Wednesday, February 28, 2024

The Pet Expert: Combination Feeding a Rising Trend for Pet Owners

Brandon Forder

Rotation-based feeding is a fast-growing trend among today’s pet owners. It essentially refers to the act of alternating proteins, formulas, and even brands of food. Not only can rotation-based feeding help pique the interest of even the fussiest pets, it may also lower the likelihood of developing food allergies, urinary tract issues, digestive problems, and more.

Rotating pet foods also helps by offering a wider variety of nutritional sources. Plus, rotating foods offers more diversity in your pet’s daily diet, providing added stimulation and excitement at mealtime.

Now, pet owners everywhere are taking this concept to the next level by implementing what is known as combination feeding. The combination feeding trend has grown exponentially in the last few years, and pet food manufacturers are now catering to this movement in a very specific way.

What is combination feeding?

Combination feeding, also known as mixed feeding, means mixing different compositions of dog foods together to make a more exciting and well-rounded meal. Most commonly, pet owners are mixing dry kibbles with canned wet food. Some pet owners like to use wet food solely as a kibble topper, while others prefer to mix them together.

A thorough mix of wet food with dry kibble is a common approach for finicky pets as it helps to ensure their whole meal is consumed, instead of selectively picking out the tastier portions and leaving the less exciting food behind.

With all the different types of pet food to choose from, it should come as no surprise that raw foods are among the most popular. On an increasing basis, many pet owners are opting to increase the amount of raw nutrition their pets receive by combining dehydrated raw food with high quality dry kibbles. The added benefit here is the naturally occurring vitamins, minerals, and enzymes found in raw foods are unprocessed, which is nutritionally significant as many commercial pet foods are so highly processed they need to be fortified with synthetic vitamins and minerals.

What are the benefits of combining different food types?

Combination feeding offers a plethora of benefits. To fully understand them, we first need to look at the benefits of the individual pet foods themselves.

By a wide margin, the most popular pet foods in the world are dry kibbles. Kibble has really evolved over the last couple of decades, as competitive manufacturing processes continue to advance and innovate. Dry kibble is convenient and cost effective, while still offering top of the line nutrition (with certain brands).

Whether it’s in a pate, minced, or chunks and gravy, healthy canned foods are ideal for cats and dogs of all ages. With the added benefit of having a high water content, wet food helps to improve urinary tract health, most notably in felines. Wet food is highly palatable, and seamlessly blends in well with all other types of food.

Raw pet foods are commonly available in two formats: frozen and dehydrated. Raw dog foods are arguably the healthiest option for our pets, and much of that is attributed to the fact that raw foods are not highly processed like many of today’s commercial kibble and wet food options. Uncooked and unprocessed raw foods are loaded with the nutrients needed for optimal health without the need for synthetic additives. Frozen raw pet foods require a little advanced planning as it should be thawed in advance.

While feeding frozen raw to our pets, strict attention should be given to safe food handling and cleanup practices, as the risk of exposure to harmful bacteria for humans is a valid concern. But don’t let that scare you! With a little common sense, frozen raw diets are perfectly safe and healthy.

Dehydrated raw is a relatively new pet food option, and it is the fastest growing segment in the pet specialty consumables marketplace. Dehydrated raw foods offer all of the benefits of frozen raw without the inconveniences. These foods are dehydrated using a gentle process of removing moisture from raw ingredients to make them shelf stable at room temperature. There is no need to freeze or refrigerate dehydrated raw foods. Dehydrated raw foods are among the most palatable and nutrient-dense products available, however they are also among the most expensive pet foods; it would be cost prohibitive to feed a large breed dog like a Labrador Retriever exclusively dehydrated raw food. This is why dehydrated raw foods are among the most popular products for combination feeding as it helps offset some of the cost.

Contrary to popular belief, all of these foods are completely interchangeable: it simply depends on your individual preferences. They can be mixed together, supplementally, or as separate meals, making the only limitation to combination feeding one’s imagination and creativity.

Now, you may be thinking: won’t that upset my pet’s stomach? Well, that depends. While some pets (like us) have more sensitive digestive systems than others, rotating diets regularly can actually help improve digestion. However, when in doubt, it is always wise to slowly mix new foods with existing foods to ensure a safe transition.

Certain pet food manufacturers have recognized this fast-growing trend of combination feeding and are now marketing products intended for pet food pairing. Combining canned food and kibble seems to be most common among Canadian pet owners.

When we combination feed, our pets can enjoy the benefits of multiple food types. Meal time should be fun and exciting, and what better way to do this than to offer a healthy variety of taste and texture? Not all foods are suitable for all pets, so speak with your trusted pet nutrition expert about rotation-based or combination feeding for more information.

Brandon Forder, known as The Pet Expert, is vice-president of Canadian Pet Connection, an industry leader in healthy pet lifestyles. Brandon holds multiple certifications in pet nutrition, and has more than twenty-five years’ experience specializing in pet health and behaviour. He has written hundreds of informative pet-related articles for newspapers, magazines, radio, and the popular Ask the Pet Expert Blog. Brandon is highly skilled in pet problem solving, and enjoys teaching others about smart and responsible pet ownership. To learn more, visit www.CanadianPetConnection.ca.

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