Let’s talk about how often a dog should eat and what your dog’s eating schedule should look like. Once you know this, your canine will have a better life.
Most of us have our breakfast at around 6 to 8 in the morning, lunch between 11 and 1, and then dinner at 7 to 8 in the evening. But does this mean our dogs will have the same routine as well? Do you give them breakfast early in the day, followed by lunch and dinner, or could that risk possibly over-feeding them?
As you know, dogs love food. No matter how much you feed them, they will always watch you with those big puppy eyes and ask you for more.
Here’s a look at the best feeding options to keep your dog healthy and well-fed, no matter their age.
How Often Should Dogs Eat?
First off, it’s important to understand that one guideline doesn’t fit every dog. When it comes to a dog’s nutrition, mean portion size is far more important than frequency.
Not all dogs can or need to eat the amount recommended by the food manufacturers. The right amount should produce firm, dark brown, crinkly stools. If the stools are firm but get softer towards the end, this is a classic sign of overfeeding.
Dogs have simple stomach anatomy, just like humans. Once the stomach is filled with food, it will empty within a few hours.
This is why most veterinarians recommend feeding adult dogs about twice a day, providing an 8 to 12-hour window in between feedings.
Although an 8 to 12-hour interval may sound like a long time, the canine stomach generally takes 4 to 6 hours to fully digest food and hunger signals aren’t sent to the brain until at least 8 hours after a dog has last eaten.
Most importantly, these two meals should be provided at the exact same time every day.
Feedings should be anywhere from eight to twelve hours apart, which means if you feed your dog at 7 AM, you should feed your dog at 7 PM.
This applies to dogs who are healthy and physically fit. If a dog has any special dietary needs, allergies, or any infection, he might need a different feeding schedule, specially created for his needs.
Remember, feeding your dog too infrequently can lead to a lack of nutrition while feeding too often can lead to obesity.
I know, caloric calculations are some heady stuff. Fortunately, several pet-health organizations produce charts that can give you a good starting point. For example, the World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA) produces a good one. You can simply find your dog’s weight, and then look over to see how many calories he needs.
Some people simply feed their dog once per day, but this isn’t ideal. In most cases, you should spread out your dog’s calories over the course of two or three meals.
But what affects how often a dog should eat? There are three main factors. So let’s look at each of them separately.
Factors That Affect Eating Frequency
How often should I feed my dog? The truth is that the answer to this question is dependent on your dog’s age, size, and activity level.
Puppies are growing and need all the nutrients they can get to grow healthy and strong. Because of this, puppies should be fed 4 times a day, bringing this down to 3 meals a day at the age of 4 months until your pup is 6 months.
A dog feeding schedule for most adult dogs should include time to eat twice a day. This keeps their metabolism stable and aids in digestion.
As dogs reach their golden years, their desire to eat may reduce because of inactivity or health issues. A good dog feeding schedule for senior dogs is also feeding twice a day. However, feed senior dogs smaller amounts since their activity are limited.
Your dog’s breed won’t have as much of an impact on their dietary needs as their size will.
Toy/Small breeds burn energy much faster than large breeds and should be fed more frequently – about 3 small meals a day. This is because they can become hypoglycemic (low blood sugar) and need food to keep their blood sugar up.
At the same time, giant breed dogs usually need to consume more calories to maintain weight. But you don’t want to overfeed at a single meal because this can increase the risk of bloat. For this reason, meals are spread out to two or three per day.
For all other medium-sized dog breeds, two meals a day, once in the morning and once in the evening, should be quite sufficient.
3. Activity Level
Activity level is another factor that determines how often your dog should eat. Keep in mind that the feeding recommendations on dog food packages are based on average adult dogs with normal activity levels.
However, if your dog roams your backyard all day chasing squirrels, or gets a lot of daily exercise by going on daily runs or hikes with you, he’ll probably need to replenish more calories than a dog who stays indoors lounging most of the day until you get home from work.
Also if you have a working breed such as a Border Collie or Vizla, you may need to feed it three times a day. These dogs have very high metabolic rates which essentially means they process their food a lot faster. That said, you’d have to feed them more frequently.
Dogs Feeding Schedules
Once you have an idea of how often your dog should eat, you can get down to a proper dog feeding schedule. The key is to ensure that they are not given more food than what is recommended by your veterinarian.
For the dog who would never stop eating, use the portion control method. With portion-controlled meal feeding, your dog is given meals at set times every day.
The food is measured to meet the pet’s daily calorie and nutrient needs, so you control how much your pet eats and when. If you are using commercial dog food, feed your dog the amount printed on the bag that fits with its ideal weight.
For most dogs, portion-controlled meal feeding is the method of choice. Feeding your dog several smaller meals rather than one large meal helps keep him full for more of the day.
For dogs who are a healthy weight and aren’t having accidents in the house, you may be able to use the free feeding method.
Free feeding is when you keep your dog’s food bowl full all the time and let your dog eat whenever it’s hungry. This means the dog gets to eat whenever it feels like eating.
This may work for some breeds, especially if they’re very active or stay outside a lot of the day. However, for dogs that always have access to their food, there is a better chance of them eating more than they need, which can lead to problems as they get older, such as excessive weight gain or health issues like heart disease or diabetes.
Additionally, if there is more than one dog in the household, the most aggressive or largest dog will often eat all of the food, leaving the other animals in the home hungry, and potentially making themselves sick due to overeating.
Getting your dog on a proper feeding schedule is crucial to their health. It could be a little daunting for new doggie parents to create a solid feeding schedule that best optimizes your dog’s health and well-being.
Remember, dogs are creatures of habit. When dogs eat on a regular schedule, that habit becomes strong.
Overall, the best monitor for your dog’s needs is your dog themselves. If they are perfectly healthy but not eating all of their food, you may be overfeeding them. If they are hungry all the time, they may be missing key nutrients.
The amount, speed, and how they digest their food will give you a good sense of their health, activity level, and general happiness.