Variety and Balance in the Raw Diet
You don't eat the same thing every day, and neither should your dog.
While dogs and people have different nutritional requirements, we both need to have variety and balance in our diets. We know that eating a wide variety of fresh, unprocessed food is good for us, and the same is true for our dogs. Dogs and people alike need to get their vitamins, minerals, fats and amino acids from a range of fresh vegetables, fruit, proteins, and healthy fats.
I love blueberries and broccoli for dogs. They are well known for their anti-cancer properties and are rich in phytonutrients, but that doesn't mean we should feed them to the exclusion of other vegetables and fruit. Too much broccoli and blueberries, as healthy as they are, could cause upset tummies, an oversupply of certain nutrients, or an under supply of others.
Tip! Use 'Eat the Rainbow' as your guide when selecting veggies and fruit for your dog.
I generally prefer families to add their own vegetables and fruit to their dog's raw diet, instead of repeatedly feeding the same 3 or 4 vegetables which is often the case in commercial raw dog food.
Ideally, dogs should eat protein from a variety of animal sources. Each protein has its own nutritional profile - a unique array of vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and fats. By feeding a variety of protein types we can better supply the range of nutrients needed by our dogs.
Tip! One rule of thumb is to include 4 or more different types of animal protein in your dog's diet.
Fat is one component of the diet where variety and balance must be considered, since dogs require both saturated and polyunsaturated fats. Beef and lamb are rich in saturated fat, while poultry and pork are high in polyunsaturated fat, so it's important to include a number of types of animal protein in the diet - not just chicken, for example.
The Trouble With Feeding Mostly Chicken
I have seen a tendency among raw feeders, due to cost, to gravitate towards a chicken only diet for their dog - which could be a costly mistake long term. Chicken is much more affordable than beef, lamb, pork or turkey, however, there is a definite concern with feeding too much chicken. Unless the chicken is organic and free range, chances are they are from factory farms where they have been raised indoors and fed a high carbohydrate diet. This produces birds that are high in inflammatory causing omega-6 fatty acids. This, in turn, can contribute to inflammation within the dog's body due to an imbalance of omega 3 to omega 6 fatty acids.
As well, it would be difficult to meet all of your dog's nutritional requirements on a steady diet of chicken. Chicken tends to be lower in zinc, iron, some B vitamins, and vitamin D than other proteins.
If you had a friend who only ate chicken and white potatoes, you might feel a little concerned about a nutritional deficiency; the same is true for our dogs.
Balance Over Time
When you think back over what you ate last week, chances are you had different proteins, vegetables, fruit and grains each day. Most likely, you didn't worry if each meal was 'balanced'. Nutritionists tell us to look at our diet as a whole, over the course of a few weeks; the same is true for our dogs.
Variety and Gut Health
One of the most fascinating areas of research is the relationship between gut health (the microbiome), inflammation, immunity, and disease. Research shows that dogs who are fed a variety of fresh, highly digestible protein have more balanced, beneficial bacterial colonies than dogs fed the same type of food on repeat; in turn, these beneficial bacterial colonies support the immune system and overall health of the dog. A healthy gut usually means a healthy dog.
Variety and the Kibble Fed Dog
Fresh food diets are best for dogs, however, I realize that not everyone can feed this way.
If you must feed your dog a processed kibble diet, make sure to add fresh food each day to his bowl. If your dog's digestion can manage it, regularly rotate protein types and brands of kibble to provide variety.
Rotating through different brands and types of kibble can be helpful in decreasing your dog's prolonged exposure to heavy metal contamination, toxic levels of certain vitamins, and buffer the effects of recalled pet food. Most recently a large pet food manufacturer recalled their product due to toxic levels of vitamin D which has affected thousands of dogs. One or two bags of tainted kibble might not be a huge concern, but months or years of eating the same tainted kibble for each meal would certainly be concerning to me.
"The same principals of good health and nutrition that apply to people also apply our dogs. Dogs are family, let's feed them like family."
This article is for general information purposes only, applies to healthy dogs, and may not apply to your dog. If you have any concerns about your dog, please consult your holistic veterinarian.