Rotational Diets: could your pet benefit?

LAST UPDATED 21 JULY 2020

This article is written by Pet Circle veterinarian, Dr Carla Paszkowski BVSc (Hons)

Rotational diets are quickly becoming popular overseas, with many pet owners swearing by them. More and more, pet owners are opting to rotate their pet's diet and have been reporting overwhelmingly positive results.

What is a rotational diet?

A rotation diet is all about variety. It involves feeding a number of different foods (be it different brands, different protein sources, or different forms of food) in a rotation over a number of days. So instead of staying on one pet food diet for a long period of time continuously, pet owners may keep a variety of pet food diets on hand and alternate between them.

Contents

What are the Benefits?

Guide to Starting a Rotation Diet

Example Rotation Diets

What are the benefits?

1. A Reduced Risk of Allergies

Rotational Diets were first introduced in the human nutrition world for people with food allergies or intolerances. Scores of people worldwide have anecdotally reported that by implementing a rotation of different food groups over a period of a few days, their food allergy symptoms significantly reduced. The intention is to allow a person to eat a wide range of food types, but ensure they leave 4 days between eating the same food twice. By providing short exposure to potential allergens, this helps keep up a tolerance without over-exposing, and helps treat current food allergies.

While research into the field of rotational diets in animals is limited, many pet owners who have adopted this human-recommended diet report that it works extremely well for their pets with sensitivities, and reduces their risk of developing further food intolerances. Some top nutritonal experts in the veterinary academia world are also starting to advocate the theory.

Sometimes, when a pet owner discovers their pet is allergic to one component of the food, such as chicken, they will swap over to a diet containing only beef and feed this exclusively. Unfortunately by doing this, the pet can actually develop a sensitivity to this new protein. Instead, it might be more beneficial for that pet to move onto a chicken-free diet that rotates between other protein sources varyingly.

2. Variety of flavours

Just like us, pets can get bored with the same flavour and texture for every meal. (As much as I love chicken pho, there's no way I'd want to eat it for every meal!) This is especially palpable in cats, who crave variety due to their instinct to naturally seek a different prey animal to hunt every day.

Offering a rotation of proteins, as well as a rotation of textures, can help keep your pet interested and happy!

3. Less Chance of Deficiencies

Even the most premium pet food manufacturers can make mistakes. A rotation diet can help protect you in case a manufacturer produces a vitamin deficient or nutritionally imbalanced batch and issues a recall (which is rare, but can happen from time to time). Take the 2017 case of recalled thiamine-deficient 'BFF' brand cat food as an example. Most of the cats who became ill from the recalled food were fed the diet exclusively, with nothing else. Without other balanced diets to draw thiamine from, these cats suffered from thiamine deficiency and consequentially became seriously ill.

If your pet is fed a rotation of a few different diets, they can draw nutrients from multiple sources. This means that in the case of any vitamin deficient batches produced by one manufacturer, your pet will have other diets to fall back on.

A guide to Rotational Feeding

There are a number of ways to design a rotational diet for your pet.

When starting a rotation diet, it's best to do things slowly to avoid tummy upsets. At first, stick to one food for a few days at a time and provide transition meals (half food A / half food B) when rotating. Eventually your pet's tummy will get used to it, and will be able to eat a different meal every day, or every couple of days (depending on what works for you).

Below we have set out some examples of rotation diets, with foods that work well together. To keep things easy, we have recommended three to five diets for each type of pet.

Example Rotation Diets

1. Healthy Puppies

Savourlife Lamb Puppy dry food + Black Hawk Ocean Fish dry food + K9 Natural Beef Feast freeze-dried food + Hills Puppy Savoury Stew canned food

These four diets consist of two dry foods, one freeze-dried food, and one wet food. The proteins are different in each formula - with lamb, fish, beef, and chicken all provided for. Each food meets the requirements to support growing puppies, and is of a very high quality. The starch / carbohydrate component in each food varies too.

2. Puppies with Sensitive Skin

Black Hawk Ocean Fish Puppy dry food + Holistic Select Salmon, Anchovy and Sardine dry food + K9 Natural Beef with Hoki wet food.

Most pet owners with sensitive skin puppies find an improvement when they change to fish-based diets. This is partly due to the higher levels of omega 3 and 6 fatty acids, but it is also due to the fact that fish-based foods tend not to contain common food allergen ingredients. In dogs, common food allergens include chicken, wheat, corn, and pork.

These diets consist of three dry foods and one wet food. Most of the diets are fish-based. Each food is of a very high quality and is natural, and grain free.

3. Healthy Adult Dogs

Open Farm Catch of the Season Whitefish dry food + Ivory Coat Turkey and Duck dry food + Instinctive Bite Original Chicken and Brown Rice dry food + K9 Natural Lamb Feast freeze-dried food + Open Farm Beef Rustic Stew wet food

These five diets consist of three dry foods, one freeze-dried rehydratable food, and one wet food. The proteins are different in each formula - providing fish, turkey, chicken, lamb, and beef to rotate through. Each diet is of a very high premium quality, and the carbohydrate source differs between each food.

4. Adult Dogs with Sensitive Skin or Common Food Allergies

Instinctive Bite Grain Free Salmon and Potato dry food+ Open Farm Grain Free Catch of the Season Whitefish dry food + Pro Plan Sensitive Stomach and Skin dry food + K9 Natural Lamb Green Tripe Feast cans

For dogs with sensitive skin or a suspected food allergy, many people find an improvement when they change to fish-based diets. This is partly due to their higher levels of omega 3 and 6 fatty acids, but it is also due to the fact that fish-based foods tend not to contain common food allergen ingredients. In dogs, common food allergens include chicken, beef, wheat, corn, and pork. The four diets selected for this rotation consist of three dry foods and one wet food. The protein sources are mostly fish-based, with a mixture of salmon and whitefish, and lamb tripe. Lamb tripe contains probiotics, which can help with skin and stomach upsets in dogs.

5. Adult Dogs with Weight issues

Savourlife Lite dry food + Ivory Coat Fat Reduced Turkey dry food + Hill's Science Diet Perfect Weight dry food + Advance Weight Control Cans.

These four diets are all top quality and are designed specifically for weight management. This rotational regime consists of three dry foods and one wet food. The protein source is varied between the different recipes - with two diets containing chicken, one turkey, and a variation in wet and dry food. Each diet is of a very high premium quality, and carbohydrate sources are varied between each food also.

6. Healthy Kittens

Hills Kitten dry food + Orijen Biologically Appropriate Kitten dry food + Ziwi Peak Rabbit and Lamb wet food + Open Farm Turkey Rustic Blend wet food.

These four diets consist of two dry diets and two wet foods. The proteins are different in each formula - with chicken, turkey, rabbit, lamb, and salmon all provided for. Each food meets the requirements to support growing kittens, and is of a very high quality, with a variety of carbohydrate sources.

7. Healthy Adult Cats

Orijen Biologically Appropriate Six Fish dry food + Ivory Coat Chicken and Kangaroo dry food + Royal Canin Oral Care + Open Farm Turkey Rustic Blend wet food + Feline Natural Chicken and Venison Feast cans.

This rotation consists of three dry diets and two wet diets. Wet diets are particularly beneficial for cats, as the increased water content helps maintain bladder health. The proteins are different in each formula - with fish, kangaroo, chicken, and venison all provided for. Royal Canin Oral Care is included to help maintain dental cats, as it is notoriously difficult to clean your cat's teeth! Each food meets the requirements to support adult cats and is of a very high quality.

8. Adult Cats with Weight Issues

Hills Science Diet Perfect Weight dry food + Ivory Coat Indoor Chicken and Kangaroo + Royal Canin Neutered Weight Balance + Open Farm Rustic Blend Salmon

These four diets consist of two dry diets and two wet diets. The proteins are different in each formula - with turkey, chicken, pork, herring, mackeral, and salmon all provided for. All are formulated to be 'light' formulas for weight management, except for the Open Farm Rustic Blend - which should be fed in moderation if currently trying to achieve weight loss.


As demonstrated, a rotational diet is achievable for most pets. For further information, contact our Vet Squad for free tailored advice.

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