If you’ve ever been to our store (and by virtue of the fact that you’re reading this blog, I assume you have), there is a high probability that you’ve heard one of us talk to a customer about “transitioning” their pet onto new food, or “rotating” different foods.
Until recently, and this is the hazard of spending most of your days obsessing about pet food, we assumed that transitioning and rotating foods were straightforward concepts that didn’t need further explanation. We get so used to talking about it, we often get sucked into assuming all of our customers understand the “lingo”.
But then something made me think… If “How/Why do I need to switch my cat or dog’s food regularly?” and “How/Why do I need to transition my cat of dog onto a new food?” are still common questions being asked by our customers, then a better explanation is needed, right?
Then I came across this post from Dr. Jean Dodd’s Pet Health Resource Blog, “Food Transitioning Versus Food Rotating, What is the Difference?”.
Dr. Jean Dodd, copyright Dr. Jean Dodd
I love this blog post because not only does it explain the hows and whys of pet food transitioning/rotating, but she does it in a way that is clear and relatable.
Please do read Dr. Dodd’s whole post (here’s the link again, in case you missed it!), she explains feeding so wonderfully. However, to tide you over, here is a quick “cheat sheet” of what Dr. Dodd advises.
Dr. Dodd begins with the premise that:
Like humans, dogs should be eating a variety of nutritious foods, and not living on just one specific formula.
(Note: Dr. Dodd speaks specifically about dogs in her post, but in my opinion, her instructions and explanations can apply to cats as well).
She first discusses WHY variety is the spice of a dog’s life. For manyof us, we assume that variety is good in our pet’s diet because we don’t want them to get bored. While there is truth to this (as Dr. Dodd says …People often fret that their pet has become a “finicky” eater. It’s no wonder. They’re probably on strike hoping for something new to tantalize their taste buds!), the real reasons for rotating your pet’s food have much further reaching health benefits than simply battling pickiness.
Single formula diets promote nutritional inadequacy.
Here is a fact:
No one dietary formula, no matter how “complete and balanced” it is, can meet all of an animal’s nutritional needs over an extended period.
…If you continually feed them the same food, over time your pet can become deficient in some nutrients. Varying the diet brings in potentially missing nutrients, allowing the body to self-correct.
Consider, for example, that each type of protein offers a different amino acid and nutrient profile. So, feeding your pet eggs will provide certain essential amino acids, while fish, chicken, etc. will provide others. The same holds true for fruits and vegetables. There is no one “perfect” food or perfect food combination that provides everything a human or animal needs to create optimum health over long periods.
She goes on to discuss the idea of “intolerance” or allergic reaction to food. This is the number one topic we discuss in our store, and one that is probably the least understood by the pet owning public at large. “But I’ve been feeding Fido chicken his whole life! How can he be allergic NOW?”.
Single formula diets can increase the likelihood of food intolerance.
…excessive exposure to a particular animal protein is a major culprit in creating the environment we have today of the ever-increasing food sensitivities among companion animals.
The reason so many pets are intolerant of chicken and beef is because these protein sources were the mainstay of the pet food industry for many years…But while “novel” proteins are less likely to trigger an immune response, even the most exotic animal protein is no longer exotic to your pet if he eats it continually.
Rotating protein sources not only ensures your pet will benefit from a varied amino acid and nutrient profile, it also reduces the risk he will form an intolerance to any specific animal protein source over time.
What I find interesting is that Dr. Dodd discusses transitioning and rotation really as one and the same. Basically, she says that if your pet is on a proper rotation diet, the transitional phase will not be constantly necessary. This is supported by our own personal experience. Unless you are transitioning between ‘types’ of food – ei. from kibble to raw, or cooked to kibble, etc – we find that you hardly need even 1 day of transitioning. (Note: Even though Dr. Dodd is a vet, please consult with your vet — who actually KNOWS your specific dog’s health history — before trying a radically new diet. This blog and Dr. Dodd’s blog is not meant to replace veterinary care.)
…I promote dietary rotation rather than transitioning. Rotating provides our pets with all the nutritional benefits described above while also creating a strong intestinal environment.
If you use a commercial food, rotating should involve using different formulas in that line so that your pet benefits from a variety of animal proteins, fruits and vegetables. You can also rotate among several high-quality brands to ensure additional nutritional variety.
So far so good right? It all makes sense. Then how do you get your pet onto a healthy rotation diet without giving my sweet furry friend an upset tummy (which can result from “bombarding” their digestive tract and stomach with new food)? Glad you asked!
First and foremost, please refer to the new food manufacturer’s dietary recommended amount and feed at the bottom of the scale based on your pet’s weight and then adjust after the transition is complete. Your pet will not starve. Additionally, I recommend switching to a new food gradually over the course of 7-10 days. If you need to extend the transition time period, you can. Example:
You can use a similar method to get your pet used to a rotation diet. The only difference is that each month or every two months you will repeat the process with another new food. I suggest selecting a variety of three or four formulas to include in your rotation cycle, each providing a different source of high-quality animal protein, fruits and veggies. You will only need to go through the one-week transition process the first time you use each food; after that, you can simply rotate the diets every month or every other month to ensure your pet receives an optimum variety of nutrients. [Note that some folks prefer to rotate their dog’s diets quarterly, and do so successfully.]
Dr. Dodd concludes her post with some tips about rotation, as well as a word about NutriScan, a “saliva-based test” than can indicate which foods your pet is allergic to. It is an affordable test that can be a very useful tool when dealing with an itchy dog. One of our staff has used it to great success, and she highly recommends it.
I hope this whetted your appetite to learn more about your pet’s feeding needs! And if you ever need help picking out foods to rotate in your pet’s diet…well, you know where to go!
~Your Loyal Calvin & Susie Blogger
NOTE: And as always, check with your vet before making any changes to your pet’s diet or body care. The Calvin & Susie Blogger always researches to the best of her ability, but she is not a vet. This blog is not in any way meant to replace veterinary advice or care. When in doubt always ask a vet.