Is Rotating Dog Foods a Good Idea?
A common question vets hear is ‘Can I feed my dog two different foods?’ If you’ve ever stared at the presses thinking that you can’t bear the idea of coming up with another interesting dinner, you might almost envy your dog happily munching down the same food night after night. She never pushes the dish away complaining that she ate the same thing yesterday. You never wander the store aisles wondering what she might like this week, hoping you guess right. But on second thought, you would not really like eating the same thing every day, day after day. Even children would eventually get sick of chicken nuggets and pizza if they ate them seven days a week.
Experts have recommended finding a quality food that suits your dog and sticking with it, but more and more dog owners are questioning this. And some experts are advising that yes, you can feed your dog more than one type of food. The real question is not ‘can I feed my dog two different foods’ but ‘how can I feed my dog two different foods’.
Rotation diets for dogs have been getting more attention over the last few years. If done correctly, changing your dog’s food periodically offers real benefits. Jumping in half informed can lead to a lot of digestive woes for your dog, however. The reason vets generally advise against feeding your dogs a variety of foods is that people tend to do it in a way that upsets their dog’s stomach – and that leads to an unhappy dog, a lot of cleaning up and trips to the vet that could have been avoided.
Why People Rotate Dog Foods
We humans are quick to assume the main reason to feed a dog two different foods is to make sure the dog doesn’t get sick of the food and go off it. But that is projecting our attitudes. While some dogs are pickier than others, many dogs have eaten the same kibble every day without complaint for years. But there are benefits to a rotation diet for dogs.
- Different dog foods have a different balance of nutrients. By rotating between quality foods, your dog will get a very comprehensive diet. If one food has less of a particular nutrient, another can make up for it. Likewise, if one food has a high volume of an ingredient, rotating your dog’s food will can help avoid an excess of fat-soluble nutrients that could be harmful in the long term if they build up in the dog’s system.
- Sometimes after years of being happy and healthy on the same food, a dog will develop an intolerance to something. The most common food intolerance in dogs is beef, and maize is also a problem for many dogs. By rotating between foods with different sources of protein and different or no grains, your dog is likely to avoid this problem.
- A dog’s energy needs can vary seasonally. Feeding your dog the same food 365 days a year doesn’t take into account the fact some dogs have different nutritional needs at different times of the year.
- While dogs are much, much less likely than humans to get bored with their food, it can happen. Providing some variety by rotating foods or adding some appropriate table scraps such as meats, cheese, eggs or some vegetables can keep mealtime fun and interesting for picky eaters.
All of these benefits are undermined unless we know how to feed dogs a rotation diet. Do it right, and your dog will enjoy a healthy, comprehensive diet, but do it wrong, and stomach upset is the likely result.
How to Rotate Dog Foods
How can I feed my dog two different foods without upsetting their stomach? That is the critical question to answer before starting a rotation diet for your dog. While we humans like and need variety on a daily basis, dogs are different. For them, think of it more like eating seasonally. Instead of switching foods every day, gradually transition to a different food option every two or three months.
Dogs are prone to diarrhoea if their food is switched abruptly. A better approach is to feed a mix of the old and new food over a period of three weeks, gradually increasing the new food as you reduce the old food. You can feed a mix of one part new food to three parts old food the first week, and switch to equal portions of each the second week. The third week, feed three parts new food to one part old food. After that, your dog should enjoy the new food without any digestive issues.
Picking the Best Foods for Your Dog’s Rotation Diet
Once you have the answer to the question ‘can I feed my dog two different foods’, you need to consider which foods to feed. That depends on your dog. Their needs vary according to their breed type, age, lifestyle and overall health. For some dogs, that also includes seasonal changes in their lifestyle and activity level. Many dogs, like many of us, get a lot less exercise in winter.
Many dogs get great exercise in good weather when we are out running or walking with them daily. When we switch to the gym in the winter, our dogs have a huge drop in their activity that can lead to unhealthy weight gain if they keep eating the same food. Some farm dogs are very busy seasonally and spent the winter by the fire. Those dogs can benefit from eating a higher calorie food such as Engage when they are busy and switching to Leader for winter. Others who are more at risk of obesity might switch from Leader regular food to Leader Slimline for winter.
Many dog owners are concerned about food intolerance. Going grain-free with the Go Native range is one response to that, but rotating food can be even more effective. Alternating between Leader and Go Native can provide enough variety to reduce the risk of a food intolerance developing while giving your dog the unique benefits of both foods.