Sunday, 25. September 2011 8:17
Many pet owners are taught that rotating diets are not good for their pets’ health, and if they ever do decide to switch, it must be done slowly and over a 2 – 3 week period of time. While part of this can be true let’s look at the reasoning behind this advice and why feeding a more varied diet allows your pets to thrive.
Many commercial pet foods found in your local supermarket and big-box stores contain ingredients which derive the bulk of protein and calories from plant sources as opposed to meat sources, and the high incidence of grains in these foods are also known allergens to many dogs and cats. For dogs, there is also an added issue of switching from a corn-based to a wheat-based diet which if not done very slowly, can cause severe health issues. With the wheat glut of the 1980’s, many pet food manufacturers changed their formulas causing dire consequences to some animals, which is where the “do not change their diet” started, and became the prevailing wisdom.
Many holistic and integrative veterinarians support rotating diets with healthy animals. Dr. Leanne Lipton, DVM of Meridian Veterinary Services adds “Combinations of foods and rotations of foods are very important to maintain a proper diet. If you feed just one type of food all the time over months and years then you will miss something or most likely cause a health problem in the future. Many studies of companion animals allowed to hunt and forage for themselves showed that a typical diet has much more variety than expected. In fact, many animals will eat smaller animals whole, bugs, bark, etc. I frequently tell my clients to rotate flavors and brands of foods for their pets. Sometimes gastrointestinal (GI) upset occurs so just keep a list of what works and what doesn’t. Often adding probiotics and prebiotics can prevent or treat GI upset. In the end it is trial and error”.
If you as pet owner are taking the time to read your labels, and identify good foods which have meat proteins or meat meal proteins as the top ingredients (not meat by-products) you are already going a long way to improving your pet’s health. Many holistic and integrative veterinarians recommend that the better the quality of the proteins, the more you can avoid and/or support some of the health issues that are prevalent in our pets today, including arthritis, diabetes, thyroid disease, pancreatitis and allergies.
Consequently, as you feed better foods you can start to add variety by switching proteins in the same brand or rotating between different brands of dry and canned food. The advantage is each food has different ingredients and just like us, will draw a variety of good health benefits from a varied diet which is lean in calories. You should be able to do this without a long transition time if using premium foods. If you do want to do a slower transition due to sensitive stomachs etc then it can be a 50/50 mix over one to two weeks.
At The Big Bad Woof we encourage rotational diets and have several brands, like Fromm’s and Nature’s Variety which were designed to allow rotation of the protein sources for both dogs and cats. We also like to see fresh, whole foods used in both our own and our pet’s diets. A simple way to integrate whole foods into their diets is to provide fresh veggies (like peeled carrots of the ends or broccoli as fresh chews) give them the ends of fresh (not processed) meats you are preparing, as long as you trim the fat and don’t cook the meat. NEVER feed them cooked bones, they can splinter and cause severe abdominal issues. Raw bones can be fed as a special treat and are high in key nutrients.
Raw diets allow much more moisture to be taken in by your animal, as well as being a very clean diet, which allows the animal to maximize their nutrient uptake and lead to lower stool volume. Transitioning to a raw diet as an alternate or addition to canned food or kibble is easy. Adding complete raw foods daily or weekly to their normal fare is a great way to start. There are a number of easy to serve local and national raw diet manufacturers available now in the marketplace, making the feeding as easy as taking out a sausage or patty and placing it in their bowl.
Rotation is good for your dogs and cats, as well as making sure they are getting plenty of moisture, so read your labels and don’t be afraid to make a switch. The associates at The Big Bad Woof can assist with further questions about the right food choices for your pet and any other supplements your companion animals may need. It is not about having your animals survive, but about having them thrive!
Stores located in Old Takoma & Arts District Hyattsville
(originally printed in The Washington Blade / DC Metro Weekly, Sept 2011)