At recent pet expo in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, I overheard this question being asked again and again. Most commonly, the answers consisted of a single brand (“Oh, I use Taste of the Wild.”) or a protein/carbohydrate combination (“She’s on salmon and peas.”). The vendor would then respond with an alternative, yet equally rigid, option. Lamb and Rice. Science Diet. Same and same. Every day.
Long ago we simplified dog nutrition to pre-formulated foods that we buy over the entire life of our pet. Who really benefits from this strategy is obvious. However, I think lots of owners are honestly intimidated by choice (raw or dry? beef or lamb?) and the stigma of experimentation. Although balancing your dog’s diet does have some important rules, the best response to “What do you feed?” is most certainly, “All kinds of stuff."
“Scientists agree: dogs are not robots”
The benefits of rotating your dog’s food are widely agreed upon. From Dog Food Advisor to PetMD, dog parents of every ilk recognize that there is no such thing as a “perfect” diet, even if your dog absolutely thrives on his tripe. Instead there are balanced ways to feed him or her rotating through a variety of proteins and other ingredients. So what principles should you keep in mind?
1. Unless you’re experienced with homemade dog diets, or have knowledgeable guidance, stick to a foundation of complete and balanced commercial recipes. Preferably raw, but that’s another conversation.
2. Don’t simply switch brands. Switch PROTEINS. Different proteins contain different amino acids, which are essential for good health.
3. Stage food rotation over a week. Switching too quickly, whether it’s from kibble to raw or protein to protein, can upset a GI tract. Rotate gradually by substituting 20% of the old with the new over the course of week.
4. Palatability is indeed a characteristic of dog food (unless you’re a lab). Let your hound be a part of process and don’t be deterred if she rejects a diet here and there. Keep trying!
5. Treats, bones, raw milk, and other supplements can have amazing health benefits.This is the category where “food” truly becomes “foods.” Have you considered a regimen of raw meaty bones (RMBs) for dental health? What about swapping those grain-filled milkbones for a Vitamin A-filled liver snap?