Variety -- the mandatory spice of life

As a manager of a holistic pet food store, I have had the opportunity to talk with many animal caregivers. One of the consistent beliefs Iíve found among them is that our beloved animals should have a consistent diet. But, what is consistent? For many of us, this means the same dry food twice a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year -- for life! Would you eat that way? No! So how did we get to this belief? Prior to World War II, animals were eating table scraps. Now, I am sure those table scraps had variety. Chicken and rice on Sunday, lamb chops and broccoli on Tuesday, pot roast on Wednesday, spaghetti and meatballs on Thursday, fish and chips on Friday, steak on Saturday. Now those were some home-cooked meals.

So again what happened? Why all of a sudden did dogs and cats need to be eating the same dry kibble for a lifetime? Marketing, marketing, marketing. The truth is they donít need to be eating the same food every day. In fact, the same kibble over an extended period of time turns into an allergy. A friend of mine once decided to become a vegetarian. Not knowing what to eat, she allowed herself to indulge on tofu, broccoli, and salad for an entire year. Obviously that was not the answer. While years later she eats many different foods, she is deathly allergic to guess what? Tofu and broccoli!The same is true for our companions. They need variety. Each food has a different nutritional value. While some foods such as eggs, fish, and meat are chock full of vitamin A, foods such as alfalfa, kelp, and vegetables are rich in vitamin C, and then you have seeds, nuts, and meaty bones for zinc. Here comes the marketing. If you are fearful that the slightest change in your petís diet is going to result in a trip to the vet due to gastrointestinal drama, you will indeed obediently stick to one food, one flavor, same protein, same company for the entirety of your petís life. So how do we best serve the needs of our best friends? If you have fallen into the routine I have described, letís take some baby steps. Try adding fresh pulverized vegetables to their food. When they say thank you by gobbling it up in half the time they used to, try adding some ground beef or chicken to the mix. Note that the gobble will start increasing in speed.

Then maybe instead of that baked biscuit from the box, replace it with a large meaty raw bone for some good recreational chewing. As long as you rotate the proteins, vegetables, grains, and even supplements. you will be giving your friend much more of what they need and want. Soon you will see a better coat, fresher breath, better energy, and, most of all, a new sense of meal appreciation.

There are many amazing pet foods on the market. So if for convenience sake you decide to stay with pre-prepared pet food, at least make sure you rotate protein sources and brands. There is no perfect food out there. Or shall I say while some foods do live up to their claims, they certainly can not alone fulfill the variety needed throughout a petís life. One special note: people food does not necessarily have less calories than pet food. While you embellish your petís food with people food, make sure to reduce the amount of pet food accordingly. Remember, if you or I have a craving, all we need to do is order something different on the menu or pick it up at the store. If our pets have a craving, their only recourse may be to steal our food. Variety in our petís food will handle their cravings and support their immune system.

While the opinions expressed on Green Paw are based largely on research and qualified information, it is advised that as with any aspect of your petís health, you should always consult your veterinarian about the specific health of your pet.