If you frequently shop at the Barkery, you may have asked for advice on “transitioning” your pet to a new diet, or been advised to “rotate” your pet’s diet. Many pet owners plan to transition their pet to a new food, rather than rotating it regularly. Dr. Jean Dodds, DVM, clears up some misconceptions on this subject:
“Like humans, dogs should be eating a variety of nutritious foods, and not living on just one specific formula.”
Single formula diets make for a sub-par digestive system.
Imagine that from the time you were a child, your parents fed you only chicken and rice every day for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Then one day, you grow up and go off to college, and you’re shocked to discover the cafeteria does not offer chicken and rice. Reluctantly, you decide to try something new, discover that you love it, and wonder why you have never been fed other foods before. Until you get back to your room, and you begin experiencing a full-blown digestive emergency.
Was there anything wrong with the meal? Most likely not. The only thing “wrong” was the beneficial bacteria in your digestive tract, which are responsible for breaking down food, were not accustomed to the new diet. Had you slowly added the new food to your diet over the course of a week or two, your gut bacteria could have adjusted without becoming overwhelmed.
But now you have created a new problem, because what if you want to try a new food tomorrow? This perfectly illustrates the issue that we create with our animal companions.
“Feeding our pets a restricted diet for months or years creates an environment inside their guts where any new food is considered a foreign invader, and the bacteria don’t know what to do with it. this often results in the gas, bloating, and loose stools that perplex so many well -intentioned pet parents as they seek to ‘transition’ their pets from one food to another.”
Single formula diets promote nutritional inadequacy.
No one dietary formula, no matter how “complete and balanced” it is, can meet all of an animals nutritional needs over an extended period of time.
The nutritional needs of humans and animals alike vary depending upon many factors that are constantly changing. Breaking an animal down by “life stages” oversimplifies their physiological complexity. If you feed the same food, over time your pet can become deficient in nutrients. Varying the diet brings potentially missing nutrients, allowing the body to self-correct.
Single formula diets can increase the likelihood of food intolerance.
Chances are that your pet’s current diet and the diet to which your transitioning to contain one or two protein sources. Excessive exposure to a particular animal protein is a major culprit in creating food sensitivities among companion animals.
The reason so many pets are intolerant of chicken and beef is because these protein sources were the mainstay of the pet food industry for many years. Rotating protein sources not only ensures your pet will benefit from a varied amino acid and nutrient profile, and reduces the risk of forming intolerance to any protein source over time.
Eating one food combination all the time is boring!
This one doesn’t require much explanation. Even if the food seems to be your pet’s favorite in the beginning, after a pretty short time, that will more than likely change. People often fret that their pet has become a “finicky” eater. They are probably on strike, hoping for something new or different to be put into their bowl at feeding time.
Food rotation: the secret to optimum nutrition and gut health.
Hopefully you’re seeing the many problems that can result from feeding one dietary formula for months or even years. We promote dietary rotation rather than transitioning. Rotating provides our pets with all the nutritional benefits described above while also creating a strong intestinal environment.
If you use a commercial food, rotating should involve using different formulas in that line so that your pet benefits from a variety of animal proteins, fruits, and vegetables. You can also rotate among several high-quality brands to ensure additional nutritional variety.
How do I begin?
If your pet has been eating one formula for months or years, you don’t want to suddenly switch his food and bombard his GI system. First and foremost, refer to the new food manufacturer’s dietary recommended amount and feed at the bottom of the scale based on your pet’s weight, then adjust after the transition is complete. We recommend switching to a new food gradually over the course of 7-10 days.
You can use a similar method to start a rotation diet. The only difference is that each month, or every two months, you repeat the process with another new food. We suggest a variety of three or four formulas to include in your rotation cycle. You will only need to go through the one-week transition the first time you feed each food, and then rotate diets every 1-2 months.
We recommend supplementing your pet’s diet with a high-quality, live probiotic to promote overall digestive and immune health. The beneficial bacteria provided in probiotics are especially important when introducing new foods because they provide “reinforcements” to the current gut flora.
You should also make sure that any new foods you introduce promote optimum health for your individual pet. If you’re concerned that your pet may have a food sensitivity, consider testing him first with Glacier Peak’s Wellness Assessment Kit. This saliva-based test is a simple and affordable method to determine if he is intolerant to over 300 food and environmental reactants.
Hopefully by now you’re on board with the idea of rotating nutritious foods into your pet’s diet rather than transitioning from one formula to another. Rotating will promote optimum health for your pet, and a happy four-legged companion!
For more on rotating your pet’s diet from Dr. Jean Dodds, click here.