How often your dog eats can make the difference between a lethargic, overweight pooch and a spunky jogging companion. Make sure your dog receives properly spaced, sufficient nutrition throughout adulthood. His caloric intake determines more than just his energy levels; it affects many aspects of your buddy’s health.
Breed and activity level generally determine the amount of food a dog should eat. An active German shepherd requires more calories than a Bichon Frise whose favorite activity is cuddling. Additionally, some dogs have different dietary needs – those with dental disease or food allergies may require special diets. Discuss with your vet a healthy weight for your dog’s age, breed and medical or dietary needs. Then aim to maintain that weight with a healthy diet through a trial-and-error process. The feeding guidelines on your dog’s food label should be a good place to start. If you find he’s under a healthy weight with that amount, feed him a bit more. If he’s gaining weight, cut back his portions.
Your individual dog’s needs will determine both the amount of food he eats and the frequency with which he eats it. Smaller breeds such as Yorkies need to be fed more frequently, three times a day, to prevent low blood sugar. However, two meals a day spaced eight to 12 hours apart is standard for most medium to large adult dogs. One or two low-calorie treats during the day should suffice if your dog seems hungry in between meals.
Feeding routines are key in establishing healthy eating in adult dogs. Feed your dog in the same area as long as possible. It's important to feed him around the same time each day. Typical mealtimes are in the morning and evening, and a regular eating schedule will regulate his bathroom schedule. Space out his calories as much as possible: One large meal a day could bring on a sudden increase in blood sugar, followed by lethargy as his body anxiously awaits more nutrients.
Weigh your dog once a month to make sure he’s maintaining a healthy weight. Though a little pudge is an obvious sign of weight gain, it’s important to monitor the exact increase or decrease in your dog’s weight. This is especially important if his weight changes without an increase or decrease in exercise or calories. Unexplained weight gain can be a sign of pregnancy, fluid retention, parasites, metabolic disorders such as hypothyroidism, or Cushing’s disease. Unexpected weight loss can indicate diabetes. Consult your veterinarian if your buddy’s weight suddenly fluctuates.
Christina Stephens is a writer from Portland, Ore. whose main areas of focus are pets and animals, travel and literature. A veterinary assistant, she taught English in South Korea and holds a BA in English with cum laude honors from Portland State University.