Meal Time Matters:
How Often and How Much Should I Feed My Dog
Maybe you just got a new dog. Or maybe you’ve noticed that your resident furry friend has put on a few lbs over the past few months. Whatever the case, “How often should I feed my dog?” and “How much food should I feed my dog?” are two questions that face many owners at some point in time.
When it comes to how often to feed, most owners typically feed twice a day. Usually this involves dividing your dog’s recommended daily food intake into two meals and spacing them eight to twelve hours apart.
There are some exceptions to the two-meal-a-day philosophy, however. Many puppies who are five-months-old or younger need to be fed multiple times a day. Some veterinarians also recommend that nursing mothers get fed by the free-choice method where a dog’s food is made available at all times — allowing her to eat as much as she wants, whenever she wants. Then there are also dogs with specific dietary requirements who may need to eat more or less frequently. In general, you should consult with your veterinarian for a specific recommendation on how often you should feed your dog.
Finally, when feeding your dog, consistency is very important. Consistency not only in food type, but also in the amount of food you feed your dog each day, the number of times you feed him, and the time of day you feed him are all important factors. Do your best to develop a feeding plan that emphasizes as much regularity as possible. Doing so will help keep him on a predictable bathroom schedule and help you not forget to feed him.
Unfortunately, the answer for how much you should be feeding your dog isn’t as straightforward as most would like. Commercial dog foods all have different formulations, making it difficult to provide a single guideline that addresses how much every dog should be fed. So it is best to begin by looking at the guidelines found on your dog’s food package.
Keep in mind, however, that even these recommendations are only starting points. Every dog is unique. The amount of food needed to help keep one dog at an ideal body condition may be different for a similar-sized dog of a different age and activity level. With that being said, here are some things you’ll need to factor into those guidelines when determining exactly how much food to feed your dog.
Activity Level: Is your dog particularly active or is he a couch dweller? Questions like these are important when figuring out how much food to feed your dog. If your dog engages in a lot of hard exercise every day — like accompanying you on long runs, performing countless agility exercises in the backyard, or just wanting to play around non-stop — then you may need to increase the amount of food you feed him to ensure he has the needed calories and nutrients to support all that activity. On the flip side, if your dog is not particularly active and not burning as many calories as the average dog, you may want to cut back on how much food you feed him.
Age: Age also plays a significant role in how much food to feed a dog. Puppies generally have higher metabolisms and higher nutritional requirements than adult and senior dogs, and must consume enough food to help them through this period of rapid growth. Adult dogs that have reached their full size potential need just enough food to maintain an ideal weight for their breed size.
Weight and Breed Size: It is no big secret that weight greatly impacts a human’s health. For dogs, it is no different. If your dog is overweight, you may need to adjust the feeding recommendation that’s on the bag or can. Meanwhile, if your dog is underweight you may need to feed him a little more food than the recommended amount.
Your Vet’s Recommendation: In all cases, it is best to consult your veterinarian. He or she can advise you on the appropriate feeding amounts based on your dog’s physical and behavioral characteristics as well as his breed’s ideal weight range.