Home Podcast TOP #65: How and Why to Add Variety to Your Dog’s Diet

TOP #65: How and Why to Add Variety to Your Dog’s Diet

Many pet owners continue to consistently buy the same brand of dog food for their pet, but some experts argue that it's important to add variety into your dog's diet. On the other hand, changing the dog's food too often can cause digestive problems. The key is to find the right balance.

I spoke with Brooke Sloate, director of product development at pawTree, a company that developed superfood toppers for pet foods that add balance, nutrition, variety, and flavor to the diet without having to switch your pup's food. Brooke explained in more detail why such variety is important and how you can use toppers to improve your dog's diet without having to switch between different pet food brands.

Listen to the episode in the video above and find the full podcast transcript below. For more, visit this episode’s post on the official Theory of Pets website.

Adding Variety to Your Dog's Diet
(podcast transcript)

How to Add Variety to Your Dog's Diet

Samantha: You enjoy variety in the food you eat, right? We all do. Of course. Sometimes, you feel like spicy foods. Sometimes you enjoy pasta. You might want different foods for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. You don't want to eat the same meal day in and day out for every meal every day.

Did you ever think about the fact that your dog probably doesn't want to do that either? Research shows that pets like variety, just like we do, and you can see that reflected in the pet industry with all the different flavors of dog food, treats, cat food, and cat treats. There's so much out there.

The problem is if you're feeding your dog a commercial diet, changing that food every day, going from one kibble in the morning to a different type of kibble at night, that's going to have an effect on your digestive system. Every product is made with different ingredients, and switching those ingredients quickly like that is going to upset the digestive tract.

Today, I had the chance to speak with Brooke Sloate, and she is the director of product development at a company called PawTree. PawTree has found a really unique way to help us add variety to our pet's diet without having to change food constantly and have any digestive problems.

Brooke has over 20 years of experience developing a wide range of innovative pet products, from pet food and treats to pet accessories. She learned from some of the best in the pet industry when she worked for a variety of pet companies that include Nature's Variety, Hills, Mars, Pet Mate, Applica, and Sergeant's. She's also worked for Tupperware early in her career, which is where she was first introduced to the powerful model of direct selling.

Now, if you don't know what direct sales is, I'm sure you've come into contact with it. Things like Tupperware, Pampered Chef, any of those companies. There are some nutritional supplement companies. Thrive is really big right now. Clothing does it like LuLaRoe. So basically instead of having a storefront or retailers all over the country that supply or keep their products in stock, they have direct sales consultants that work with people to sell products.

This is a really great model for selling products because whoever is selling it to you, they have their own personal story. Chances are they're in your circle somewhere. They know you through work. They might be part of your family. They're in your circle of friends.

It's usually someone that you know and trust or someone very close to you knows and trusts, and they have their firsthand experience that's been great with this product. So now they feel so strongly about it and passionate that they're selling it. That's direct selling.

Brooke got experience with that with Tupperware. She's an accomplished marketing executive with diversified experience in marketing, advertising and sales and has worked on both the corporate side with fortune 500 companies as well as the agency side of marketing.

She was actually named one of the 2018 top women in the pet industry by Top Women magazine. So that's really exciting. She earned a bachelor of science in Business Administration with a major in marketing from the University of Southern California in Los Angeles.

So today I spoke with Brooke. She is, as I said, the director of product development at PawTree. PawTree is a direct sales company and they are one of the only direct sales companies in the pet industry. So I wanted to learn more about what makes direct sales so different and so effective. And also, like I said, the PawTree products, they have found a really unique way to add variety into your pet's diet. They also offer commercial cat and dog food. So if you're interested in commercial products, they certainly offer that. But they've found a unique way to add variety. So I'm going to let Brooke tell you more about that.

Interview with Brooke Sloate

Samantha: So, can you tell me a little bit about PawTree?

Brooke: Wow. Where shall I start?

PawTree was founded by Roger Morgan, who had been a CEO in the pet industry for more than a decade. Roger realized that there was a need for quality pet products and a need to empower parents to care for their pets with better pet nutrition. Its ultimate goal is to make a significant difference in both pets and their people's lives. In fact, our company vision—it's, create a world filled with unconditional love for pets and their people thrive.

People mistakenly think that PawTree is about just selling pet nutrition. And yes, we do sell phenomenal pet nutrition, like dog and cat food, delicious treats, and amazing stuff in it. But what we're really all about is changing the lives of pets and their people.

PawTree is different because we're a direct sales company, which means our products are not sold to retail outlets. Roger chose the direct selling industry because he knows that people listen to the people they know and trust when it comes to making decisions for their pets. So, our salespeople, known as our pet pros, share our PawTree products with the people they know through their relationships. This way of selling also enables us, PawTree, to control our product quality, which is very important to us.

We develop products based on their efficaciousness—basically, how well they work. And it's imperative to us that our product makes a difference in pets' lives, which ultimately makes a difference in a person's life. It's important to us that PawTree pets thrive in their lives and not just survive.

Samantha: Great. And I just want everybody listening also to know that I had the opportunity to try some of your PawTree seasonings with our girls. And they can see my review of those products. There's a link underneath this interview for anybody who wants to check that out.

But our dogs loved them, and I love the direct sales concept. I think, as you said when you hear it from people that you know and that you trust, you're definitely more apt to do it yourself.

I thought that was kind of unique, especially in the pet industry. You don't see a lot of direct sales companies. So that was interesting to me.

How did the concept of Paw Pairings, the pet food super food seasonings, come about in the first place?

Brooke: Well, we knew the reality that pets crave variety. This was actually researched. And we know that they enjoy it. But unfortunately, if you think about it, they eat the same exact thing every single day of their entire lives. And we considered the concept of giving them a different food every day to give them that variety that they crave, but unfortunately, their digestive tracts are very sensitive, and eating a different food each day would cause stomach upset. So, this really wasn't a viable option.

So the challenge was how to change their food, to just give them a different taste sensation every day without the tummy upset. And that's how our Paw Pairings super food seasoning was born.

See, the seasoning is just that. It's a seasoning. It's not the mainstay of their diet so they can have something different every day or every meal in fact, and not have any digestive issues. We have 10 different varieties so they never know what they're going to get. They just love this stuff.

Samantha: And what type of ingredients do the seasonings include and why would those ingredients be valuable to our pets?

Brooke: OK. So I mentioned we have 10 different varieties. And we have medleys, which is the chicken liver, turkey, duck, beef, salmon, ocean fish and chicken. We also have three blends, our Asian blend, Mexican, and Italian. Each of our medleys include real meat protein that's freeze dried, eight nutritious super foods, which are pumpkin, sweet potatoes, kale, tomatoes, carrots, cranberries, pomegranates and blueberries, and a proprietary vitamin blend. The super foods and the vitamin blend, provide micronutrients that are very important to a pet's overall health. We also use very high quality ingredients in our products and that makes a big difference.

Samantha: A lot of those ingredients are ones that a lot of pet parents use themselves and would commonly have in their kitchen. Could we just take those same ingredients, that same concept, and mix in, say sweet potatoes or something similar into our dog's regular food and get the same effect?

Brooke: Well, actually, no. The answer is no. You wouldn't have the same effect. Because if you did that, you'd often see that the pet would eat around it or spit it out. You see, like kids, it's sometimes difficult to get our pets to eat fruits and vegetables. So we carefully formulated our Paw Pairings so there's a good mix of these nutrition super foods, blended in with it so much it's freeze dried protein that they love.

Samantha: Wow, that's excellent. And I know you had veterinarians involved in the development of these products as well. What input did they provide and why do veterinarian support Paw Pairings?

Brooke: We have an amazing veterinary advisory council as well as various accomplished vets who's helped us with our formulation. So the vets gave guidance as to the most nutritious super foods and amounts pets would need to benefit most from these micronutrients. Veterinarians on our advisory council are big fans of our Paw Pairings. They know our PawTree standards for quality and love the Paw Pairings because they're good for all dogs and all cats, any age or any breed. The Paw Pairings provide variety and delicious nutrition, and the super foods help to boost the pet's immune system. They also help pets that are picky eaters and pets who are on prescription diets that won't eat them. Our Paw Pairings can help with that too.

Samantha: Oh, that's fantastic. I hadn't even thought about that. I often get asked how to help a dog that's a picky eater. And this is a great way to do that.

I know a lot of dogs… It seems like especially for some reason with the kidney diet prescription diets, they don't like that taste, so this would be a great way to spice it up and entice them to eat. That's awesome.

Brooke: Yes. Samantha. You know what's interesting about that is that the prescription diets are really formulated. I mean, yes, the bonus is they tasted good, but they're really formulated for that disease state. And sometimes the pets just don't enjoy the taste of it, especially when they're not feeling well. But they need to have those diets in order to get better. So the Paw Pairings is a great way to get those pests to eat the things, the diet that they need to eat to get better.

Samantha: Absolutely. And how do pet parents—we talked a little bit about it with dogs that don't want to eat—but what are other ways that pet parents use the product? And do you have any tips to mix it up a little bit?

Brooke: All a pet parent needs to do is put whatever food they're feeding in their pet bowl, whether it's PawTree food or something else, and sprinkle the Paw Pairings variety of their choice on top of it. We even developed recipes for pet parents to change things up a bit.

So for instance, they can make turducken simply by sprinkling on three different Paw Pairings. Our turkey medley, duck medley, and chicken medley. Or they can make surf and turf with our salmon and beef Paw Pairing. They can even mix and match and incorporate some of our delicious Paw Treats by breaking them up over the food and adding some of our Paw Pairings on top. We have a whole host of recipes that we provide our customers every time they order from us. It comes right in their Paw Box.

Samantha: Oh, that's fantastic. I love the Turducken idea. That's a great one.

Brooke: A lot of people do,

Samantha: And I know you guys released new regional cuisine varieties in this late summer with flavors like the Asian, Mexican and Italian that you mentioned. What inspired that new line? And what so far have pet parents been saying about them?

Brooke: Oh my goodness, Samantha. These are amazingly popular. The regional cuisines were inspired by popular dishes from different regions around the world as well as popular takeout dishes. So everyone loves Chinese food, right? And our Asian blend is a combination of freeze dried duck and chicken, the same eight fruits and vegetables as in the medleys, our proprietary vitamin blend, and we added red and green bell peppers, oranges and broccoli. This is simply delicious.

Samantha: Oh, wow.

Brooke: Yeah, this is great.

We have two other varieties. Our Mexican was fashioned after Mexican food, because that's a popular food. So when pet parents are enjoying Taco Tuesday, their pet can enjoy Mexican blend, which is a combination of our freeze dried beef and chicken, again, the eight super foods and a proprietary vitamin blend, and the added tomatoes, Monterey Jack and Cheddar cheeses, and black beans. Again, really yummy. And of course, there's Italian food which people loved. So when pet parents are enjoying their pasta, their pets can enjoy our Italian blend, which is our freeze dried beef, again, with the eight super foods and proprietary vitamin blend and tomatoes, Mozzarella cheese and spinach. Again, these pets—pets just love these. These have been flying out the door.

Samantha: That's fantastic. And I know you have five Shih Tzus; we talked about that when I spoke with you earlier, and I know that smaller dogs can sometimes be picky eaters; it's quite common. Are any of your five picky eaters? And do you see a difference using the Paw Pairing blends? Do they have any particular flavors that they like or anything like that?

Brooke: They love them all. I'm actually very lucky. My girls are generally good eaters because they love their PawTree food.

But there is something about these Paw Pairings and I do have a fun story. I remember one time, I was on the phone with Roger, and it was around dinner time. So I put down the girls' food for them and continued my conversation with Roger. But I noticed when I glanced over that all five of them were standing by their bowls and looking up at me all at the same time. I didn't know what was going on until I realized I forgot to sprinkle their Paw Pairings on their food. So once I did, they didn't look up from the bowls again until their food was all gone. It was amazing. And this is what happens every time, because I change up what I put on their food every single meal, every single day. They don't know what they're going to get.

Samantha: It's funny. We have a chocolate lab who will literally eat anything, so I never have to worry about her, but we also have a little beagle mix and she is picky. As far as the variety, she'll eat kibble or wet food, homemade, she's not fussy about the texture or anything, but the flavor certainly, she's picky about. And if I feed the same kibble day after day, she'll eat it eventually. But when I put it in her bowl in the morning, she'll just sort of pick away at it for awhile, a little bit at a time until it's gone. And so what I was doing to get her to eat in the morning and at night because our Labrador will come behind her and clean up if she hasn't finished. So what I would do is add a little bit of homemade food or just throw some… If we had like some green beans and some meat leftover from dinner the night before, I just kind of throw some pieces on there to entice her to eat. And once we did, we tried the PawTree Paw Pairings, it was super easy. I didn't have to worry about that anymore.

And it's funny that you call them sprinkles too and that's what we always say. So, I put the sprinkles on her food and she eats it every day. We've never had a problem since. She doesn't pick at it slowly. She eats it all at once.

Again, like I said, I reviewed those, so people can check that out if they want more information about my personal experience with it as well.

Brooke: That is fantastic. In fact, I'm just glancing over right now. So I have — the girls have their food out and my one dog Coco, for some reason, lays down and eats, I don't know why; she never stands. But she lays between two of the bowl, and she alternates and eats between both of them because I put different Paw Pairings on each of the bowls, so that they could go to one bowl, or the first bowl was the fifth bowl and they'll have something different. But she literally lays between two. And she does this often; she's doing it right now. And she just lays down and eats alternating between the bowls. It's cute. [laughs]

Samantha: That's funny. Our dogs love it as well. Like I said, our lab, she's really… It's hard to find something she won't eat, so it's not so difficult with her. But certainly our beagle, Paw Pairings have definitely helped getting her to eat regular meals.

We did used to free feed. She's the older one, so we used to free feed her until the lab came and now we can't do that anymore. So it was an adjustment getting her to eat morning and night. But she's doing it now with help from the Paw Pairing, so that was really great for us.

Brooke: Oh, that's fantastic. I'm glad to hear it. And this is the experience that we're seeing with everybody. In fact, a lot of people post on Facebook, their pets of running to the bowl when they put the sprinkles on. They love it.

Samantha: You've been in the pet industry for more than 20 years now. What actually drove you into the field and why do you stay with it? I mean, obviously you must really love it if you've been in it for 20 or more years.

Brooke: Yes, I do. I have always loved pets. There's something I'm very passionate about. So when I was lucky enough to get my first experience in the pet industry, I was hooked. I loved developing products that truly make a difference in the pet's life and I've been able to do amazing things here at PawTree because of Roger's vision. I honestly can't see myself doing anything else.

Samantha: Oh, that's fantastic. That's exactly how it happened for me too. I sort of fell into the pet industry. But once I was in, I was hooked, and now… We obviously love our pets and it's great to have them at home and to be able to work, and do that. It's just fabulous. And I agree with you. I wouldn't want to do anything else.

Brooke: Exactly. Exactly.

Samantha: And what advice do you have for pet owners who are just realizing that, you know, after hearing this interview — oh my gosh, I've been feeding my dog the exact same meal every morning, every evening—for however many years or months that they've been doing that without changing their diet?

Brooke: But that's the truth. And that's an a-ha moment for most pet parents. They don't realize that they're feeding the same thing every single day, day in and day out to their pets.

Now, someone can try Paw Pairings, and just try one variety, but then if you think about it, they're still feeding the same thing every day, they just added the Paw Pairing.

Samantha: Right.

Brooke: So it's really important if you're going to try this, to try several. I mean, I would definitely say get three; five is better. I mean, we have 10\. So you can alternate all different varieties. But it's really good to see the effect to at least have three on hand if not more so that you can see how your pets enjoy them.

And again, there's really no risk with PawTree, because we have 100 percent satisfaction guarantee. So we really want people to try these and see how much their pets enjoy them and — just just try them out and see.

Samantha: Yeah. And I have recommended them now, actually, to a few friends and to a couple of family members as well.

The other thing that I noticed, one, they're very affordable. As far as supplements, natural products, healthier alternatives, I think in the human industry as well, but especially with pets, the healthier things are the more expensive they seem to be to the point where sometimes, you know, they're just not affordable at all. But the Paw Pairings are very affordable on any budget. And I always recommend them to people, because I know that we can't all, no matter how much we want to, we can't all afford to feed top quality super nutrition food. Some of us have to feed a cheaper kibble, maybe not the bottom of the barrel of course, but, you know, not something that's as healthy as we'd like it to be. So the Paw Pairings, another benefit to me was just how easy it is to add that little boost of super foods to your dog's diet every day without having to spend a ton of money and without having to like create meals or anything like that that's really time consuming.

Brooke: A lot of times people don't realize that when you feed a higher end food—so for instance, if you were feeding grocery brand and then you decide to feed a higher end food like PawTrees, like you'll end up actually feeding less of the PawTree than you would expect, because our food is nutritionally dense. So the pet gets much more nutrition out of a smaller amount and they get fuller faster. But we do not have any fillers in our food.

So an example could be, you might see two cups of a lower end brand and one cup of PawTree. And I'm just giving you an example. But you will end up feeding less. So we are a little bit more expensive, but you'll end up feeding less in the long run.

Samantha: And I think another important point just because this is kind of one of my soap box things that I'm always preaching to pet parents about a higher quality food. The better nutrition you can feed your dog, the better his health is going to be overall. And of course that's what we all want for our pets and to be as healthy as possible for as long as possible. So another thing that people could factor in when they're thinking about a higher end food is, you know, you might be spending a little bit more on the food you're feeding every day, but think of the money that it's going to save you in the long run when your pet's not having some of the more common health problems that have been linked to poor nutrition.

Brooke: You're 100 percent right. And some of our veterinarians and our advisor council basically say — feed good nutrition now or come see us. Pay for good nutrition now, or pay us later. And that is the reality.

Samantha: That is the reality. And so many pet parents, they don't think of that. I mean, for anybody listening, whether you're getting a dog or you have an adult dog—one, it's never too late to start feeding better nutrition, and two, if it's possible and you're thinking about adopting or you just adopted a puppy, it really starts from day one, with a proper puppy food all the way up through adulthood and into their senior years.

Brooke: Yep. You're 100 percent right.

Samantha: I need to say a huge thank you to Brooke. It was great for her to be on today. She had some really wonderful information.

For anybody who's looking for more information about PawTree, you can jump on their website. There's a link below this interview for that. There's also some research on variety in pet diets and things like that that you can check out on our website.

PREVIOUS PODCAST: A Guide for Leash Training Your Dog

Samantha’s biggest passion in life is spending time with her Boxer dogs. After she rescued her first Boxer in 2004, Samantha fell in love with the breed and has continued to rescue three other Boxers since then. She enjoys hiking and swimming with her Boxers, Maddie and Chloe.