Dear Kara: Transitioning foods (Sponsored by Hill's Pet Nutrition)

Welcome to Dear Kara, a Hill's-sponsored Q&A series designed to answer your questions about important—and sometimes perplexing­—nutrition issues regarding your canine and feline patients. Through your astute questions and Kara's thoughtful answers, Hill's hopes to provide you with useful information to pass along to your clients for their pets' continued well-being.
Aug 01, 2008
By dvm360.com staff


PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES

New pet owners often ask what food is best for their pet. Do you have a good, generic answer for healthy pets, both young and mature?

When counseling owners of puppies and kittens on the importance of nutrition, you should recommend a food that is nutritionally balanced for proper growth. A food without nutritional excesses or deficiencies will help avoid nutritionrelated health problems later in life. Hill's offers a complete line of Hill's® Science Diet® pet foods to meet pets' unique, nutritional needs and enrich their lives.

When counseling owners of pets that are older than 1 year, you should discuss the pet's nutritional needs based on age, lifestyle, and special needs. Whether the pet is pediatric or adult, I recommend taking a nutritional history and discussing nutrition each time the pet visits your hospital.

How soon can a puppy eat Hill's® Science Diet® Puppy pet foods? We are bottle-feeding a litter of 5-day-old, orphan puppies, and I wonder how soon we can switch them to a soft food.


Food for Thought
Puppies typically begin to wean from their mother to a soft food around 3 to 4 weeks old. I recommend either a canned formula of Hill's® Science Diet® Puppy food or softening the dry formula with warm water. Remember, a gradual transition to new food is always crucial to acceptance. Transition pets over seven to 10 days to decrease the chance of gastrointestinal upset and to increase acceptance of the food by the pet. Be sure to calculate and write down the amount of new food to feed for owners who are transitioning their pets' food. Overfeeding, even at a young age, can lead to obesity.

Proper feeding is crucial to the healthy development of puppies. Science Diet Puppy is formulated specifically for growing puppies. Feeding poor-quality foods of low digestibility may slow a pet's growth rate, cause poor muscle and bone development, and decrease resistance to disease.

How do you know when it's time to transition an adult dog or cat to mature food?

Cats and dogs are considered mature around 7 years old. Nutritionally, mature cats and dogs need lower levels of sodium and phosphorus for healthy hearts and kidneys and proper levels of amino acids to help promote healthy skin and shiny coats.

Mature dogs benefit from natural glucosamine and chondroitin to support healthy joints and cartilage. Large breed dogs, which age differently and move into their mature years around 5 years old, should receive increased levels of glucosamine. Hill's® Science Diet® Mature Adult pet food and Hill's® Science Diet® Mature Adult Large Breed pet food are nutritionally formulated for mature pets and include a clinically proven antioxidant combination that helps promote the pet's immune system for a long, healthy life. Added L-carnitine in the large breed formulation also helps to build and maintain lean muscle. Both come in dry (including Small Bites Canine) and canned formulations to suit a variety of tastes.