A recent study of pet owners suggests that the old pet food myth, “Never change your pet’s food”, is giving way to a more natural and intuitive method of feeding. Instead of deciding which formula will best meet all your pet’s needs and sticking to it for life, 49% of consumers reported switching among foods regularly or occasionally within a year. Feeding a variety of different foods, some of them minimally unprocessed, is becoming more common.
Access to Different Nutrients
Among the many benefits of rotation and variety, the most important is nutrient diversity, especially in regard to minerals, antioxidants and amino acids. It may seem logical to combine everything in a single food, but some nutrients inhibit the absorption of others and are best consumed separately. In the wild, carnivores dine on one animal at a time, but eat a range of prey, which in turn eat a range of vegetation. Protein sources and vegetation naturally combine in different ways at different times. The body can store most nutrients for later use, and is not dependent on daily intake. Balance over a two week period is the goal.
Stronger Digestion, Fewer Sensitivities
Ever know a dog with a cast iron stomach who could eat just about anything? Without a doubt, that dog has eaten widely since puppyhood. Single food eaters, on the other hand, will often get loose stools from even a small bite of something new because the body has had no experience breaking it down. But the digestive system can adapt, learning to produce different digestive enzymes and building up more flora in the gut to help with food absorption. A well-educated digestive system can handle lots of variety, an essential trait for dogs, who evolved as scavengers and opportunistic eaters. Important note: If your pet is prone to gastric upset, add new foods slowly, using supplemental enzymes and pumpkin to ease the way. The more gastrically challenged, the slower you should go.
Rotation helps prevent the immune system from becoming over sensitized to certain proteins that, if consumed too often, might set up an allergic response. For example, eating only a chicken-based food for years on end has resulted in dogs that cannot consume chicken without getting itchy or having the runs. The body has misidentified chicken as an allergen and treats it as a dangerous invader. Allergens are always proteins, so rotating among several protein sources will help prevent sensitization.
Rotation and Variety Basics
How often should you rotate and how much variety? Some dedicated enthusiasts will feed a different meal each day on a two week schedule, but many people simply add some canned, raw or freeze-dried toppers to their dog’s dry food. If dry food is the sole diet, changing formulas with each new bag brings variety. There’s no one right way, but a good rule of thumb is one meat source each from land, sea and air. Each food has a different spectrum of fats, amino acids and trace nutrients. Cats can be less accommodating, and even one additional menu choice is a victory. Canned food makes it easy to switch daily.
Two more benefits of rotation and variety are fewer finicky appetites and more excitement at meal time. When you expand your pet’s food comfort zone, you’ll have a happier and healthier eater!