Rotational feeding: why you should consider it

2 March 2020

Rotational feeding (RF) is a new ideology for feeding your pet. It involves alternating through different high-quality diets, rather than feeding a single diet exclusively- reducing possible nutrient deficiencies or excesses, or difficulties associated with dietary change. This blog will also cover how to initiate RF for both the pets that enjoy new foods and the ones that prefer one diet.

Ensure your pet is getting all the nutrients they need
Even with pet food manufacturers implementing quality control protocols to ensure appropriate nutrient levels, there is always a possibility that the food could have nutrient levels below the minimum requirements established by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) (Burdett et al, 2018). Pet foods also contain a variety of ingredients that provide different nutrients and nutrient levels; although minimum levels are established and required with an AAFCO nutritional adequacy statement, many nutrients have no maximum if there is no toxicity or adverse health effect (AAFCO, 2014). This is another reason that RF could prove to be beneficial as your pet would be receiving different levels of nutrients.

Reduce the stress of switching diets
There are several reasons that a diet change may be required throughout your pet’s life:

  • Health issues
  • Development of an aversion to their food because of illness
  • Dental issues (i.e. dental disease)
  • The discontinuation of a product
  • Environmental stress (i.e. a household move)

Diet changes are not problematic if your pet is neophilic (i.e. prefers new food). However, if your pet is neophobic (i.e. they dislike new foods) the transition can be nearly impossible. RF can be a great way to avoid situations like these as exposure to different foods can make them less resistant to a diet change. To prevent your pet from demonstrating neophobic behaviours it is recommended to start exposing your pet to new foods of various flavours, sizes, shapes and textures when they are young (AAFP, 2004).

How to implement a RF diet
Step 1- Pick the food

  • Pick premium diets that are life stage appropriate, use highly digestible ingredients and that focus on a healthy gut microflora. Companies that have a quality assurance program are also recommended. Our Wholesome Blend®, Wholesome Blend Naturally Fresh and Lifetime® diets are all great options to rotate through.
  • Rotate dry and wet foods. Wet foods promote urinary health in cats and are necessary if your pet develops dental issues.

Step 2- Transition

  • For neophilic pets: Have a transition period that slowly integrates the new diet over a 9-day period.
    3 days (75% old food (OF), 25% new food (NF)) 3 days (50% OF, 50% NF) 3 days (75% NF, 25% OF) 100% NF

 
Figure 1: 9-day transition period. Blue proportion is old food, purple is new food.

  • For neophobic pets: Offer a small portion of the new food for at least 3 days along side the old food, ensuring each day it is a fresh serving (Bradshaw, 1986; Bourgeois et al, 2006). It is important your pet consumes the new food in order to habituate to the new diet, simply smelling the food will not increase the likelihood of them switching diets (Bradshaw, 1986). If your pet is resistant to trying the new food, you can help facilitate this process by putting a piece of the new kibble in their mouth or adding tuna juice or meat drippings to it (AAFP, 2004). For wet food, try smearing a bit on their nose or leg or mixing a small amount into their drinking water (Bourgeois et al, 2006). When they fully consume the new diet, start the 9-day transition period.

Step 3- How much/how often

  • Pay attention to the feeding guidelines of the new food as formulas can vary quite significantly in their caloric density. You may need to adjust the amount you feed your pet to reduce the risk of weight gain. If you started adding wet food to your pet’s diet, reduce the amount of kibble to account for the additional calories.
  • To date, no studies have confirmed the ideal frequency for rotating your pets’ diet. However, keep the freshness of the product in mind. As well, keep an eye on your pets stool quality; you want your pet’s food to produce a firm but not hard, log-shaped stool that keeps it’s shape when picked up (Case et al, 2011). Persistent loose, runny or dry stool is not normal and should be brought to your veterinarian’s attention.

RF is not appropriate for every pet
Although there are benefits to RF, it does not mean it is appropriate for every pet. Some pets are required to stay on one diet to treat or prevent a specific health condition. If you have any questions or concerns if RF is right for your pet, consult your veterinarian.

Sources
American Association of Feline Practitioners. (2004). Feline Behavior Guidelines. Retrieved from https://catvets.com/public/PDFs/PracticeGuidelines/FelineBehaviorGLS.pdf

Association of American Feed Control Officials. (2014). AAFCO Dog and Cat Food Nutrient Profiles. Retrieved from https://www.aafco.org/Portals/0/SiteContent/Regulatory/Committees/Pet-Food/Reports/Pet_Food_Report_2013_Midyear-Proposed_Revisions_to_AAFCO_Nutrient_Profiles.pdf

Case, L. P., Daristotle, L., Hayek, M. G & Raasch, M. F. (2011). Canine and Feline Nutrition. Feeding regimens for dogs and cats (pp.194). Maryland Heights, MO: Mosby

Bradshaw, J. (1986). Mere exposure Reduces Cats’ Neophobia to Unfamiliar Food. Animal Behaviour, 34(2), 613-614.

Bourgeois, H., Elliott, D., Marniquet, P & Soulard, Y. (2006). Dietary behavior of dogs and cats. Bulletin de l'Académie vétérinaire de France, 1, 301

Burdett, S. W., Mansilla, W. D & Shoveller, A. K. (2018). Many Canadian dog and cat foods fail to comply with the guaranteed analyses reported on packages. The Canadian Veterinary Journal, 59(11), 1181-1186