One of the questions I’m asked most in my veterinary clinic is how frequently dogs should be fed.
It’s an understandable area of concern for dog owners. A dog that is overfed will be more likely end up obese and could suffer some pretty nasty related health conditions including degenerative joint disease and cancer.
At the other end of the scale, underfed dogs can end up malnourished, a condition that suppresses the immune system, leaving dogs prone to infection and disease, and vulnerable to parasites which place further strain on their bodily function.
I like to see my doggie patients display a healthy appetite but a thin waistline! In general the dogs I see that are on the lighter side of their target weight consistently suffer fewer health issues than those carrying too much timber!
How often you feed your dog will be dictated by the following five key factors:
1. How old is your dog?
A growing puppy will require more protein in the diet, and as they’re growing their metabolic rate requires significantly higher food input than an adult dog of similar size. I’d recommend feeding puppies three meals a day until they are aged between 8 and 10 weeks, reducing this to twice-daily feeds until their rapid growth phase has passed which can be anything from 8 months of age for a small dog to two years old for a large breed.
2. How big is your dog?
Provided you are feeding a perfectly balanced diet that meets all of your dog’s nutritional requirements, the only difference between feeding large and small breed dogs should be portion size. Adult dogs – particularly the large and giant breeds – can be maintained on one meal a day, while small breeds, which have a higher metabolic rate may require two feeds per day to meet their energy requirements.
3. What type of diet are you feeding your dog?
Your choice of dog diet – kibble vs canned food and roll vs raw food, influences how much you feed your dog because the moisture levels within these foods varies.
Good quality pet foods will include feeding frequencies on their nutritional guides. Use this information as a guide only because the age of your dog, the amount of exercise it gets, its metabolic rate will vary from dog to dog.
4. Is your bitch pregnant or lactating?
Gestating bitches require extra nutrition – up to twice their normal intake during pregnancy and up to three times the norm during lactation – to support the energy requirements of their growing puppies. This may mean they require three substantial meals a day.
5. Do you want to give your dog an extra nutritional boost?
There’s growing evidence that if you replace your dog’s regular meal once or twice a week with a feed of raw, meaty bones (AKA a bone fast) it will have benefits for your pet’s bodily function including joint health, oral hygiene and their bone strength.
Personally I take the middle line with my dogs. I give them a feed of raw meaty bones once a week in place of their regular meal, which is in line with the bone fasting principle and is also great for their dental health. Also note that there is increasing evidence that fasting is beneficial to a dog’s body function and metabolism.
Dr Bruce Syme BVSc (Hons), Founder of Vets All Natural.
Dr Bruce Syme is a practicing vet and expert in natural pet nutrition, has spoken at the Australian Veterinary Association Annual Conference, and provides regular comment on TV and Radio.
Disclaimer: The entire contents of this article are based upon the opinions of Dr. Bruce Syme, unless otherwise noted. The information is not intended as medical advice, it simply shares the knowledge and information from the research and experience of Dr. Bruce and his community. Pet health care decisions should be based upon your research and in partnership with a qualified pet health care professional.
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