Using a rotating diet for your dog
When might I use a rotating diet?
If your dog has a sensitive stomach, (e.g. shows signs of distress before, after, or while eating such as panting, abdominal discomfort which can present with limping, growling at food, uncharacteristic aggression around food dish, or uncharacteristic aggression at other times), a rotating diet might help. Food sensitivities, like allergies, develop from exposure. The more intense the exposure, the more likely a sensitivity will develop. Allergies and intolerances can be genetic, however, only the predisposition is inherited. The specific foods your dog is allergic or intolerant to will depend on what your dog has been exposed to. Rotating your dog's diet may help prevent these from developing.
What do you mean when you say intolerance?
When I say intolerance, I am referring to a food that disagrees with the dog's digestive system. It can cause pain, vomiting, or diarrhea. This is different from an allergy, where the dog has an inappropriate immune response to the food, where the immune system recognizes the food as a foreign entity and destroys it as if it were a pathogen (germ). This causes a body-wide response. Dogs with allergies often suffer from ear infections and itchy feet and skin.
What foods should I avoid in my rotations?
The most common offenders are chicken, beef, soy, corn, and wheat because of their high prevalence in commercially prepared dog foods. If your dog has already been eating a specialized diet, it is likely that it has other foods you should avoid. We have found many dogs are also coming up with lamb sensitivities because of recent increases in the availability of lamb-based dog foods.
What foods should I consider in my rotations?
The best foods we have found for sensitive stomachs are fish-based foods. There are many different types available (trout, salmon, whitefish, Menhaden fish, anchovy, etc.). It is best to rotate other types of protein through the diet as well. There are many novel protein sources now available, including pheasant, duck, rabbit, bison, venison, and kangaroo. Which of these you will use will depend on any allergies or sensitivities your dog already has, and how much you are able to spend on dog food. We have found that foods with a novel protein source that contain a small amount of chicken do not typically cause a problem for dogs that have intolerances. However, if your dog is allergic, it will need a more limited ingredient diet.
I switched my dog to a lamb and rice food, and I'm having the same problems? What now?
There are a couple of possibilities. Not all food that is labeled lamb and rice contain only lamb and rice. Look at your label. Is there chicken, corn, and/or wheat? If so, this food could not be expected to improve your dog's symptoms. The other possibility is that your dog has an intolerance to lamb, or possibly even rice (though less likely). These ingredients have increased in commercially prepared dog foods and chances are good that your dog has been exposed to them. You need to try a novel source of protein and carbohydrates.
Where do I start?
A rotating diet can be difficult to manage for the beginner. It is common for people to feel overwhelmed. Here's the best part: WE WILL MANAGE YOUR ROTATING DIET FOR YOU! We do this for no charge. We are committed to customer service, and we are happy to let you learn from our experience. We will need you to give us the ingredient list from the food(s) that you use (cutting the label off the package works just fine). We will then identify probable culprits, discuss with you your spending limits, and suggest a food to start with. When you need more food, we will help you decide what to use next. Our computer automatically tracks what foods you have bought, so even if you forget we will be able to help you.
I've been hearing a lot about raw food diets. Should I try this for my dog?
The short answer is no. Recent availability of commercially-prepared raw food diets have somewhat improved the health of these diets, but the fact remains that despite being more expensive, raw food diets are NOT healthier. Raw food diets are not recommended by any veterinarians or canine nutritionists that we know of, and we do not recommend them either. The recent fad has come from people who want to give their dogs a more “natural” food. Things to keep in mind: wild dogs do not live as long as domesticated dogs. Why is that? Largely because of disease. One of the major problems with a raw food diet is disease. If your dog should contract salmonella, the outlook is grim. “Natural” is not necessarily better. Even more problematic is that dogs fed raw food diets shed pathogens that can infect people. Children, older adults, people on prescription steroids, people who are already sick or immuno-compromised have a high risk of becoming very ill.