There are more choices for pet foods now than ever before. If that wasn't overwhelming enough for us pet owners, there's also a plethora of information available!
With such a wide variety of diets to choose from, it can be difficult to know which one is the best for your pet.
There is a new concept that has recently been gaining more traction over the past few years - Rotational Feeding!
Here we will discuss all things related to rotational feeding: what rotational feeding is, whether there are any benefits to rotational feeding, how to use rotational feeding for your pet, and when you should avoid rotational feeding, with insights from animal nutrition expert Dr. Kelly Swanson.
What is Rotational Feeding?
Simply put, rotational feeding is the practice of regularly switching out your pet's food. Some pet owners may switch their pets' food weekly, whereas they may rotate meals daily on the more extreme side.
The types of meals can change by texture (i.e. wet, dry kibble, gently cooked), or by ingredients, such as the protein sources. By changing up the ingredients, you can change the flavour profile of your pet's meal, which may be more enticing and exciting for your pets!
Are There Benefits to Rotational Feeding?
There could be many benefits to rotational feeding; however, there are currently no studies investigating rotational feeding and its advantages when it comes to scientific evidence. So, any potential benefits are currently hypotheses only.
When asked about the potential benefits of rotational feeding, Dr. Swanson commented on two main areas to consider:
"First, there may be improved feeding behaviour because changing tastes can make mealtime more exciting. Second, rotational feeding may provide a more complete and balanced nutritional plan long-term because ingredients have unique nutrient profiles."
Other potential benefits to rotational feeding could include:
- Preventing the development of food allergies
- Reducing picky eating behaviours
- Promoting diversity of the microbiome
Again, there are currently no studies on rotational feeding and its benefit to our pets; these are merely considerations.
What is the Main Focus of Rotational Feeding?
According to Dr. Kelly Swanson, "the main issue is nutritional balance." What does this mean, exactly? Any diet that you choose to feed your pet should be complete and balanced.
This ensures that your pet receives the nutrients they need in the correct amounts. Certain ingredients can provide different nutrients, and at the end of the day, our pets need nutrients, not ingredients. To learn more about ingredients versus nutrients, check out our previous blog HERE.
When to Avoid Rotational Feeding
Rotational feeding should work for any healthy pet, though we recommend discussing it with your veterinarian to ensure it is the right plan for your pet.
When discussing this topic with Dr. Swanson, there were some circumstances in which he mentioned rotational feeding may not be beneficial for your pets. These can include:
- Pets with allergies - rotational feeding may increase your pets' risks to certain allergens.
- Pets with sensitive stomachs - an abrupt change in diets could cause a sensitive stomach to react.
- For pets with diagnosed health conditions (i.e. pancreatitis, diabetes), it can be difficult to ensure that all meals meet your pet's requirements for their health conditions. For example, a dog with diabetes typically requires stable levels of certain macronutrients.
- Pets on a weight loss program - strict weight-loss programs require pet owners to accurately measure out the amount of food needed for their pets to ensure appropriate calorie intakes, and this can be made difficult when constantly switching between meals.
- Pets with specific dietary needs (i.e. low-sodium, low-protein) - maintaining these specified levels in a diet is difficult to achieve when switching between meals.
How to Implement Rotational Diets
If you have a healthy pet and are interested in trying rotational feeding strategies, here are some tips for starting:
Tip 1: When starting, start slow! Follow our transition guide when first starting to rotate between meals.
Tip 2: Use similar protein sources when starting. Proteins are a large part of your pets' meals and are the most likely source of food allergies and intolerances.
Tip 3: Always consult with your veterinarian before making any changes to your pet's diet.
Article Written by
Hannah Godfrey (BSc.H. | MSc. | Ph.D. Student in Animal Nutrition)
Animal Nutritionist at Tom&Sawyer