One of the first few questions asked by new dog owners is, “How much food should I feed my dog? How do I know if I am feeding too much/little?”
The short answer is, no one can answer this question for you. You have to combine information from various sources to portion food suitably for your dog.
For the longer answer, you will have to continue reading the post.
I will have to admit that we overfed our family’s first dog and did not realize it until we brought her to the veterinarian. She was a lovely Shih-Tzu that loved to laze around the house, always eager to eat anything given to her. After the trip to the vet, we became more conscious about the amount of food we fed her and our subsequent dogs.
Underfeeding your dog will lead to malnutrition while overfeeding your dog will lead to obesity. For most owners, underfeeding is unlikely as most dogs will beg for more food if they did not have enough. The chances of overfeeding are much higher than underfeeding, especially if owners cannot tell the difference between an obese dog and a normal-weight dog.
In this post, I will cover the following aspects:
- Some information on obesity in dogs
- How to choose the right amount of food
- Other considerations you might want to include
What Is Obesity?
The World Health Organization defines obesity in humans as “abnormal or excessive fat accumulation that presents a risk to health.”
In dogs, obesity in dogs is not that different. Obese dogs have more fats than are healthy for them and may give rise to other health issues such as difficulty moving, breathing, and possibly reduced lifespan.
Obesity is on the rise not only for humans but also for our furry friends . One of the most important factors contributing to obesity in dogs is the type and the amount of food fed to them by their owners .
Therefore, knowing what and how much to feed your dog is crucial to helping him/her maintain a healthy weight.
Choosing the Right Amount
It is hard to answer how much food you should feed your dog as every family’s situation is unique. There are many factors one should take into account when portioning a dog’s food. Therefore, I have listed some guidelines below that may assist you in reaching a conclusion.
Refer to Feeding Guides
Most brands will have a suggested feeding guide printed on the packaging for owners to refer to. The amount listed indicates how much your dog should eat to be well-nourished based on the brand.
That can be your first point of reference, maybe feeding slightly more or less depending on individual circumstances.
Number of Feeding Sessions
The logic is simple here. The more times you feed your dog a day, the lesser the amount you should provide per serving.
For example, if the feeding guide on the food packaging suggests 1 cup of dry kibbles per day and you intend to feed your dog 3 times a day, then each serving you give should be approximately 1/3 of the cup.
Adult dogs should have 2 meals a day, preferably once in the morning and once in the evening, to promote digestive health. Consistent feeding times can also help your dog build an internal routine, which can also help to prevent accidents from occurring in the house.
Puppies, especially those transiting from drinking mother’s milk to solid food, should have more meals in smaller portions. Smaller meals allow puppies to digest more easily and keep their energy level consistent.
Yes, you have to observe your dog’s lifestyle to feed him appropriately.
Remember the feeding guides on the food packaging? That is given based on the assumption that all dogs have the same amount of activity levels, which cannot be further away from the truth,
Dogs that laze around at home should be fed less, while highly active dogs that go for frequent walks and runs should be fed more.
While the three guidelines above are sufficient for most situations, there are times when exceptional circumstances occur. Listed here will be some considerations that owners can think about when they occur.
The diets of pregnant and nursing dogs should be altered depending on their stages to ensure that they are at optimal health. More information provided by the VCA can be found here.
The same applies to dogs recovering from a surgery or infection, as they may be weaker in their immune and digestive systems during this sensitive period.
The rule of thumb is always to ask the veterinarian for dietary suggestions when there are significant changes in your dog’s health.
Usually, commercial dog treats are not fed in amounts that will affect the dog’s overall nutritional intake. However, if there is a period when you know that you will provide lots of treats to your dog, you might want to check out the nutrition guide on the treat packaging and adjust the food given accordingly.
An example of an intensive treat feeding period will be a training period to get your dog to be well-trained before a competition or show.
As for fruits and vegetables given as treats, they should not pose a problem if fed moderate amounts.
Some owners will feed their dogs the leftovers of their meals. I am against this practice as food prepared for humans is usually high in oil and salt, which is not suitable for dogs. Additionally, the food may contain ingredients like garlic and onions, which can be toxic for dogs.
Check out this list of foods that you should never feed your dogs.
However, if you want to engage in this practice, monitor the calorie and nutritional intake of the table scraps you feed your dog. Remember to subtract the corresponding amount from the dog food daily servings.
Dogs that always seem hungry
I have come across owners that tell me that, “I fed them the suggested amount on the food packaging, but they always seem to be hungry for more!”
Usually, such cases may imply one of these circumstances listed below:
- Dogs may be seeking attention from you, especially if you give them the most attention when you feed them. In this case, you can give them the additional attention they want, and they should stop begging for food.
- Your dog requires more food than listed. While it is recommended to follow the servings listed on the feeding guides, they do have a margin of error, especially with dogs with very inactive and active lifestyles. Try feeding your dog more for some time and monitor for any weight gain.
- Your dog receives enough nutritional intake from the food, but the food consumed is not filling. This occurs when you feed your dog more than the recommended amount, and he/she starts putting on weight. When this happens, you might want to change a more filling brand or mix wet food with kibbles.
- Your dog doesn’t know when he/she fills full. Some dogs will gobble up everything you place in front of them, regardless of how full there are. If you have such a dog, all you can do is portion the food and make sure that you do not give him/her any more than required.
You Know Best for Your Dog
While feeding guide recommendations are a reasonable estimate on how much you should feed your dog, they are not absolute. They do have a margin of error, which you should account for and adjust accordingly depending on your dog’s circumstances.
If you are concerned about the exact numbers, you may want to use a calorie calculator. However, do note that such calculators are not a replacement for a proper assessment by the veterinarian. It is always safer to approach a professional if you have any doubts or clarifications.