Growing up, our family always had at least one dog in the house. Back then, we didn’t pay much attention to food labels, assuming that if it was being sold then it was OK. We were also under the impression that once we found a food that ‘worked’ for our pet, we should stick with it for their entire life. Little did I know that this was a big mistake.
The old wives tale of serving your pet the same food for their entire life is exactly that, an old wives tale that can result in two major problems. First, feeding the same food for long periods of time can lead to food allergies or allergic symptoms as the pet’s body effectively overdoses on the protein sources in the food formula. What their body really needs is a break from the same food so that their immune responses can calm down. In some, but not all cases, the offending protein can be reintroduced over time with no ill effect as long as it is rotated in and out of the diet. According to peteducation.com, food allergies account for about 10% of all allergies in dogs and cats and are responsible for 40% of itchy skin in dogs and over 55% in cats.
Feeding your pet the same food for long periods of time can also lead to deficiencies in key nutrients depending on the specific foods you use. There are many reasons for this but the primary reason is that the pet food formulations, although labeled complete and balanced (according to AAFCO standards), are not necessarily so for any individual pet. There are many factors that make your pet’s situation unique. These include:
- Endogenous factors like the genetics and biochemistry of your pet, and
- Exogenous factors like the type of treats and table scraps, and amount and types of exercise they get
The healthier strategy is to use a rotational diet which means that you should rotate foods, and especially the proteins, that you serve your pet. By rotating proteins and formulas, you will be more likely to provide your pet a balanced diet over time and less likely to oversupply them with the same proteins sources. This rotational strategy can only be accomplished if you know exactly what is in your pet’s food. Petnet(io)’s upcoming SmartPetFood tool will simplify this analysis and make a rotational feeding strategy easy to follow.