“How much to feed my dog?” is a question I’m forever being asked, and it’s something I spend a lot of time thinking about.
Musing over it recently, I decided that pet parents are actually asking themselves the wrong question. A more appropriate question might be, “how much should I feed my dog, today?”!
In other words, like yours and mine, your dog’s energy requirement actually varies from day to day. Granted, even I feed my dogs the same amount each day irrespective of how active they’ve been. I do however weigh them at home every couple of weeks to ensure they are maintaining a healthy weight overall. And I do feed them 100% homemade dog food which gives me considerably more control over their intake than if I fed them commercial dog food from a bag.
I’ll return another time to whether or not we should be adjusting our dog’s food on a per-activity daily basis, but here meanwhile are a number of standard answers to the question, “how much to feed my dog?”
RECOMMENDED FEEDING GUIDELINES
If you are one of the many who feed your dog commercial dog food, you’ll be familiar with the panel on the side of the packet that suggests how much of the contents you should feed your dog each day. But the problem with the recommended feeding guidelines on commercial dog food is that manufacturers take a one-size-fits-all approach. Following their guidelines is, if you’ll excuse the pun, a recipe for disaster!
Recommended feeding guidelines are based on the energy requirements of active adult dogs irrespective of their life stage. So whether your dog is two years old and highly active or 14 years old and gently sliding into peaceful retirement, it is suggested you feed the same amount of food. Is it any wonder we have so many overweight and obese dogs in the UK?
Let’s suppose your dog has been spayed or neutered. The act of neutering reduces both your dog’s sex hormones and metabolic rate which reduces its energy requirement by around 10%. So whether your dog is male or female, if it has been spayed or neutered it will require 10% less food each day than an entire dog.
And if your best friend is also a senior dog who these days prefers to spend a little more time with his paws up watching Doggie TV than he used to, it’s easy to see how you could easily be overfeeding him by as much as 20 or 30%. And that let me tell you seriously is a recipe for disaster!
THE GENERAL RULE OF THUMB
The general rule of thumb is to feed your dog between 2 and 3% of his or her bodyweight per day. That however comes with a great many caveats, as it needs to when the margin between the two figures is so great.
As previously mentioned, a spayed or neutered dog needs around 10% less food than an entire dog. So there’s one caveat. Then there’s the fact that younger, more active dogs need more food than senior, less active dogs, so there’s another.
Then there’s the fact that smaller breed dogs have a higher metabolic rate than larger breed dogs. On that basis, some small and miniature breed dogs might need considerably more than that 2 to 3%. Perhaps 5 or even 7% spread out over more than two meals a day because you couldn’t feed them that much in just two meals.
In turn, some large and giant breed dogs might need less still. Perhaps only 1 to 1.5% of their bodyweight.
Taking just those caveats into account, and there are more, you can see how unreliable the generally accepted rule of thumb can be when determining how much to feed your dog!
CUPS, SPOONS AND OTHER GUESTIMATES
Googling some search results for this article came up with various suggestions for working out the answer to the question, “how much to feed my dog?”
Cupfuls, spoonfuls, handfuls. No wonder we have so many overweight dogs if people simply take a stab in the dark at deciding how much to feed their dog!
THE HANDS-ON APPROACH
I very much recommend a hands-on approach when it comes to deciding how much to feed your particular dog. Use my Body Condition Chart. Feel your dog. Weigh your dog. Treat your dog as an individual and constantly reassess how much food he or she needs on an ongoing basis.
Year on year throughout its life, your dog’s energy requirements, the amount of food it requires, will change. In order to avoid unnecessary and unhealthy weight gain, you will need to reduce its food accordingly.
Feeding your dog the right amount, helping your dog maintain a healthy weight, can quite literally add years to its life. To say nothing of helping it avoid a great many weight-related health issues.
Please contact me if I can help you with your dog’s weight management.