Switch Your Dog’s Food Up

Why you should be searching for several good foods for your dog, not just one.


It’s not even close. When people learn what I do for a living, or when they know what I do and have an opportunity to “ask me anything,” they nearly always ask, “What kind of dog food is the best?”

whole dog journal

I always respond the same way. “There is no single ‘best’ dog food! You should find out which foods suit the dogs you are feeding; they all have different needs, just as we do.”

Rarely do people want to hear this. So they try trickery. “Just tell me this, then: Which food do you feed your dogs?” they ask.

Ah, but they missed a very important plural “S” in my previous answer. So now I get to redirect them, to send them in a direction that will help them understand my previous answer. I tell them that I almost never feed my dogs the same food from bag to bag or can to can. I switch foods constantly, rotating among brands, varieties within brands, and forms of food (wet, dry, frozen, dehydrated, home-prepared). All the foods I feed are good ones, I tell my friends and acquaintances; I would never feed just one!

That tends to shock people; it seems that most people feed one brand and variety of food to their dogs day in and day out – year in and year out! I just don’t understand why so few people question this practice, especially when they would never consider feeding themselves or their children the exact same diet every day for years on end.

I’m certain the practice originally got promoted by one of the pet-food companies. They likely observed that dogs who had been maintained on the same diet for months at a time – such as company-owned dogs inducted into long-term feeding trials that are used to develop and test new foods – often experienced transient diarrhea or upset stomachs when suddenly switched to a new diet. Some smart market researcher said, “Eureka! We can use this to build brand loyalty! Let’s tell dog owners that switching foods causes digestive problems!” And it was likely an easy sell, because, in fact, people seem to have an innate tendency toward brand loyalty; most of us tend to buy the same type of dish soap or laundry detergent or breakfast cereal every time.

The fact that eludes many dog owners, however, is that humans, too, will experience an upset stomach if they eat the same thing for every meal for months, and then are suddenly fed something new. But if they – dogs or humans – eat a varied diet all the time, very few have a problem switching. And because the nutrient levels in every commercial food are different, and no one knows what levels are ideal, it’s smart to rotate among a few good foods to achieve balance over time. And I’m more than happy to tell you how to select several good foods for your dog. See the preface page for this year’s Approved Canned Food list for detailed buying advice.