Why won’t my pet eat the new food my vet recommended?

Ice cube tray feeder

Why won’t my pet eat the new food my vet recommended?

Is your pet a “finicky” eater? Or, does it wolf down everything in sight without coming up for air? Some pets can become fixated on particular food types, especially if they’re not introduced to a range of foods early on (this is usually more the case with cats than dogs).

It’s a fair bet that in the wild, animals are less choosy about what they eat (“Damn! I caught a sparrow and 2 lizards today but I really wanted a big juicy rat with a sprig of parsley on top!”) but with domestication we have made our pets selective feeders. Yep, that’s right. Most of the time, it’s our fault. Our pets wrap us around their paws and manipulate us, and our own food habits and preferences influence how and what we feed our pets.

So, if we suddenly provide food that tastes different, smells different or has a different texture, we might be faced with a self-imposed hunger strike from our pets. This can also occur if we swap from a cheaper, supermarket diet to a “premium” or “super-premium” brand, causing us to return to the original diet because “my pet doesn’t like the new food”. In this case it’s usually because the pet is addicted to the high salt content in the supermarket food (added to keep pets eating it and pet owners buying it)…it’s similar to trying to get a teenager to eat veggies instead of pizza.

Here’s some tips to make the transition to a new diet easier:
• Day 1-4: mix 75% old food with 25% new food
• Days 5-8: mix 50/50 old and new food
• Days 9-12: mix 25% old food with 75% new food
• Day 13-14: offer 100% new food

A gradual transition also minimises the chances of gastro-intestinal upsets (vomiting or diarrhoea) from a sudden dietary change.

If your pet refuses to eat the new food at any point, return to the stage where they were eating it and start the day count again. If it takes longer than 2 weeks, that’s okay. Be patient and don’t be guilt-tripped into giving your pet what they’re holding out for! If you don’t hold your ground, your pet will quickly learn that a refusal to eat = you cave in and give them what they want.

We obviously don’t want our pets risking their health in a game of “chicken” with us, so if you’re concerned that they really aren’t accepting a new food after trying the above formula, ask your veterinary professional for advice.


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