Food Variety For Your Cats & Dogs: Is It The “Spice of Life”?

If you have a dog or cat, it’s likely that you have heard somewhere that once you find a food that works for your pet that you shouldn’t change it.

I heard that a lot too. Until commercial pet food was introduced in the 1940’s, cats and dogs ate table scraps and they foraged and hunted. But after kibble was introduced, consumers were told it was better to keep their pets on the same food so as to not upset their stomach.

So which is better? Keeping your pets on the same food for a long time, or, to have variety? Personally, I believe that cats and dogs bodies are meant to process variety. A variety of various animal proteins and variety of fiber and fats.

A cat, for example, could hunt a mouse, a bird and a rabbit all in the same week and we’d not think twice about how different each of these foods are. Questions arise, however, when thinking of changing the cat’s dry or canned food.

Isn’t variety the “spice of life”?
I often hear pet owners call their pets “picky eaters”. Underlying medical conditions can cause picky eating habits, however, picky eating can also be boredom of the food itself.

If you’re pet has a clean bill of health but seems disinterested in eating, it could be time to try something new. Most food companies have free samples, so stop by your local pet supply store and start testing them out. Start with a side-by-side test of a sample next to the current food and see where your pets’ nose takes them. If they choose a new one, it’s safe to say they like it enough to try mixing in with their current food. 

I generally recommend starting with about 25% of the new food and 75% of the existing food for the first day. If everything goes well, it’s probably safe to do a 50%-50% mix for the second day. If there is no digestive upset, a gradual transition could be complete in 4 days. If your pet likes the food but you notice gas, diarrhea or vomiting, cut back on the new food, as it could be too rich. Go back to the ratio that worked for a few days before adding more new food.

What if your pet seems to like their food but they have been on it for several months or years? Should a food change be considered? Most of us in the pet food business would agree yes! Variety can be the spice of life.

Want to offer something special during the holidays?
It’s official, we’re now in the holiday season and our pets may be around a lot more food in our homes. Although we recommend variety in the diet, be very careful with what you’re offering your pets. Holiday treats may be tempting, but a lot of these can be toxic. Chocolate, raisins, onions and macadamia nuts can be deadly to dogs.

Watch the fats, especially in smaller dogs, as they can only tolerate a small amount of high-fat table scraps. Small amounts of de-boned, skinned meats such as turkey or chicken is fine, along with fresh fruits and vegetables such as carrots, broccoli, kale, spinach, bok choy, asparagus, apples, pears and bananas.

In addition, your local pet supply store will have plenty suggestions for a special tasty & healthy treat that you can give your dogs and cats while celebrating this holiday season.

Start Small
Does all this talk about changing foods scare you? Not to worry. Start small by offering your pets a small sample at first. Feel confident that your pets are meant to have variety, just like us! Just go slow. Are you on a prescription food? Please check in with your veterinarian before making any changes.