As we strive to give our dogs better nutrition, thus keeping them healthier and hopefully extending their lifespans, new ideas and products are constantly hitting the market. However, just because something is new, does not make it better. Whenever there is a new product promising grandiose health improvements, owners should always take it with a grain of salt.
One of the rising trends in dog nutrition is the idea of “rotation feeding” – that is, switching out the main protein in your dog’s diet. For example, feeding your dog duck, then lamb, then chicken, and then back to duck.
The theory behind rotating is that switching the protein will give your dog a more balanced diet.
“Rotation feeding was introduced for those who were either making their own food or using recipes that they weren’t sure were properly balanced, and wanted to use ‘rotation’ as a form of improving the chance of a balance from the variety,” explains Dr. Oscar E. Chavez BVetMed MRCVS MBA, Chief Medical Officer at Just Food For Dogs.
But does it really create a balanced diet?
Pros and Cons
Variety is probably the main pro, says Dr. Chavez. Just like most people, a lot of dogs like a “change up” in their diet. In fact, some dogs stop eating the “same old food” much to the frustration of their owners who can’t figure out why their dog has “suddenly stopped eating.” A few vet bills later, they find all they needed to do was switch their dog’s food.
On the other hand, that very reason can also be a con. Some dogs’ digestive systems can’t handle change.
“Changing protein types could throw off a dog’s routine and work against us if the dogs does best on the same food long term,” Dr. Chavez warns. “It may make them more selective (pickier), and in some cases can promote IBD/IBS, inflammatory bowel disease or syndrome. In rare cases exposure to various proteins promotes food allergy as well.”
And what about a more balanced diet? Dr. Chaves this is just marketing hype. “Unfortunately, the consensus is this doesn’t work – all the diets you are rotating through must be properly balanced. It’s still a good idea for variety – but I wouldn’t rely on this method to ensure a balance.”
He went on to explain that JustFoodForDogs was involved in research at Cal Poly Pomona that was just completed and presented last week at the 14th Annual Symposium of the American Academy of Veterinary Nutrition. In the research, dogs that were fed a variety of balanced whole food diets had boosts in their immune system over kibble. The dogs rotated between two diets that were swapped at the 6 month mark. All diets were properly balanced.
So the bottom line is: More than just rotating proteins, what really matters is having a BALANCED diet that matches your dog’s age, exercise level, and health concerns.
Rotational Feeding Done Right
Before you begin, ask yourself these questions:
- Are the planned diets balanced?
- Does your dog have IBD issues?
- Does your dog have problems when you switch his food?
- Is your dog prone to “pickiness” when eating?
If you answered yes to any or all of these questions, Dr. Chavez does not recommend a rotation diet.
However, if you decide you dog wants or needs variety in his diet through rotation, than it needs to be done correctly. Here are a few tips to make sure you do it right.
- See your vet to find out what your dog needs in terms of nutrition
- Develop 3-5 fully balanced recipes to rotate
- Monitor your dog during the first rotation and watch for any stomach upset or health changes. If you see anything, talk to your vet and try to identify what the cause is – allergy, switching foods, improper balance, etc.
Creating a Balance
Planning on cooking up your own food? Remember everything must be balanced! This means you cannot simply switch the protein element in your dog’s food and leave everything else the same.
“People must think of their dogs’ daily intake in its totality,” explains Dr. Chavez. “For example, if I tell you to have a high calcium diet for the day, and you drank only milk for that one day – then you would achieve it. However, if you only drink a spoonful of milk and have 3 normal meals, then the meals will dilute the calcium in the milk for the day and you will not achieve high calcium. Similarly, you can’t just swap proteins, ounce for ounce, and expect the same balance for the day – everything must be recalculated. I recommend swapping full, balanced recipes.”
Not everyone is a master chef. Some of us do not have time to cook even for ourselves. It can be tricky to know how to properly feed your dog, especially if most of your own meals are not balanced or come from the microwave (like my own!).
Luckily, there are dog food companies out there that are trying to help owners with rotational feeding. And you can find a rotation diet in any form that suits you: kibble, raw, and home cooked.
- Zignature – this dry kibble is made specifically for rotational feeding
- Rotations Pet Food –as the name implies, is a rotational dog food company that delivers to your door
- Wysong Raw Diets – has a rotational feeding plan that incorporates and balances out a raw diet
- Just Food For Dogs –has five DIY home made recipes that owners can swap between
About the Author
Based in Tustin, Calif., animal lover Kristina N. Lotz is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer – Knowledge Assessed (CPDT-KA) and works as a full time trainer. She also owns her own custom pet products company, A Fairytail House, where she makes personalized collars, leashes, beds, keepsake pillows and blankets, and anything else your imagine can think up. In her spare time, she trains and competes in herding, agility, obedience, rally, and conformation with her Shetland Sheepdogs. She smartly married a Veterinary Technician, who helps keep the fur kids happy and healthy, and provides a quick resource for articles.
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