Your dog’s feeding routine is important to get right. But ‘how much should I feed my dog?’ is also one of the most common questions new dog owners ask.
And since every dog is different, the exact amount you should feed can take a little trial and error. It can depend on your dog’s breed, their level of activity, metabolism, the type of food you’re feeding… the list goes on.
There’s no hard and fast rule, which is one of the reasons why vets see so many dogs every year for weight related issues. But with a little detective work on your part, you can find a feeding routine that works for your pooch.
Why feeding your dog the right amount is important
Your dog’s diet and nutrition plays a vital role in ensuring they live a long and healthy life. Feeding too much or too little can result in ongoing health issues. Too little can leave your dog deficient in essential nutrients. While too much can lead to obesity and a whole host of related conditions.
In fact, a recent study revealed how dog obesity significantly increases a dog’s likelihood for developing a range of illnesses that can shorten their lifespan. These conditions include:
- Oral disease
When a dog isn’t fed enough food, they’ll inevitably suffer from malnutrition and lose weight. But not only that, the lack of essential nutrients can have a dramatic effect on their overall health and quality of life. Including:
- A dry and dull coat
- Dandruff with dry and flaky skin
- Vomiting bile regularly
- Low energy levels
- More susceptible to illnesses
All dog foods show a feeding guideline on the back of the packet. While this is a great starting point, the range they give you is rather broad. Which is why you should always monitor your dog’s weight and adjust the amounts as necessary. The guidelines are for a 24 hour period. So your dog’s daily food allowance needs to be split between the number of meals you feed a day.
How much should a puppy eat?
Puppies grow up very quickly and need to eat more regular, high calorific food than adult dogs. They need a frequent supply of nutrients to support bone and organ development.
When you bring your puppy home, you should feed three to four small meals a day until around six months of age. The smaller mealtimes are easier for your puppy to digest. And with all that playing and exploring, it ensures your puppy is getting a consistent supply of energy into their bodies.
Then beyond that, you can drop mealtimes down to twice a day. At this stage, it’s important not to overfeed your puppy, as overweight puppies are far more likely to develop into overweight adults. If you’re ever in doubt about how much to feed your pup, always consult your vet for advice.
How much should an adult dog eat?
Your dog’s current weight is always a good place to start when figuring out how much to feed. Then you can refer to the packet guidelines on your dog’s food and feed the amount within their weight range.
If your dog is fairly inactive and you only go on a couple of 20-minute strolls a day, you may need to feed a little less than the recommended amount. Whereas if you have a very active dog and you like to go on multiple hour-long hikes a day, you’ll need to feed a little more than suggested.
That’s why it can be difficult to give an exact amount. Every dog’s body and activity levels are different. The best thing you can do is use a measuring jug so you know exactly how much you’re feeding each day. Then monitor your dog’s weight over a few weeks to help you understand if they’re getting the right amount.
If your dog loses weight, you’ll need to increase the amount each mealtime. If they put on weight you should feed a little less. If your dog is already a healthy weight and you see no change, you know they’re getting all the food they need to stay healthy.
How to tell if your dog is a healthy weight?
To feed your dog the right amount, it always helps to know your pup’s body condition right now. And for this, vets use a body condition scoring system. Here’s what a dog with a healthy weight should look like:
- They should have a visible waist when viewed overhead
- You should be able to feel the ribs through a little fat covering
- The tummy should tuck up when viewed from the side
You shouldn’t be able to see prominent rib lines, the spine or the pelvic bones. If your dog is too thin these will be obvious close up and from a distance.
If your dog is overweight, you won’t be able to see an obvious waist when looking overhead. You may not be able to feel the ribs and the tummy will be rounded with no obvious ‘tuck’.
If you’re not sure if your dog falls into the ideal weight range, it’s always best to seek advice from a vet. And if you discover your dog is over or under weight, your vet will be able to suggest a new feeding routine to help get your dog back into the ideal weight range.
Have you had issues when feeding your dog the correct amount? Let us know how you get on in the comments below…
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My wife and I brought a new dog home named Scruffles and so we want to start learning how to take care of him. It was really helpful to read that younger puppies can be fed more often than older ones because we took Scruffles from the pet shop when he was stated to be no more than a year old so we’ll have a good opportunity to adjust his diet as he grows. I’ll be sure to keep all your tips in mind and find a good place where we can get him some healthy food. Thank you!
Puppies have a lot of growing to do, so they generally eat more food and more often that older dogs. But it’s also important to keep a good eye on their weight so you can adjust their diet if you need to.