The idea behind complete pet foods is that they provide everything our furry friends need. This means we could, in theory, just feed one complete food forever and, in fact, this was exactly the recommendation being made by much the pet food and veterinary industries for many years.
These days, however, the benefits of dietary variety are much better understood – it helps to ensure no part of the nutrient spectrum is neglected and it also helps to prevent any harmful substances (ingredients that the dog is intolerant to, for example) that may be in present in one food from building up in the dog’s system to dangerous levels.
Dietary variety can be achieved in several ways – from topping up meals with nutritious whole foods to switching to a new variety every few weeks, but in this article we’ll look at many owners’ (and dogs’!) favourite way of getting more variety into the diet – mixing different foods together.
What to mix?
All complete foods (dry, wet, raw or anything in between) can be safely combined together so feel free to get creative. Different foods can be fed within the same meal or, if your dog can handle it, you can switch between different foods at each meal time.
How much to mix?
When changing foods it’s essential to remember that one gram of one food is not necessarily equivalent to one gram of another.
Dry foods and higher quality foods, for example, tend to be more ‘nutrient dense’ meaning they contain more nutrients per gram than wet foods or lower-end foods. For this reason it’s rarely a good idea to introduce a new food simply by substituting x number of grams of the old with the same amount of the new. Instead, the key is to work with each food’s feeding guide separately.
For example, if you wanted to give your dog a 50:50 combination of Dry Food A and Wet Food B you should mix 50% of the dry food’s recommended daily feeding amount with 50% of the wet food’s suggested daily feeding amount. This means you’ll likely be feeding a lot more wet food than dry even though it is technically a 50:50 mix.
This approach works equally well with 60/40, 70/30, 80/20 or any other ratios. When mixing multiple foods the maths is just the same but split several ways – e.g. 50/25/25, 40/40/10/10 etc. Just make sure that the total adds up to 100%.
As with any feeding guide, these feeding amounts will only be approximate and may need a little fine tuning to get them just right.
Mixing raw and dry
While it has been claimed that dry foods and raw are incompatible (due to a supposed difference in their digestion rates), in my experience that theory just doesn’t stand up.
Over the years I have encountered hundreds if not thousands of dogs that routinely eat dry alongside raw without any sign of ill health and in an AADF poll on the subject we found that out of 200 dog owners that mix dry and raw each meal, only 8 reported any dodgy tummies which is about the same rate you would expect from any feeding regime.
Dogs with sensitive stomachs
While many dogs are fine switching between foods on a regular basis, some more sensitive individuals may need a little time to adjust to each change.
If your dog starts to develop tummy upsets (loose motions, a lot of smelly wind, vomiting etc.) after altering the diet, it may be that you’re changing too fast. Slow down and try introducing the change more gradually. If the problems persist, and you’re sure you are not overfeeding (as that can also cause digestive problems) then perhaps regular changes aren’t the best way of getting variety into your dog’s diet. Instead, think about providing a good, consistent mix of foods in each meal for a few weeks at a time rather than changing very frequently.
Author: David Jackson, All About Dog Food