In this Q and A, we are answering a question that we are asked quite often over emails and even by our friends who also have dogs. They are often surprised to hear that our dogs are on a homemade diet and are fed only once a day. As humans, we are taught to eat lots of small meals throughout the day so sometimes deciding what is best for our dog is hard. And even if you are feeding your dog commercial kibble food, this type of thing is not clearly spelled out either. They tell you how much to feed on the bag, but not how often, leaving you wondering.
In general, the overall daily amount is often more important then the number of feedings a day, unless we are talking about puppies. The number of times your dog needs to eat depends on your dog’s personality, breed, weight, age, and even activity level. We will provide you with some helpful information to make this decision easier.
Puppies grow and develop rapidly, so they need more food then adult dogs (per kg of body weight) to sustain growth and energy level. However, since they are still growing, their bowels are not ready to handle large amounts of food, so feeding 3-4 small meals is recommended. It is also beneficial to talk to your vet about when to reduce the frequency of meals as it often depends on your puppy’s growth rate and breed.
Feeding Adult Dogs:
Most adult dogs can be fed once or twice a day, and that is up to you and your dog to decide. Dogs who are very active might require twice a day feeding, while those dogs who are fussy and aren’t food motivated may be fed once a day. For large, deep-chested breeds, at least two meals a day is recommended so that they can easily digest which also prevents bloating.
With our adult dogs, we started off by feeding them twice a day, once in the morning and once in the evening. However, most of their morning food was left uneaten and so the decision to feed them once a day was made. We now feed them around 4PM, at which point they all start to gather around the kitchen, waiting for their meal.
Feeding Elderly Dogs:
As the dog ages, they often become less active and thus require fewer calories then they did before. Monitoring that change is often beneficial as it will help you keep a tab on your aging dog and take notice of any health issues that arise. Some elderly dogs might start eating less and thus loose weight, and some might start to gain due to medication or health issues. If you notice any significant change such as rapid weight loss or weight gain, it might be beneficial to talk to your vet.
Should the feedings be scheduled?
Our answer is YES! Absolutely. You should establish and follow a feeding schedule to create a good routine in your dog’s life, which will also help you notice any potential health problems down the road. One example in this is that our dogs are fed at 4PM every day and we know that at this time they are hungry and ready to eat. Now, if our dog suddenly stops wanting food at 4PM and leaves his food untouched for a few days, we are able to recognize that there might be a potential health issue that would explain why they are not eating. This allows plenty of time to quickly take him to the vet to diagnose the issue. However, if your feeding schedule is all over the place and inconsistent day to day, it is harder to detect whether your dog is actually sick or just not hungry because its too early to eat.
The exception: Dogs who are prone to hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) and may need food to nibble on throughout the day.
What about free-feeding my dog?
Let’s first define what free-feeding is. Free-feeding is leaving food out for the dog to eat whenever they feel like it. Free-feeding is the wrong choice for most dogs. There are several issues that arise when the dog is free-fed, one of them is weight. Often, dogs who are free-fed are overweight because they eat out of boredom. They are left at home and have nothing else to do so they keep revisiting their bowl over and over again. Secondly, it is simply not sanitary. As humans, we put away and cover up our food when we are done and same should go for your dog’s food. Especially with homemade diets and raw diets, this option is completely unsafe and can harm your pet’s health. Lastly, leaving your dog to free-feed gives you no control over how much and how often they eat, masking health issues that arise. If you feed your dog at specified times, you are able to tell if they are not hungry for a few days, recognizing that their hunger strike might be something serious.
Here are some helpful links to help you keep a tab on your dog’s weight:
Leave us comments below about how often you guys feed your dogs and why.