I was just feeding my Standard Poodle his daily rations and thinking about dog food. Every morning and evening, I give him half a can of some kind of premium dog food, some premium dog kibble, and some human food, like chicken, beef, or tuna. I mix up the cans of food, so that he never gets the same flavor repeated twice in one day. Sometimes it’s canned lamb, other times it’s canned chicken, and other times it’s beef from a can. I mix up the human food as well, giving him some chicken meat or beef or tuna on a random basis.
When I started feeding my first dog, many years ago, I was told by everyone that I should feed her the same thing, day in and day out. So I gave her the same dried kibble, twice a day, every day. The rationale was that if I gave her something else to eat, she would have an upset stomach because she was not used to processing different kinds of food.
She seemed grateful to get the food, and I didn’t think to question the conventional wisdom that I was told.
Much later, I started to wonder about the conventional wisdom. After all, feral dogs and their wild relatives eat a huge variety of food, basically whatever they can find or catch, all without having severe diarrhea every 20 minutes.
So is it really true that dogs need to stay on the same diet?
We know that mammals (yes, us too!) have a bacterial flora in their gut that assists in the digestion and processing of food. When that bacterial flora is disrupted, we can have diarrhea. This is often why people who go to other countries come down with a case of the “turista” when they eat food containing a different mix of bacterial flora.
Maybe that happens with dogs as well, when we change them over from feeding on only one food item to a large variety of foods. Then we might have a little bit of cleanup to do for a while.
Some people have told me that the proper way to introduce a dog to some other kind of food is to put in a little bit of the new food in along with lots of the old food, and then keep adding a little bit of the new food every day until the proportion of new food outweighs the proportion of old food. This can take months.
But with us, we know that we get over the “turista” in a week or two, and then are quite happy to eat a variety of strange foods as the bacterial flora adjusts in the gut. Should dogs be any different?
I know that my Poodle enjoys eating a variety of different foods. Occasionally I will forget which can I gave him and repeat the same canned food twice in a day. He usually eats some of it, but not with the relish that he saves for a dinner that is varied from the time before.
Put yourself in his place: How would you like to have oatmeal for breakfast, and oatmeal for dinner, only to look forward to the next day and …..more oatmeal?
To go back to my question: should dogs stay on the same diet day after day? In my opinion, the answer is No, not even close.
(PS, I love oatmeal, but I don’t think that I could eat it twice a day for the rest of my life).