Rotational Feeding for Dogs: Benefits and More

While many people are apprehensive about the idea, rotational feeding has many wonderful benefits for dogs!

Eating the exact same food day after day can lead to food boredom, limit the spectrum of nutrients that your dog’s body could benefit from, and even increase the risk of food sensitivities. The fact is that pets can benefit from a diet with variety (known most commonly as rotational feeding) just as humans and most wild animals do! Just because our canine animal companions have been domesticated to live in houses, doesn’t mean they should consume a monotonous diet without any variation.  

Switching up your pup’s menu with a range of different foods can broaden their palate and allow them to benefit from a wider spectrum of nutrients and ingredients. This type of diet is most commonly called rotational feeding. It can take many different forms and may involve varying their menu on a daily, weekly, or other routine basis. Variety might come in the form of alternating proteins, switching between whole grain and grain free recipes, varying food formats (dry, wet, dehydrated, freeze dried and so on) or simply mixing in a few dog-safe people foods into your dog’s bowl from time to time.

Is It Okay to Rotate My Dog’s Food?

The short answer is yes! Rotational feeding means your dog will have an opportunity to take in a much wider variety of nutrients including amino acids, EFAs, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. A varied diet also more closely mimics the way their wild counterparts eat; in nature, dogs and other predators consume different meats throughout the week, a rabbit for one meal and a bird or squirrel the next, interspersed with grasses, berries and other foodstuffs based on season and availability.  

The other big benefit of rotational feeding is that it can help to eliminate dietary boredom. Just as we’d get fed up with eating the exact same meal day after day (even if it was our favorite food to begin with), dogs can start to get bored and ‘finicky’ when mealtimes never vary. 

Rotational feeding has another potential advantage, too. It’s believed that eating a wide array of foods can actually reduce the risk of developing food sensitivities in later life. Eating nothing but lamb and rice for years on end is not only boring but increases the risk that your dog will start to become intolerant of lamb, or rice, or both.  

While some conventional vets recommend feeding only one type of food for years on end to help keep the options open when an allergy develops, this doesn’t conform to a holistic approach to health; pets who enjoy variety are less likely to develop allergies, because their systems are more robust and resilient.  

How Often Should I Rotate My Dog’s Food? (Transitioning Tips)

Many people get nervous that changing a dog’s diet might lead to upset stomach, and in some cases, this is true. But when you introduce a rotational feeding schedule properly, there’ll be few—if any—tummy troubles to worry about. It’s all about a smooth transition between foods. At first, don’t switch your dog’s diet suddenly; start slowly and increase the amount of new food while decreasing the old gradually, over the course of a week. 

Once your pup’s system is used to digesting different sorts of food, it’ll gradually become stronger and stronger and will eventually (over a period of a few weeks) be just as capable of accepting and embracing meal time changes as you, or his wild counterparts. 

Over time, building a strong intestinal system will improve nutritional absorption and overall well-being. When you’re looking at what to include in their rotational feeding plan, aim for a variety of proteins if your dog can tolerate them, and mix between different types of fruits and vegetables in order to get widest array of phytonutrients like beta-carotene, lycopene and lutein, found in orange red and green foods respectively. If you feed your dog a commercial food, not only can you try different recipes within a line, but also incorporate different food form factors.

How to Start Rotational Feeding

There are a few different approaches to rotational feeding. Some suggested plans are outlined below and our customer support team are here to help if you need a little guidance along the way. 

  • Switch from one protein to another, as you finish a packet of food and begin a new one. For example, feed one bag of grain free chicken Clusters and change to grain free turkey Clusters, with a few days of the two foods combined to make the transition smooth. Bag number three could see a return to chicken Clusters, or a new protein, like beef. 
  • Alternate between grain free and whole grain recipes, but keep the protein consistent. If, say, your pup has multiple meat allergies and can only eat fish, you could rotate between the whole grain fish, LID fish and grain free fish recipes in our Dehydrated line. 
  • Rotate between form factors. For example, if your dog typically only eats dry food such as our Beef whole grain Clusters, try our whole grain beef dehydrated food next time around, or our beef stew wet food as an occasional alternative. Outside of flavor variation, this solution really provides an assortment of different textures to help keep things interesting 
  • Have two foods on the go and mix and match at each meal. This could mean serving turkey at breakfast and beef for dinner, or Clusters in the morning and Dehydrated at night. This solution works well for those with busy schedules since Clusters are quick to serve, and a little more time can be take over hydrating the evening meal. 
  • Supplement or substitute. You could experiment by replacing a portion of some meals with one of our toppers or mixers, or adding a small amount of pet-safe people food to occasional meals. A scrambled egg, spoonful of plain yogurt or boneless cooked salmon are examples. For more suggestions, click here. 
  • Vary food within specific needs-based criteria. Some pets have distinct food intolerances and need to avoid certain ingredients. Others need to follow nutrient limits to support health requirements. If, say, you’re aiming to avoid eggs or need a low phosphorus diet to address kidney concerns, our online Find Your Recipe Quiz is a really useful tool! 

Rotational feeding doesn’t need to be too daunting. It can help to thinking about feeding your pup just as you approach feeding the human members of the family or to draw inspiration from the way wild dogs and other animals eat. Just because your dog is a domesticated animal doesn’t mean they can’t enjoy and benefit from some mealtime variation—after all, variety is the spice of life! 

Meet the Author: Lucy Postins

Lucy Postins is founder and Chief Integrity Officer at The Honest Kitchen. She is a companion animal nutritionist who started The Honest Kitchen in her kitchen in 2002. She is passionate about advanced nutrition and holistic health including complementary modalities such as herbalism and homeopathy. Considered an expert in her field, Lucy frequently writes articles for local and national media, conducts radio interviews and educational spots, and occasionally holds educational seminars for pet owners on the importance of good nutrition. She also recently authored Dog Obsessed, a guide to a happier, healthier life for the pup you love.

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