Everyone has their own taste preferences, but most people try to change their foods every meal to try new flavors and satiate cravings. For example, you probably wouldn’t eat pancakes for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. So, do your pets have the same craving to switch up their food?
Top vets agree that it can be beneficial to vary your pet’s diet, so here’s why you should, and how you can do it safely. As always, consult your own vet for information tailored to your animal.
You would probably get tired of your favorite food quickly if you ate it at every meal for a week. However, dogs only have 1700 taste receptors while humans have 9000, so they don’t get bored quite as easily. But research suggests that your pets can become finicky about their food the same way you do.
It’s easy to tell when your pet has grown tired of their kibble because they’ll exhibit behaviors such as eating slower, eating less, or begging more often for human food. Your pet should be upbeat during feeding time, and if they don’t bother to even come to the food dish for a while after you’ve filled it, it may be time to implement a dietary change.
When you change your pet’s food regularly in a pattern, it’s called rotational feeding. This method of feeding has become popular as a holistic approach to how you feed your animals. Instead of just feeding your animal for the sake of providing food, you can feed them to improve their physical and mental well-being.
According to expert veterinary nutritionists, there are a host of benefits to trying rotational feeding, such as more range of nutrient absorption and improved digestive health. The switch in diet can be especially beneficial for animals that have certain illnesses and lack essential vitamins and minerals. Plus, animals find it exciting and engaging when they’re introduced to variation and new foods, and engagement is great for their mood and behavior.
Alternate the type of diet
Most pet parents find that dry food is the cheapest and easiest to prepare and serve. However, it’s been suggested by some vets that consistent feeding of the same food can increase the risk for developing a food intolerance or allergy to its main ingredients. Considering this, you may want to alternate between dry, wet, and raw food diets when you implement your new rotational feeding schedule. For example, canned foods have more water and fatty ingredients while dry foods have more complex carbohydrates.
How to switch your pet’s food safely
Pets need the same macronutrients humans do, which are proteins, fats, and carbohydrates. It’s important to ask your vet what your pet’s nutrient intake should look like. Typically, vets have a nutritionist on staff you can consult with as well.
Make a list
Once you gather the information about your pet’s dietary needs, make a list of all the foods they’ve been on before and note their reaction to it. For instance, if your dog ate a particular brand with the main ingredient beef and had an upset stomach afterward, it may be best to avoid foods with beef. Use this list as a springboard for a new feeding schedule.
In addition, make a list of guidelines as to what you can commit to for rotational feeding in terms of your schedule and budget. Some foods, like the raw food diet, can add up quickly, so keep your limitations in mind.
Pick the new foods
The best way to vary your pet’s diet is by changing the protein source so they get a wider variety of essential amino acids. You can start by picking three types of protein sources appropriate for them, such as beef, chicken, and lamb for dogs. Make sure you research the brand you have in mind, and look at their ingredients thoroughly before purchasing. If you have any questions about the safety of an ingredient for your pet, consult your vet immediately.
Schedule a transitional period
Just like with any diet change, moving too quickly to another brand or flavor can shock your animal’s system and result in an upset stomach or other adverse reactions. Vets recommend a slow transition of about a week to a week and a half with any food change. Below is a sample transitional schedule for animals like a dog or a cat. It’s important to have patience and observe your pet’s behavior and appearance for any positive or negative changes.
- Day 1: 25% new diet and 75% old diet
- Day 3: 50% new diet and 50% old diet
- Day 5: 75% new diet and 25% old diet
- Day 7: 100% new diet
Once your pet has been eating the new food for more than a week or two, their system should be used to it, and you won’t need to transition them to that food unless you discontinue it for a while.
Keep your furry friends happy and healthy by paying more attention to their diet, because your pets deserve the best you can provide them with.