Feeding their dogs two meals each day is commonplace for some pet parents, while others opt for the once daily option. Deciding what's ideal for your dog depends on a few different factors, including his overall health, how old he is and certain environmental considerations.
Dogs who consistently eat just one meal a day are twice as likely to experience gastric dilatation-volvulus (GDV) as those fed half their daily intake in two separate meals, according to the Care.com website. Also known as "bloat," this life-threatening condition occurs when air becomes trapped in the stomach, causing it to distend and twist, inevitably cutting off blood circulation back to the heart. Dogs have mere hours to receive emergency surgery before the abdominal distress claims their lives. Those most prone to food-related bloat are deep-chested breeds such as the Irish setter, Great Dane, Saint Bernard, standard poodle, German shepherd, dachshund and boxer.
Your dog's age can dictate the frequency he should be fed each day. A general rule of thumb, according to the ASPCA, is for adults -- no matter the breed -- to eat two separate meals spaced between eight and 12 hours apart. Elderly dogs and puppies, however, require vastly different feeding schedules. Puppies do best with three or four smaller meals throughout the day to maintain their constant growth cycles, whereas dogs in their twilight years, according to WebMD, often regulate their own dietary needs by eating two meals some days and only one on others.
Environmental factors such as extreme heat and cold can influence your dog's daily energy needs. Canines might struggle to regulate appropriate body temperature when not getting a more consistent food supply; the ASPCA recommends fueling with twice-daily meals to help keep your dog cool in the summer and warm in the winter. Be sure to consult your veterinarian when considering any modification to your dog's food type or amount.
Letting your dog regulate his own consumption by leaving food out all the time may seem like a good solution, but this free-feeding approach isn't a good idea if he treats it as a 24/7 buffet. Some dogs are perfectly fine when given the constant presence of food and tend to graze throughout the day, consuming small amounts when the urge strikes. However, others who are particularly food-motivated have no self-restraint and may immediately consume whatever amount is placed in their bowls, which, according to WebMD, can lead to digestive distress, obesity and other health complications.
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