NutriSource Blogs

Rotational feeding for canines: Which proteins and carbs should I choose ... and avoid?

March 19, 2023

When you’re doing research on finding the best food for your dog, you might come across these three ingredients listed as possible “allergens”: Chicken, grains and peas.

Does that mean you should avoid chicken, grains and peas and look for other sources of proteins and carbohydrates?

The short answer is no, not at all. If anything, practicing rotational feeding by trading off the sources of proteins and carbs keeps your dog from developing intolerances.

Chicken, grains and peas are common food sensitivities in dogs, but it’s not because they’re bad for dogs. It’s because they’re common ingredients in dog food, and when ingredients are overfed to dogs, the body can develop an intolerance to that food.

That’s what leads to signs of allergies and irritation — itchy skin, licking paws and gastrointestinal issues.

For a deep dive on the benefits of rotational feeding, check out Want to try rotational feeding for your dog? Here’s how to get started

Rotational feeding: Focus on proteins and carbs

That brings up an important point in our series about rotational feeding. While many rotational feeding guides emphasize the importance of offering your dog the widest variety of animal proteins his body will accept, there’s little said about the importance of rotating carbohydrates.

In fact, many brands of pet food offer a wide variety of animal proteins, yet it’s all too common to find the exact same lineup of carbohydrate sources in every food across the brand’s line.

Rotational feeding shouldn’t be a protein-centric approach to your dog’s diet, or you’re only setting up your dog for food sensitivities. It’s equally important to take a closer look at the ingredients list and make sure your dog’s carb sources come from a wide range of ingredients.

Start examining labels. While you’re cycling through animal proteins, make sure your dog is also getting many kinds of wholesome grains.

Which proteins should I feed my dog?

At NutriSource, we take a land, air and sea approach to rotating proteins. Cycle through these three groups — poultry, meat and fish — so your dog gets the complete set of amino acids in life.

If your dog has a sensitivity to one of the proteins — let’s say his body has developed an intolerance to chicken — then try introducing a different poultry, such as turkey or pheasant. Use this guide to help you build a good rotation for your pet.

Sea: Fish

Core benefits of fish: Not only does it have an enticing aroma that makes mealtime more exciting for dogs, fish has multiple benefits, including being a rich source of Omega-3 fatty acids, which are great for brain health, as well as healthy skin and a healthy coat.

  • Trout
  • Salmon
  • Whitefish
  • Menhaden
  • Haddock
  • Pollock

Land: Meat

Beef, pork, lamb and game meats provide your pet with hearty, high-quality protein that can make him feel satiated, but also contain important nutrients, like B-vitamins, iron and zinc to promote cell health and support his immune system.

  • Beef
  • Lamb
  • Pork
  • Bison
  • Wild boar
  • Kangaroo
  • Venison

Air: Poultry

Poultry is a highly digestible, lean protein source that’s also an excellent source of Omega-3 fatty acids, to support a shiny coat.

  • Chicken
  • Turkey
  • Pheasant
  • Quail
  • Duck

For a deeper dive, read Protein for canines: It’s what your dog needs and craves

Do dogs need carbohydrates?

Absolutely. In fact, even grain-free diets have carbohydrates. That’s because carbs are an energy source for canines, providing those hits of glucose the body and brain need for daily activities. Getting a variety of grains, cereals and other sources of carbs provides your dog with plenty of good stuff to build a healthy body: amino acids, starches, vitamins and minerals.

For a deeper dive on the benefits of carbs and grains, read Heirloom grains: Are they nutritional powerhouses for dogs?

As you forage for good sources of high-quality carbohydrates for your dog, use this list to ensure your dog is getting the variety his body needs.

Searching the ingredients lists for variety can help to prevent the “ingredient overload” that can lead to allergies, sensitivities and intolerances.

Good sources of carbohydrates for your dog

  • Brown rice
  • Oatmeal
  • Barley
  • Millet
  • Buckwheat
  • Peas
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Chia
  • Flaxseed
  • Spelt
  • Green lentils
  • Red lentils
  • Garbanzo beans

I think my dog has food sensitivities. How do I begin rotating proteins and carbs?

If you’re interested in the health benefits of rotational feeding, but you’re noticing possible food sensitivities in your dog, a limited ingredient diet is a good place to begin.

Why limited ingredient diets?

Many pet parents rely on limited ingredient diets to safely feed pets that have sensitivities, intolerances and allergies to a specific protein or grain. The reason is these diets stick to a simple list of ingredients, one protein and carbs that are known to be easier on the system. All the while, they also provide complete nutrition for your pet.

But limited ingredient diets can also be a gentle introduction to rotational feeding for dogs with sensitive stomachs. Before you begin rotational feeding in earnest with NutriSource, start with the limited ingredient PureVita line.

How to introduce PureVita for a dog’s sensitive stomach

  • Start with one food, one flavor. Watch your dog for signs of irritation.
  • Once your dog is established with a particular flavor, say, Chicken and Brown Rice, you can then rotate to a new protein in the line, perhaps salmon and potato, or pork and peas, or venison and red lentils.
  • If a formula in the line isn’t agreeing with your pet, try a new one.
  • Once you have a handle on what works with your dog and what doesn’t, you can then jump to other foods in the NutriSource line, so you can get the rotation in a smaller number of formulas. The proprietary gut-healing Good 4 Life supplements will make dinner more digestible and more bioavailable to your pet, and you should see an improvement in how he looks, feels and smells.

Learn all about our Good 4 Life system: Why this gut health solution makes your dog’s rotational diet easier on his system.

Healthy gut, healthy mutt! That’s the NutriSource way

Good 4 Life is found only in NutriSource. This proprietary line of supplements that supports gut health is found across the entire NutriSource line — grain-inclusive, single-ingredient, grain-free and wet entrees — so you can start practicing rotational feeding with ease to help your dog live a long and healthy life.

Shop local and buy NutriSource at a local, independent pet retailer.