There is a long-standing myth that you should pick one type of food & then never switch. I don’t know where this got started, but I suspect someone in a marketing department of a pet food brand may be to blame. Regardless of where it came from, this is a widespread belief now held by many pet owners. You find “your dog’s food” & stick to it loyally. While I understand having brand loyalty, in my opinion, it’s best to find several brands & types of food that you trust to rotate between them. Please note: everything here applies whether you feed raw or kibble.
Here are just a few of the reasons why this is a good idea:
More Balanced Nutrition
Dr. Karen Becker says, “just as humans require diversity in their diets for optimal health, so do our pets” (1). You probably don’t eat just the same food day in & day out, right? So why would we expect our pets to? Not only should you rotate between proteins, but I encourage you to rotate between different brands & types of food as well. While it’s not the main topic of this post, I want to take a moment to mention that I firmly believe in rotating your pet’s supplements as well.
I often see people sticking to just a chicken or poultry blend because it is the most cost-effective protein option. While it may save you some money now, feeding such a limited & unbalanced diet can have serious (& expensive) health impacts in the long run. Not only will your pet be missing essential vitamins & minerals, they may also have a crazy fatty acid imbalance. Ideally, we want our dietary Omega-3 & Omega-6 fatty acids to balance in a 1:1 ratio. But according to the USDA, Chicken is around a 19:1 ratio. To balance that out, you might need to increase your omega-3 supplementation by up to 9x the dosage recommended on a standard omega-3 pet supplement (2). Check out this video from Rodney Habib called “Feeding Your Pets Too Much Chicken” for more on this fatty acid imbalance.
Rotating “through a few different high-quality brands (and different proteins) can … help ensure your dog or cat doesn’t develop nutrition issues from a single commercial diet that may be deficient (or toxic) in certain nutrients or contain additives or contaminants that bio-accumulate over time” (1).
A 2021 study from the University of Helsinki found that puppies “fed raw tripe, raw organ meats, and human meal leftovers during puppyhood showed significantly less allergy and atopy related skin symptoms in adult life. On the other hand, puppies not getting any raw foods, eating most of their food as dry food, i.e. kibble, being fed fruits, and heat-dried animal parts, had significantly more allergy and atopy related skin symptoms in adulthood” (3). This study goes on to conclude that the findings indicate that “even as little as 20% of the diet being raw foods… gives health benefits (2)”. This concept doesn’t just apply to young dogs, though, adult animals can also develop food sensitivities, feeding a variety of proteins can help lessen the chance of an extreme sensitivity stemming from Leaky Gut (you can read more about that in our Food Allergies & Your Pet article).
Reduces Boredom & Pickiness
Eating the same thing day after day would be boring! Keep your pets engaged at mealtime by varying what you feed them (just remember to go slow for those with sensitive stomachs). It’s also a great idea to vary how & when you feed them. Puzzle feeders & enrichment toys can also help alleviate mealtime boredom.
If your pet is used to a variety of foods, they are less likely to get stuck on only wanting one type of food later in life. Did you know that kittens can imprint on the foods they are fed while young & are more likely to prefer those foods when they grow up? Feeding them only one type of food while they are found can lead to increased pickiness in adulthood.
Prepare for Potential Food Shortages
The ability to switch foods may also come in handy as we feel the ripple effects of the pandemic and other natural disasters. For example, my store has dealt with shortages of some brands, not only because of Covid but also because of flooding & natural disasters happening where many of our pet food manufacturers & warehouses are located.
Having a dog that can be flexible should the need arise can make switching foods much less stressful for you & them. There is also the potential that your food or specific protein could be discontinued. Having a few options you trust & that sit well with your pet is a great way to be prepared in case this happens.
Can be More Cost-Effective
Having the ability to switch between brands can allow you to take advantage of sales & deals your locals pet stores may be offering. Also, if your life circumstance changes, even temporarily, it will be easier for you to switch your pup to a more cost-effective or easier to prepare food if they are used to a varied diet. We always keep some freeze-dried raw on hand in case of emergencies (& for when we forget to pickup more raw when we run out).
For some people feeding a fully raw diet may not be financially feasible, by mixing in raw to your food rotation, you are still providing your pet with the gift of some whole fresh food. Worried about mixing kibble & raw? Read our blog post about why it’s OKAY here.
- Rotate between brands you trust
- Utilize things like raw goat’s milk, bone broth & green smoothies to add variety to every bowl
- If you feed kibble, include some raw, fresh foods
- If you feed raw, rotate your proteins (don’t just feed chicken because it’s the cheapest)
- Rotate the supplements you give
All in all, there are many reasons I advocate for feeding your dogs & cats a varied diet. Hopefully, this helps to encourage you to start mixing up your pet’s foods, even if it’s just with a small amount of toppers & superfoods!