Feeding Dogs

How Often Should I Feed My Dog?

Ask any dog parent about his or her dog’s eating schedule, and you will hear expressions much like those used to describe spoilt children. Impatient. Guzzler. Obsessive. You might be thinking: How often should I feed my dog? In the world of canine nutrition, twice a day is the norm for an adult dog.

Free-Feeding Versus Scheduled Feeding

What is Free-Feeding?
Free feeding is when one leaves the dog bowl out at all times and the dog is able to eat whenever he pleases. Dog breeds like labs and other breeds that tend to overeat should be fed twice a day, with each portion measured correctly according to his nutritional needs.

Some dogs are notorious for overeating, so they are most definitely not great candidates for free- feeding.

Advantages to Regularly Scheduled meals.

Scheduling mealtimes gets your canine accustomed to eating only at mealtimes. Feeding schedules are developed to increase your dog’s good behavior and eliminate all bad habits that have originated from free-feeding .Two meals a day prevents extreme hunger and enables your dog to predict that at certain times he will have his feed. This in turn boosts his self-esteem and also encourages your furry friend to eat his meals calmly and finish everything in his dog bowl. Some dogs naturally do not eat everything up and are picky eaters. Leave the food in the bowl a little while longer so that your canine can revisit his bowl a few minutes later.

Why Two Meals A Day?
Two meals a day will prevent bloating and put his digestive system on a schedule. Feeding twice a day encourages good behavior and eliminates drooling around the kitchen at other times. Ending-free feeding does help your dog to realize that there are boundaries but that he will always be fed. Nonetheless, his feed times are scheduled and he does not have to depend on free- feeding or table left overs from human meals. This also helps your dog to lose weight since he is not constantly eating. As a pet parent you can also monitor and regulate the amount of food that your canine companion is eating.

Most importantly, scheduled feeding promotes your role as pack leader, since your dog understands that it is you that feeds and are the food provider.

Homemade Diets and Scheduled Feeding
For a variety of reasons, it’s somehow easier to feed a homemade meal on a feeding schedule. Any prepared meal that is not consumed immediately should be stored in an airtight container and refrigerated right away. Salmon, steaks and chicken do not contain preservatives and can get bacteria and fungal contaminants if left at room temperature for a few hours. Feeding schedules based around freshly made meals can be life-changing both in health and eliminating bad habits in your dogs. The average dog should eat 1/2 cups of vegetables and one 1/2 cup serving of fruit a day. To make sure that your dogs are eating this, feeding twice a day allows you to monitor what they are eating. When making a change in your dog’s diet, do so gradually, thus allowing for his digestive system to adjust.

How Often Should I Feed My Puppies?
The first thing you need to know about feeding puppies is that they have a very small reserve of fat and glycogen. Also, if there is not enough milk, puppies are unable to maintain their normal blood glucose concentrations. Unfortunately puppies can become dehydrated very quickly and the first thing you need to work on with your veterinarian is making sure that you are feeding your puppies a balanced diet. Early age feeding starts early at around 3 -4 weeks of age, and it is recommended that a special diet, designed for growth, be fed three to four times a day.

How Often Should I Feed A Pregnant or Lactating Dog?
Special care monitoring of dietary needs to be of priority concern, so as to ensure that the diet of a pregnant or lactating dog is properly balanced and meets all energy requirements. Obese dogs may have smaller litters, a lower rate of conception and also may not produce enough milk. On the other hand, if the pregnant dog is too thin, she may not consume enough calories during gestation to meet her nutritional needs. This in turn will determine the size of her puppies, litter size and her health during gestation. Pregnant and lactating dogs need to be fed three to four times a day starting day 40. After day 40, there is fast fetal growth, with growth peak in weeks 6-8 in pregnancy. If you have dogs at home, make sure to separate the dogs when feeding, so as to ensure the dam is getting the right amount of food.

Senior Dogs
It’s a win win situation for senior dogs today. Better nutrition, better health care is contributing to a longer life span. Studies reveal that more than 40 % of dogs today are 6 years of age and more than 30% are over 11 years of age. Dogs that weigh 50 lb. or less are named senior dogs at ages 11-15 years. Dogs weighing in between 50-90 lb are senior at age 9, while dogs weighing over 90 lb are considered senior at around 7.5 years. Due to a number of health conditions that start to surface as a dog ages, diet has to be taken into consideration, so as to delay kidney, cancer and heart disease. Senior dogs do have a tendency to become overweight so scheduled feeding twice a day works best. Nonetheless, some older dogs lose weight and start decreasing body mass that may necessitate an increase in fat and protein content, although this is debatable. Free-feeding our very old companion dogs a diet that is highly digestible and energy-dense is recommended by most veterinarians.

Article By: Claudia Bensimoun

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