One of the most common problems that pet owners report is loose stool and diarrhea. We often find while taking a medical history that the pet has recently changed diets or has recently had some new treat or table food introduced. Some new puppy and kitten owners want to change the diet from what the shelter or breeder was feeding. Sometimes there is a pet food recall and pet owners are forced to change the animal’s diet. Sometimes there is a medical necessity to change the diet. So how do you do it without causing loose stool or diarrhea?
The most important thing to do is make a gradual change over 7 to 10 days. Mix the old food with the new food and gradually reduce the amount of the old and increase the amount of the new. Also, try to stay with the same protein source. For example, if your pet was eating primarily a chicken based diet, try changing to a diet that also contains primarily chicken. Avoid sudden changes in quantities of protein, fat, and fiber. Many owners are now switching pets to “grain-free” or high-protein diets, and sudden changes to high protein content can cause GI upset.
If you can’t change the food gradually due to a recall or medical problem, try giving small amounts of the new diet more frequently rather than giving fewer large meals. Your veterinarian may also recommend a probiotic if a sudden change is necessary.
If your pet does develop loose stool that persists for longer than 24 hours, call your veterinarian. Puppies, kittens, and small dogs and cats can quickly become dehydrated from severe persistent diarrhea. The diarrhea may also be preventing your pet from obtaining vital nutrients needed from its diet. Don’t give over-the-counter remedies for diarrhea without consulting your veterinarian first.