Paws and Plates: The Art of Mealtime Variety for Happy, Healthy Dogs and Cats

black and white dalmatian dog eating fruits

Author: Dr Katy Miller DVM, CVFT, CVNAN, CPFFCP, CPCQI, PAS

Can you imagine eating the same meal, for every meal? I can’t. That would be so boring. Unfortunately for many years, that has been the advice of veterinarians. Feed one food for a pet’s life unless they become ill.  Luckily nutritional science is evolving, and so is nutritional advice. More and more, we are realizing the health benefits and fun for pets in mixing it up a bit and providing them with a variety of foods. Providing variety in a dog or cat’s diet can offer several benefits for their overall health and well-being.

One important advantage to adding variety to your pet’s diet is to provide nutrient balance. Different foods contain varying levels and types of nutrients. By offering a variety of foods, it increases the likelihood of achieving a more balanced nutrient profile, which is essential for a pet’s health. This can lead to the prevention of nutrient deficiencies or excesses. Feeding the same food continuously may lead to nutrient imbalances, either deficiencies or excesses. A diverse diet helps mitigate this risk and ensures a pet receives a broad spectrum of essential nutrients.

Variety can enhance the palatability of a pet’s meals. Pets may become bored with a monotonous diet, and introducing new flavors and textures can make mealtime more enjoyable for them. The best time to do this is when they are young. Feeding puppies and kittens a variety of food types when they are developing their food preferences will help them stay open to new foods and textures when they are older.

Introducing different textures, shapes, and flavors can provide mental stimulation and prevent boredom. Chewing on different types of food or working to extract treats from puzzle toys can help keep your pet mentally engaged.

Consistently feeding the same food may lead to dietary aversion, where a pet becomes resistant to eating that specific diet. This can be problematic if a pet ever needs to switch their food for health reasons. Offering variety in the diet allows them to adapt to changing nutritional needs, whether due to age, activity level, or health conditions.

Introducing variety to a dog and cat’s diets should be done gradually to avoid digestive upset and ensure they adjust well to the new foods. At first, introduce new foods over a week slowly, but once rotating through foods because regular, most pets will be able to rotate between foods with ease. Here are some simple ways to add variety to a pets diet.

  • Rotate formulas when purchasing food to provide a variety of amino acids and nutrients. Each time you make a food purchase, pick a different formulation to expose pets to different flavors.
  • If a pet has never experienced different food forms, start small by supplementing a kibble-based diet with canned food, dehydrated, air-dried, gently cooked food. Slowly, over time, you can reduce the amount of kibble and increase the new food until a pet easily rotates through different textures.
  • Rotate forms of food at each meal. Offer a mixture of kibble, wet food, air-dried, freeze-dried, or raw food at each meal to vary textures and keep mealtime interesting.
  • If a pet doesn’t like different textures, you can still rotate formulas at each feeding once your pet has adjusted to rotational feeding. If purchasing canned, buy a variety of different formulas to add some excitement. Birdie and Louie make this easy with their offering of variety packs.     

Remember, every pet is unique so it’s essential to tailor their diet to their specific needs, preferences, and any health considerations. Always consult with your veterinarian before making significant changes to your pet’s diet, especially if they have any underlying health issues.

About the Author: Dr. Katy Miller works as the Director of Veterinary Services at BSM Partners. She brings her extensive background in companion animal nutrition (12 years) and her experience as a practicing veterinarian (7 years) together to help provide useful information to pet food manufacturers and pet parents. She shares a home with 2 cats, 9 dogs, and 5 horses.