Going Limited
Mariner the Sea Puppy’s dietary odyssey
Mariner the Sea Puppy pointed towards the seaMariner the Sea Puppy by the ocean
There comes a time — often more than one — in the lives of our pets when their food needs to change. Sometimes, a dietary switcheroo is prompted by a new life stage with different nutritional needs. Other times, health conditions — such as diabetes, chronic kidney disease, atopic dermatitis or digestive disorders — require a change in food as part of their management. Or sometimes, you simply have personal reasons for wanting to swap your pet’s food, such as ingredient or brand preferences or saving money. Dara Anderson, who lives in the San Fernando Valley area of California, lists several reasons for transitioning her dog Mariner (the Sea Puppy) to a limited ingredient diet: a sensitive digestive system, severe seasonal allergies and a taste for different flavor profiles. “Mariner, my Australian cattle dog, has a sensitive stomach and has always been picky,” Dara explains. “My problem was that he would get bored with a flavor and I’d have to switch foods every month, which created another problem — frequent, soft stools.” During a trip to her local pet store — about the time she was considering another flavor change for Mariner — Dara spied a Taste of the Wild PREY promotion. The limited number of ingredients and canine-specific probiotics caught her attention and she knew she had to try feeding it to Mariner. Experienced at switching foods Dara learned shortly after adopting Mariner that feeding him could be challenging. “Mariner has horrible seasonal allergies along with a sensitive stomach, so he needs to be on one food and that food only,” she explains. Early on, she worked with her veterinarian to find a combination of food and supplemental probiotics that Mariner’s sensitive stomach could tolerate without causing chronically soft stools. Fortunately for Mariner (and Dara), the brand of dog food that worked well for him came in a variety of flavors. But even switching between formulas within the brand would negatively affect Mariner’s stool consistency — until Dara realized she needed to use a very s-l-o-w transition, about a month in length. With that figured out, she was able to transition Mariner between formulas without incident. But he still needed supplemental probiotics with every meal. Mariner’s sensitive tummy also meant his treats had to be restricted to avoid triggering soft stools. However, Dara found a treat she could place in front of Mariner’s nose to wake him up without startling him. Why that routine for waking her 2-year-old cattle dog? As it turns out, Mariner is deaf. “He was born completely deaf, although he now understands sign language,” Dara explains. Born on a ranch in the area, the lack of hearing was considered a disadvantage for a farm dog, so he was put up for adoption. “I had always wanted an Australian cattle dog, so when a friend told me about an Australian cattle dog puppy up for adoption, I had to check him out,” she says. As fate would have it, Mariner chose Dara. He ran directly to her at their first meeting, and they’ve been constant companions since then. Although he’s a cattle dog, Dara reports that the super-active and energetic Mariner dislikes nature — except for the beach — and hates hiking too. “He’s a city dog,” she laughs. “He loves walking around downtown Burbank and L.A. But he most loves the beach where he can run off leash.” Smooth sailing during Mariner’s switch to PREY Because of her earlier experiences with changing Mariner’s dog food, Dara knew she needed to proceed gradually and cautiously. Mariner was eating a salmon-based formula at the time of the switch, so Dara first tried the PREY trout formula. She actually counted out the number of kibbles of his previous dog food and replaced them with the same number of PREY kibbles. She also continued supplementing his food with additional probiotics. “He ate only the PREY kibbles and left his regular food in the bowl,” Dara laughs. She also carefully monitored his stools and, when no significant issues occurred, she continued the transition by gradually adding more PREY and less of Mariner’s other food — and it only took a full week to make the switch. Within the first two weeks of feeding PREY, she saw a difference in his stool consistency so she decided to slowly reduce, then eliminate, the supplemental probiotics. Since that first bag of PREY, Dara has also changed the PREY flavors that she feeds Mariner — and, unlike the previous food, switching between formulas didn’t require a month-long transition. “He loves all the different flavors,” she says, “but the Angus beef formula is definitely his favorite.”
For cats specifically, some veterinarians will recommend putting the current and new foods in separate bowls, since some cats will be more accepting of a new food when the foods aren’t mixed in the same bowl. But you’ll want to put the new food in the cat’s current dish and have the current diet in a new bowl. You can use the same gradual replacement amounts of the new and current foods, and you can also provide the new food first when your kitty is hungry to encourage acceptance. Be aware that some pets may be easier to transition than others, and cats tend to be finickier than dogs. Remember, too, that each dog and cat is different, so don’t worry if your pet takes more or less time to transition from one food to another. Just maintain normal feeding times and routines. And don’t worry about a missed meal for your dog. A healthy dog can miss one or two meals or eat a little less than normal without experiencing any problems. But if more than two meals are refused, consider trying a different food. For cats, watch carefully to make sure your cat is eating the new food before reducing the amount of the current food that is being offered. Cats should not skip meals and if your cat misses a meal or two, it is best to contact your veterinarian. Since Dara switched Mariner — and her other dog Dodger — over to PREY, Mariner’s stools have been firm and formed, and he’s experiencing less dander, itchiness and other skin issues. “I always recommend this brand to pet parents,” she says. “PREY is an amazing, quality food that helps my dogs stay healthy at an affordable price!”

Diet transitions need patience and planning Transitioning a pet from one food to another can be relatively simple. It just takes a bit of planning and patience. The key is a slow transition from the current to the new diet, unless your veterinarian makes a different recommendation for health reasons. That’s because an abrupt food switch can cause a pet to stop eating (this tends to be particularly true for cats, some of whom are notoriously resistant to food changes) or to develop digestive issues like vomiting and diarrhea. While many pets can be transitioned from one food to another in a week, others may need 10 to 14 days. Still others, such as those pets with sensitive digestive systems or who are being switched to a dramatically different diet, may need a four- to six-week transition to avoid digestive system issues or outright refusals. Most guidelines for changing your pet’s diet are variations on a common theme: mixing a gradually increasing percentage of the new diet with a slowly decreasing percentage of the current diet until the pet is eating only the new diet. For a seven-day transition, start by replacing 25 percent of your pet’s current food with the new food and feed this mixture for two days. If your pet accepts the new food and doesn’t have any digestive upset, continue to decrease the amount of current food and increase the amount of new food every two days until your pet is eating only the new diet. If, however, your pet develops vomiting, diarrhea, excessive gas or a grumbly tummy, talk with your veterinarian. Usually, it’s better to slow the transition rather than abruptly switch back to the previous diet. You may need to consider using increments of 10 percent (for example, 90 percent current and 10 percent new food, followed by 80 percent current and 20 percent new diet, etc.) for the transition. Or you can increase the number of days each mixture is offered at each step.
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