digestive system. It seemed to help until the end of 2012. I recieved a new bag and within two days my guy had very! soft stool. I thought maybe he had gotten a parasite. Needless to say after hundreds of dollars of testing and another bag of food (which is not cheap)it turns out that Hills has changed their formula