Louie, a Chihuahua-dachshund mix (Chiweenie), eats many various foods. “I think there is a lot to be said for rotation feeding,” his owner, who works at a pet food store, reasons, ” — hitting the proper thing from time to time and not the incorrect thing all the time.”

For all of his life, 10-year-old Louie has been something of a smorgasbord diner. The Chiweenie eats a spread of brands of kibble, with and without grain. He’s dabbled in raw foods. And when he can escape with it, he makes off with a share of his owner’s breakfast.

That owner, Abbey Bellefeuille, got into a habit of rotating foods while trying to halt recurrent ear infections in her Australian shepherd, Luna. Bellefeuille suspected Luna’s ears reflected a allergy . Louie need to try different foods along side Luna.

Both tolerated the change just fine, neither showing the indigestion which will happen in some pets when switching food brands or formulations. Both dogs seem to enjoy the change and are healthy, Bellefeuille said, so she cursed with the practice. (Luna’s ear infections cleared up with age.)

These days, Bellefeuille has one more reason to stay changing it up: a parade of pet food recalls and advisories that involve big and little pet-food makers alike.

The past 18 months have seen quite 40 dog- or cat-food recall notices within the us alone. Many are run-of-the-mill recalls involving batches of food contaminated with Salmonella bacteria or foreign objects like rubber. Others are more attention-getting, like an episode in early 2018 of dog foods tainted with pentobarbital, a euthanasia drug. And in late 2018 and early 2019, multiple petfood brands — from obscure names to the well-established Hill’s label — were found to possess excessive, potentially deadly, levels of vitamin D .

One of the most important pet-food worries today may be a mystery that hasn’t resulted during a recall. It’s rattled nerves precisely due to the uncertainty, plus the potential for grave implications: a suspected association between some grain-free formulations and a significant heart condition called dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM).

The situation is drawing marked attention from dog owners. When the FDA, in an investigation update on June 27, identified 16 pet-food brands most frequently named in cases of diet-associated DCM in dogs, Facebook users shared an inventory posted by the VIN News Service 22,000 times.

“With of these things hitting the news headlines, like grain-free and dilated cardiomyopathy,” Bellefeuille said, contemplating her rotation-feeding habit, “I know I’m hitting the proper answer a number of the time and i am not hitting the incorrect answer all of the time.”

A pet store chain in California, Pet Food Express, actively recommends rotating:

“We have long recommended this as a best practice both to supply a wider sort of nutrients and to stop excessive exposure to an equivalent ingredients …” it says on a blog post about the DCM and grain-free foods issue. “Unless your pet features a grain sensitivity, there’s no particular advantage to a grain-free diet and no reason you couldn’t switch between grain-containing and grain-free diets.

Of course, watch your pet closely and discontinue feeding any food that makes problems or that they won’t eat.” Some veterinarians agree, comparing a varied diet to diversifying an investment portfolio to limit financial losses.

“My argument is, if there’s a drag with one among the foods, it’s going to not become a drag [for your pet] because you’re diluting it out,” said Dr. Joe Bartges, a professor of drugs and nutrition at the University of Georgia College of medicine. Bartges is also a nutrition consultant at the Veterinary Information Network, a web community for the profession and parent of the VIN News Service.

“I am an enormous believer in variety,” he told VIN News. “Our cats, we feed six to eight sorts of canned and dry food. We make food. We give them treats.”

The cats, now age 2, are within the household since they were kittens, Bartges said. “We started early giving them a spread and that they never have indigestion . … they appear good, their coats are good, and once you pick them up, [you can tell that] they’re so muscular.”

Bartges didn’t always advocate variety in pet diets. “I was trained within the ’80s,” he said, when the prevailing wisdom was, “pet food companies are good, everything is sweet , there’s not a drag .”

Over time, he said, “What I learned is that business is business. Although they’re doing their best, there are problems with business. a bit like with spinach, with car manufacturers, with electricity. It’s just like the stock exchange . That’s why diversification is so good.”

Dr. Paul Pion, president and co-founder of VIN, advocates “mixing it up” for an equivalent reason. Thirty-two years ago, Pion and colleagues made a blockbuster discovery that a scarcity of the aminoalkanoic acid taurine in their diets led cats to develop DCM. Giving them taurine supplements reversed their heart disease , curing the fatal disease.

The taurine finding in cats doesn’t necessarily translate to the contemporary issue in dogs because cats obtain taurine almost exclusively from their food. Dogs are ready to synthesize taurine from two other amino acids, cysteine and methionine. And while taurine deficiency has been associated because the explanation for DCM during a few breeds of dogs, it’s not the main explanation for DCM in dogs because it was in cats.

To this day, nobody knows taurine’s precise role in heart health. The universe of unknowns in pet nutrition is why Pion supports periodically switching foods — that, and therefore the incontrovertible fact that in repeated instances, whether with taurine deficiency in cats or the present trouble involving grain-free dog foods, the animals usually affected are people who ate a selected diet exclusively for an extended time.

“Given the pet-food induced problems we have seen over the past few decades from manufacturers with the simplest of intents, plus what we do not realize nutrition, is it knowing feed one food to our pets exclusively?” he said. “Even once we do the simplest we will with what we all know, we are in danger due to what we do not know.”

Rotating not standard advice

Although a rotation diet has some strong proponents, it’s faraway from standard veterinary advice, and a few veterinary nutritionists are dubious of the practice. Common wisdom says to settle on one “complete and balanced” diet, and if the pet likes it and does well (its stool is firm, its coat is glossy, it isn’t lethargic, fat, skinny or itchy), persist with it.

Pet-food marketing promotes the thought that one food can roll in the hay all for a dog or cat. “All life stages” formulas are said to be suited to all or any breeds, ages and sizes.

The history of economic pet foods extends quite 150 years. The Pet Food Institute, a trade group for U.S. pet food makers, credits a businessman named James Spratt with introducing the primary commercially prepared pet food in England around 1860.

“After seeing dogs being fed leftover biscuits from a ship, Spratt formulated the primary dog biscuit: a mixture of wheat meals, vegetables, beetroot and beef blood. Spratt’s business venture was a hit , meeting a replacement market demand and selling to English country gentlemen for sporting dogs,” consistent with a PFI webpage on the history of pet food.

The article goes on: “A British public company took over Spratt’s formula and production began at a U.S. operation in about 1890. Additional companies began to develop their own recipes for biscuits and dry kibble, using the present nutritional knowledge of the period of time . Canned petfood , ‘Ken-L Ration,’ was introduced in 1922. Its main ingredient was horse meat, which was considered a suitable ingredient source at the time. Our understanding of and relationship with horses has since evolved, and as they need become pets, there’s not a marketplace for horse meat.”

Purina (now Nestlé Purina), maker of diets for dogs and cats, opened a search facility in 1926 to develop formulations for companion animals that might provide “complete and balanced” nutrition, consistent with Dr. Kurt Venator, the company’s chief veterinary officer.

“They key’s to form sure that it’s all based and rooted during a foundation of science,” Venator said, noting that as knowledge domain evolves, so does the understanding of an adequate diet for an animal at different stages of life.

The concept that an animal can survive largely an equivalent food for a lifetime was supported by a Purina study published within the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association in 2002. The thrust of the research was the effect of diet restriction on a dog’s lifespan and age-related changes: It found that dogs fed less lived longer. The study also incidentally demonstrated that basically an equivalent diet served the animals’ lifetime nutritional needs.

“All dogs were fed an equivalent one hundred pc nutritionally complete and balanced diets (puppy, then adult) for the whole period of the study, from eight weeks aged until death — only the number of food was different,” Purina reported during a handout .

For the buyer , there is a certain comfort, to not mention convenience, in selecting an equivalent familiar bag of food whenever .

Bellefeuille, owner of the dogs Louie and Luna, may be a sales associate at an independent pet store near Seattle. At work, she talks about pet food often with pet owners. “A lot of individuals just like the convenience of knowing what works for his or her dog and what they trust for his or her dog and going back thereto ,” she observed. “… Some people are nervous to modify .”

Caveats

Despite scientific evidence that essentially an equivalent food can sustain a dog for all times , it might be an overstatement to mention that one formulation can roll in the hay all for each dog or cat. “No diet is right for all pets in the least times,” Dr. Cecilia Villaverde, a veterinary nutrition consultant in Ireland and a VIN consultant, said by email.

Even pets who are healthy all their lives may do better with different formulations at different ages. Venator noted that Purina introduced dog food in 1963 after determining that puppies need more protein than adults. Today, formulations designed for senior dogs are common, as well. Venator said Purina recommends not one single diet for a lifetime but rather, diets supported “life stage” — puppy, adult and senior.

In an interview by email, another VIN nutrition consultant, Dr. Lisa Weeth, who features a private consultancy in l. a. , observed: “Technically, dogs (and all animals for that matter) require nutrients, not ingredients, so it’s theoretically possible to seek out one diet which will meet the nutrient needs of a given dog. But the truth is that for that very same dog, its nutritional needs will vary over its lifetime, counting on the life stage (puppy vs. adult vs. senior vs. geriatric) and with concurrent disease. Some caregivers may hit the jackpot and have a healthy, robust dog that does well on the primary all-life-stages diet that they happened to shop for , [but] the bulk of dogs would require some diet adjustments over time.”

How about routinely rotating foods?

Weeth is neither for nor against it, although she has some concerns. “We do not have any evidence that diet rotation is best than sticking with one formula that’s working (assuming [the animal is a] healthy, non-reproductive adult), but we also do not have any evidence that it’s wrong, as long because the transitions are made slowly to permit for gastrointestinal adaptation to the new food,” she said, noting that “fat and fiber and digestibility changes can cause diarrhea if owners switch too quickly.”

However, Weeth cautioned, if the pet “develops a sensitivity or allergic reaction to a specific food plan and the proprietors are altering to a new food regimen company and ingredient deck each and every few months, it will be more difficult to figure out the sensitivity.”

She tells proprietors who wish to rotate manufacturers to “stick to a more narrow ingredient publicity list, like poultries and pink meats, but no fish or distinguished meats and grains, so if we want them [to rule out feasible allergic reactions or sensitivities], we have some ingredient options.”

Villaverde likewise processes the thinking of rotating diets cautiously. Generally speaking, she has no objection as long as every one of the diets being used are whole and balanced and appropriate for the precise pet. However, in sure situations, she said, it is not an accurate option. One example is “animals that have a clinical condition or very slender nutrition wishes that do surely nicely with one precise diet.”

She has non-public trip with this situation: “My very own cat with megacolon, he does well with one unique therapeutic weight loss program and blocks with other diets,” Villaverde offered. “I stay in steady concern of him going off the food!”

Dr. Jennifer Larsen, a professor of medical nutrition at the University of California, Davis, Department of Veterinary Medicine, and a VIN consultant, doubts that rotating diets is beneficial.

“I assume this method to keep away from feasible formulation errors (like diet D toxicity) or illness appears a bit haphazard,” she stated by using email. “You cannot predict when or even if this will show up so can’t bet when to change — it appears like a poor way to try to expand food safety. It also makes it difficult to become aware of what the motive of any doable hassle is, depending on how regularly foods are circled or combined (for example, diarrhea develops however you can’t inform which weight loss program or attribute or ingredient would possibly be to blame, if any).”

She mused: “If the issue had been greater of a marginal or overt deficiency or toxicity, then I believe you should minimize the bad outcome however again, you’d in no way know if that were the case. It’s a bit of wishful questioning as an alternative than a sound dietary practice.”

Still, Larsen said, “If rotation is well tolerated via the pet, I do not see a precise downside; just lack of precise benefit, I think.”

Dr. Scott Campbell, a veterinary nutritionist in Australia and VIN consultant, is in favor of rotating diets, supplied the diets are whole and balanced, and preferably developed via professional companies.

How does he judge “reputable”? Campbell looks for manufacturers whose diets have been tested in feeding trials (rather than merely substantiating nutrient content, an choice allowed below pointers of the Association of American Feed Control Officials); whose formulations have been on the market for years; that grant contact information; and that has nutritionists on staff.

“Beyond that, I like the concept of rotation,” Campbell said, ” — and sustainability and low price and whole, fresh ingredients, etc.”

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