Have you ever tried a rotation diet with your dog? If you switch between several different dog foods on a regular basis, you have! A rotation diet is, simply put, the act of rotating different types of dog foods. Be it rotating different brands or different ingredients/formulas within a single brand. It does now, however, mean mixing two different dog foods into the same bowl. That’s a whole different thing entirely.
My dogs have been on a rotation diet for years now. I actually started it when we fell on really bad financial times and I needed to get them the best food I could afford at the time. With sales and coupons, that wasn’t always the same food.
Is a rotation diet right for your dogs? Can it actually help prevent allergies? What about dogs who already have food allergies? That’s what we’re going to talk about here. Let’s get to it!
Related: Novel Ingredient Hypoallergenic Dog Food: Worth a Try or Making Things Worse?
Should You Consider a Rotation Diet for Dogs?
Like all dog diets, the rotation diet does have its pros and its cons. It works well for me, but even in my household, we’ve come across the “cons” of it when we’ve spend $60 on a bag of dog food that my pups absolutely despise. I wouldn’t be doing you any good if I didn’t talk about both sides, right? Let’s start with the pros, though, because I’m most familiar with those.
Pros of a Rotation Diet for Dogs
At first, I was really worried that switching between a few different brands would wreak havoc on their gastrointestinal system. But as I did some research, mostly to find out if I was ruining my poor pooches, I found that a rotation diet really isn’t such a bad thing at all, especially if you follow the transition rule (start with 25% new food then work your way up over a few days). I found that there aren’t any hard studies showing that the average healthy dog can’t handle switching foods.
Pros of a rotation diet for dogs MAY include:
- Reduced chances of sensitivity to a specific ingredient: if you’re rotating among protein sources (chicken one week, bison the next, for example), your dog may have less of a chance of developing an allergy to a specific protein source. MAY being the operative term there, since dogs, like people, can develop allergies at any time for any reason.
- Better nutritional balance: While most high-quality dog foods are nutritionally balanced overall, different ingredients do have different micronutrients. By rotating their foods, you’re giving them an opportunity to reap the benefits from other sources of proteins, different vegetables and so on. Kind of like how we eat different foods to get all our nutrients.
- More interesting for your dog: Do you like to eat the same thing every day for every meal? I didn’t think so. My dogs will start to turn their noses up at food towards the end of a bag. Then we have to resort to all sorts of tactics, like adding cheese, to get them to actually eat it. By switching every two weeks (the average time a bag lasts in my house), I end up with far less wasted kibble and happier dogs.
- Better for your wallet: There was a period where we were going through horrible financial troubles. I didn’t want to lose my dogs. They’re family. They’ve been with me since 2001, and I didn’t want to just throw them in a shelter and say “so long, good luck.” So I had to look for ways to save on dog food, their biggest expense. With a rotation diet, I could use coupons and sales to get them the best food at the best price. If Taste of the Wild was on clearance on week, I could grab that. Coupon for Blue? I could grab that instead. I still only rotated among the brands that were on our “approved list” that we kept with us, but that flexibility helped me keep my dogs healthy when times were really tough.
Cons of a rotation diet for dogs MAY include:
Again, MAY being the big word, because all dogs are different.
- Gastro upset: While my dogs have stomachs made of iron, some dogs really can’t handle a rotation diet. It takes their pet parents months (years even) to find the food that works best for them, so why would they want to switch? If your dog is super sensitive to change and you still want to try a rotation diet, you’ll need to work closely with a dog nutrition specialist to find a few foods that Fido can tolerate.
- Food freshness: Depending on how often you rotate, your food can go stale or bad faster on a rotation diet. For example, if you buy two 30lb bags of different foods and rotate daily, it’s going to take you a lot longer to use it all up. By the bottom of both bags, you may have stale, gunky food. You can get around this by either buying smaller bags, rotating bag by bag (use up one, then switch) or storing all your food in really good air-tight containers.
- Could be bad for your wallet too! Dogs can be picky eaters when it comes to kibble. I don’t get it. Really, I don’t. They’ll resort to crazy tactics to get to the cat’s litter box for a little snack (ewwww), but they turn their nose up at perfectly good $50 kibble. If you have picky eaters and you rotate away from something they like to something they decide they don’t like, you’re out all that money. Been there, my friends, been there.
What’s the best way to do a rotation diet?
This question really depends on you and your dog. You could rotate throughout one brand. I did a rotation diet with AvoDerm food in the past, and my dogs really loved it. They are actually designed for rotation. You could also rotate within the Blue or Taste of the Wild line. Another option is rotating throughout a few different brands. I wouldn’t go nuts and throw in 20 brands, though. I’d pick maybe three brands to rotate through.
You can also rotate forms of food. Dry versus canned, for example. I have not tried that, so I can’t tell you much about it. We do give our dogs wet food almost daily, but we give it with their dry food as a topper. As for how often to switch, again, that’s up to you and your dog. We do it bag by bag. Before we lost Tasha, one 30lb bag lasted us about two weeks. Now, I imagine it will last a bit longer with just the two dogs. Some people opt to do it daily or weekly.
Like all diets for dogs, choosing to follow the rotation diet really comes down to what’s best for your dog. You and your vet know your pooch best. What works very well for me may wreak havoc on your pup. I can’t tell you to try it or not to try it. I can only tell you how it worked for me, give you the basic info and let you decide for yourself. We dog parents are incredibly passionate when it comes to feeding our dogs. We tend to think that our way is the right way, don’t we? Really, though, the only “right” way to feed a dog is the way that keeps that particular dog healthy and happy!