Figuring out what the right amount of food is for your dog can be a challenge. It also depends on a few factors specific to your dog like age, size, diet, and activity level. While solid guidance is usually provided for you on the label of your dog’s bag of kibble, it’s important to know the risks of feeding your dog too much or too little pet food.
Overfeeding your dog puts them at risk for obesity and heart diseases. On the other hand, feeding them too little will result in nutritional deficiencies. This article will guide you in determining what the healthy amount of food to feed your dog is according to the dog’s needs and size specifications.
As pet parents, we all care about our furry family member’s health and well-being. Knowing how much dog food to give them when it’s chow time is a basic yet important part of caring for them. Are you feeding your dog the right amount?
Dog Food Measurement Basics
According to Dr. Jennifer Coates of PetMD, there is no easy, straightforward way to figure out exactly how much individual dogs should be eating. “Determining the correct size for meals depends on the type of food dogs are fed, how many times a day they eat, their size, their metabolic rate, the amount of exercise they get, and more,” Dr. Coates says.
Initially, you should be taking a close look at your dog’s food label. Most dog food labels have a set of feeding guidelines in the form of a table or chart to help you determine how much food to give your dog. The table will look something like the following chart created by PetMD.
Dr. Coates mentions that unless stated otherwise, these amounts “are the total that is recommended for your dog over a 24 hour period.”
While puppies eat up to three times a day, adult dogs typically eat twice a day. Then again, some dogs are “grazers” and enjoy their food slowly throughout the day without eating it all in one sitting. If your dog likes to graze, this is OK, just be sure to keep their bowl in a spot that won’t attract insects or rodents.
Is your dog the kind of pupper who gets fed twice a day? Just remember to divvy up the suggested amount of dry food in the table with the amount of times you feed your dog each day.
If you are just getting started with figuring out how much food to feed your dog, Dr. Coates recommends keeping a “body conditioning scoring system” log of your dog’s physical appearance every two to four weeks. If you find that your dog’s body weight has increased or decreased, adjust their food portions accordingly.
Getting Portions Right: Adverse Health Risks
The Association for Pet Obesity Prevention reported a very concerning statistic: In 2018, a jaw-dropping 56% of dogs in the United States were overweight or obese. Founder Dr. Ernie Ward states, “Obesity is the number one health threat pets face, and the most important pet health decision owners make each day is what and how much they feed.”
It’s important to feed your dog the right amount of food without compromising the dog’s weight. Pet obesity is a serious health threat that should not be taken lightly.
Dogs have nutritional needs throughout their life stages and need to remain in that ideal weight range portrayed in the aforementioned body condition chart.
In addition to obesity, there are many health issues that come into play if you overdo it with dog food portion sizes. The Association for Pet Obesity Prevention lists other health problems related to excessive weight gain including:
- Low energy
- Reduced life expectancy
- Poor quality of life
- Chronic inflammation
- Respiratory disorders
- Kidney malfunction
- Metabolic disorders
Be mindful of your dog’s activity level and how much you are feeding your dog so they maintain a healthy weight. If your dog is the largely sedentary type who lays around most of the day and is not interested in exercise, feeding them too much could lead to weight gain. Active dogs will burn calories rather quickly, so be careful not to feed them too little.
Combatting Dog Obesity
If you are concerned your dog is obese, talk to your veterinarian. There are ways to help them get their overall physical health back on track in addition to measuring their meals appropriately.
First and foremost, your dog needs exercise. Take them on walks for at least 20 to 30 minutes a day, cut down their carbohydrate intake, limit their calorie intake, or look into a brand of dog food specific for weight management. Don’t forget to consult your vet before beginning a new diet regimen. For a more detailed guide on cutting carbs and calories, refer to this information on pet weight loss from PetMD.
No matter how active or inactive your dog is, talk to your veterinarian about your dog’s lifestyle, overall health, and how it correlates with feeding them the proper amount of food.
In addition to your dog’s daily meal intake, don’t forget to be conservative on the dog treat front as well. Dr. Amy Flowers of WebMD writes that dog treats should make up 5% to 10% or less of your dog’s daily diet. Whether they get dog treats throughout the day or you share human food with them, everything adds up.
New Diet? How to Transition Your Dog to New Food
For dog parents, introducing new food isn’t as straightforward as simply filling their bowl with the new kibble. There are gradual stages to the transition that must be followed so you can make sure their tummies are handling it well. Unless you are certain that your dog has an iron stomach, skipping straight to the new food could result in gastrointestinal upset and diarrhea.
How much food should I feed my dog when transitioning to a new dog food, you may ask? The same as usual, only you need to start by mixing 20% of the new food with 80% of the old food on the first day. On the following days, increase the amount of new food and decrease the amount of old food by 20%.
For example, on day two you would give them 40% of the new food with 60% of the old food. On day three, mix 60% of the new food with 40% of the old food. Continue this pattern until you have reached 100% new food on day five.
Your Takeaway on How Much Food to Feed Your Dog
As always, talk to your veterinarian if you have any questions about your dog’s health, dietary needs, or need advice on what high-quality dog food is best. A veterinary professional can help you determine exactly how much your dog should be eating based on their specifications like age, size, and dietary restrictions, if any.
Remember to be mindful of how much you are feeding your dog so they don’t gain so much weight that they skirt that line of obesity. Give them enough exercise every day, and if you need to switch up your dog’s food, do so gradually according to Dr. Coates’ guidelines.
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