How to Switch Your Small Pet's Food

Step by Step Food Transition Guide for Rabbits & Other Small Animals

Ready to enhance your pet's mealtimes with a new brand of food? A well-balanced diet is essential for improving any animal's wellbeing, but it's especially important for the little guys. Many small animals, such as rabbits, chinchillas, and guinea pigs, have highly delicate digestive systems, meaning what they eat throughout the day has a massive impact on their physical and mental health. So if it's time to seek out healthier options for your furry friend and make the big switch, we're here to walk you through the steps and show you how to do it safely. 

girl with packages of andy alfalfa pellets for young rabbits

1. Choose A Food Brand You Can Trust

If you're making changes to your pet's diet, it's likely because their current one doesn't satisfy their nutritional needs or personal tastes. High-quality forage is crucial when it comes to maintaining a healthy and wholesome diet for your herbivore, so it's vital you find a brand you can trust to do right by your pet. While there are dozens of labels to choose from when you walk into a pet store or shop online, not all have your pet's best interests at heart, and it can be overwhelming to sort through. Hay might seem like a straightforward product with few nuances, but the type of cut, growing conditions, and packaging all make a difference in your pet's response. At Andy, we are committed to producing the best hay possible, harvesting from family-owned fields in the Pacific Northwest, and delivering some of the only organic Timothy hay on the market to your tiny companion. Andy places your pet's health and happiness at the forefront, using only the best quality hay to keep your bunny's energy and mood elevated throughout the day. We even use cardboard packaging you can place right inside your pet's cage, furnishing their home with an extra chew toy and making cleanup effortless. 

alfalfa pellets for young rabbits and timothy hay in yellow bowl

2. Mix As You Switch

Patience is the key when familiarizing your pet with new foods. Unless their current diet imposes severe health issues or an immediate cause for concern, it's best to gradually wean your pet off their old food and slowly incorporate the new brand. Because most small animals have sensitive tummies and react poorly to sudden changes in diet, simply throwing the new food into their bowl without warning won't cut it. Instead, to avoid causing harm to your pet's digestive system and minimize the chance of adverse reactions, try giving your pet about three weeks to adjust before tossing out the old brand. This transition should occur without issue and ultimately improve your animal's overall health when done correctly.

Small pet food transition recommendation:  

Week One: 75% old food, 25% new food 

Week Two: 50% old food, 50% new food 

Week Three: 25% old food, 75% new food 

Week Four: 0% old food, 100% new food 

If you don't have access to enough of your pet's current food to last another three weeks, don't stress. The way your pet responds to new foods is not an exact science. If three weeks is unrealistic for you, do your best to follow a similar structure with the food and time you do have. Just be sure to keep a close eye on your pet and slow down the process if need be.  molly anderson with guinea pig eating timothy hay by andy

3. Notice How Your Pet Responds

Throughout these few weeks, you should pay attention to how your pet reacts to their new diet and note any changes. Signs your pet is not responding well to the switch may include physical indicators such as itchy or flaky skin, a runny nose, frequent sneezing, loose stool, and constipation. While minor variations in your pet's droppings, like a change in color or consistency, are common in the first few days, any significant differences might indicate an issue that needs addressing. The same is true if your pet's behavior or mood has taken a turn. If you notice a substantial drop in your pet's appetite, new and unusual behaviors, or a lack of energy, they might be protesting the change and trying to get your attention. If any of these problems persist after a couple of days, you should consult a trusted vet for an expert opinion. Unfortunately, your little buddy is inclined to hide signs of pain or illness as a prey species, so take special care to ensure these changes don't go undetected. On the other hand, if your pet makes it through these three weeks without any trouble, then it's officially time to put the old food to rest and move forward full speed ahead.  

little boy with guinea pig and andy feed pellets

Whatever the reason is for the update in your pet's mealtimes, the best way to ensure a smooth and successful transition is to plan ahead and give your pet plenty of time to acclimate. Most importantly, keep your veterinarian in the loop and be sure to choose a brand, like Andy by Anderson Hay, that cares about your pets just as much as you do. Interested in our farm-fresh products? Try one of our Andy-Pak hay sample boxes so your pet can taste the difference!

Through Andy’s social media, Molly brings her heart for high-quality hay and an authentic passion to create a real community that celebrates everyday people and their pets.

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