The question of 'how often should I feed my dog?' is one of the most common queries I get asked at my Vets All Natural clinic and many variables must be taken into consideration when making decisions on this aspect of your pet's care.
Image courtesy of Flickr – Jenny
Age of the dog
A young growing puppy will have a significantly higher requirement for protein in the diet, and their metabolic rate during growth requires significantly higher food input, compared to an adult dog of similar size. Some brands like Advance and Canidae will have specific puppy food recipes, packed with extra goodness for growing pups.
I would generally recommend feeding puppies three meals a day until they are between eight and 10 weeks old, reducing feeds to twice a day until a period of rapid growth has passed (which varies from 12 months of age for small breed dogs, right through to two years old for giant breeds).
Size of the dog
As long as the diet you are feeding is perfectly balanced and supplies all the nutritional requirements, quantity is the only difference between feeding a small breed dog and a large breed dog.
Adult dogs can be maintained on one main meal per day, particularly if they are large and giant breed dogs. You can also opt for size specific food like Ivory Coat for large breeds. Small breeds may actually do better with two meals a day roughly 12 hours apart. Smaller sized dog breeds will have a higher metabolic rate than a larger breed dog and will eat a larger volume of food compared to their relative bodyweight.
There is a growing groundswell of evidence to suggest that fasting is actually beneficial to overall body function.
I have adopted a midway position with my dogs and they get what I call a bone fast every week where they get a large feed of raw meaty bones but no main meal. This ticks the box for fasting and helps maintain oral hygiene.
Pregnancy and lactation
Dogs require extra special nutritional intake during gestation to support their growing puppies.
A pregnant dog's food intake increases steadily reaching twice the normal intake around whelping and tripling during lactation (to represent up to three main meals per day).
Type of diet
What you feed your dog, i.e. kibble vs canned vs roll vs raw meat, influences how much you should put in your cat or dog's food bowl.
Moisture levels vary significantly between these products, and this will be reflected in the nutritional information supplied with good quality pet foods' product guides. Feeding instructions should be based on weight and must be taken as a guide only because amount of exercise per day, age of the dog, and individual metabolic rate will vary from animal to animal.
Consequences of inappropriate feed quantities and frequency
If an animal is consistently overfed this will ultimately result in obesity and several related health conditions, particularly degenerative joint disease and cancer. Animals that are consistently underfed will suffer from malnutrition which will primarily suppresses the immune system and makes these animals particularly prone to infection and disease. Parasites tend to accumulate in animals suffering from malnutrition which further places a strain on the animal's system.
Image courtesy of Flickr - Fernando
In general, I prefer to see all my patients demonstrating a healthy appetite, but maintaining a thin waistline. I prefer dogs to be on the lighter side of their target weight, as there are definitely more health issues with animals that carry too much weight than those that are on the lighter side!
Dr Bruce Syme BVSc (Hons) is a qualified veterinarian and the founder of Vets All Natural. He has developed this range of foods and supplements purely from his desire to heal more, and a wider range of animals than those seen in his clinic everyday.