One of the most common questions we’re asked is ‘how much should I feed my dog?’ and it’s an important question to ask because we are responsible for our pet’s health and wellbeing, and feeding them the right amount of food for their age and lifestyle will help to keep them healthy for longer.
And so this month, with the help of Sure Petcare we will answer this all-important question and look into how the latest pet tech may be able to help owners concerned about their dog’s calorie intake.
Why Puppies Should Be Fed More Regularly Than Adult Dogs
First things first, let’s address puppies and how often puppies should be fed because these youngsters go through many stages and it’s important that their growth is supported nutritionally.
Therefore puppies are usually fed more frequently than adult and senior dogs and their diets usually contain higher levels of protein and fat than adult dog food to give them the additional support for their mental and physical development.
A good rule of thumb for puppies, according to some dog food companies, is to feed dogs up to six meals a day for very young puppies, dropping to two meals a day, depending on the dog’s breed, for puppies aged six months heading into adulthood. This is to give young dogs the right nutrients for body and cognitive development.
Here’s what some of the larger dog food companies recommend:
From starting to offer food to weaning (usually two months) – feed four-six meals a day.
From two to three months – feed four meals a day.
From four to six months - feed two-three meals a day.
Over six months - feed two meals a day (depending on the dog’s breed).
All dogs are different though and so this is a good rule of thumb to follow but for more accurate advice for your puppy as they grow older, speak with your vet at one of your regular health checks to get their opinion on what’s right for your dog.
Now we’ve covered puppies, let’s move onto adult dogs!
Some adult dogs are fed once a day, some twice a day. In some instances, it depends on the type of food you want to feed, as well as the dog and owner’s routine and dog’s digestive system. Some dogs with a sensitive digestive system suit being fed twice a day better, for example.
Your vet can help you set a schedule that considers all of this to help you make sure your adult dog’s feeding schedule is right for them.
Here are a few other things we think you need to know to be as informed as possible.
Why Different Breeds Should Always Be Fed Differently
Different breeds have different requirements for a variety of reasons, size being the main one. A Chihuahua’s calorie needs will differ greatly from a Great Dane, for example.
So it’s important to know how much you should feed your dog based on their breed and how to assess their body condition score so you know that your dog is consuming the right nutrients and calories for their size and lifestyle.
Sure Petcare explains more about body condition scoring and how to tell if a dog’s being fed the right amount.
“Dogs come in all shapes and sizes, so it can be hard to determine if a dog is being overfed or they are gaining weight. The best way to determine if your dog is getting the right amount of food is to check their body condition score (BCS). This is similar to the way that we use body mass index (BMI) to assess body weight in people. It gives a much more accurate indication of healthy weight than just putting your dog on the scales.
“Your vet can assess your dog’s body condition score and show you how you can check it yourself at home.
“To check your dog’s BCS, place your hands flat on either side of your dog’s chest and stroke them gently. You shouldn’t feel their ribs at this point. Then do the same with your fingertips. Without pressing too hard, you should be able to feel their ribs.
“If you have to push quite hard with your fingers to feel their ribs, then your dog may be carrying too much weight. Put a reminder in your calendar to check your dog’s BCS every 6 months. If your dog experiences a lifestyle change, you should check that their BCS hasn’t been affected. A period of illness, a change in diet or low activity in winter can all affect their BCS.”
How to Tell If Your Dog Is Overweight
Being overweight can impact on a dog’s health and can even be fatal. How a dog’s body works, much like a human’s, when overweight changes considerably and people and dogs are more prone to illnesses such as arthritis, diabetes and heart problems.
But a dog’s weight may only be one sign that a dog is being fed to much for their activity levels and lifestyle, Sure Petcare tells us.
“The first sign that body weight isn’t optimal may be a change in your dog’s activity levels and tolerance of heat and exercise.
“Overweight dogs tend to pant a lot in hot weather and they may become sluggish on longer walks that they previously coped well with. It’s easy to miss changes in your dog’s activity levels because they are not always easy to spot.
“For example, during a walk in the park, a young, fit dog will move around a lot more than you do; if you walk two miles, your dog might walk four miles! As dogs get heavier, they may not walk and run around quite as much, but because your walk is still two miles long, you might not realise that your dog is exercising less.
“One way to overcome this is to use an activity tracker that keeps a record of your dog’s activity levels and energy expenditure. The information that it provides could also guide the amount of food you give your dog, so that you never give too much or too little. In general, body condition score (BCS) is the best way to spot that your dog is getting too much or too little food for their current activity levels. “
What to Do If Your Dog Is Put on a Diet
Obesity is one of the biggest health crises affecting modern society. If your dog has been put on a diet to help them lose weight, focus on the future and what to do next to help your dog achieve their target weight. Sure Petcare gives us this final piece advice on how to have fun achieving your dog’s goal.
“The most important advice would be to stick to your vet’s instructions, go for regular weigh-ins and learn how to monitor your dog’s body condition score (BCS). Focus on the positive aspects of weight loss: dogs that are of healthy body weight are more playful, more active, they have fewer health problems and they live longer.
“If you used to give your dog food treats, replace these with lots of interactive play, cuddles, doggie play dates and exciting walks. Take advantage of the increased fitness and playfulness your dog exhibits as they lose weight.
“But we all lead busy lives, so you might find it hard to fit extra activities with your dog into your daily routine. One way to manage this is to schedule your leisure time and set reminders on your smartphone calendar to walk your dog or play a game with them. Activity trackers can be a useful way to set exercise targets to achieve with your dog, and they can also show you that your dog is naturally becoming more active during walks.”