One important question we often ask ourselves as dog owners is “How much should I feed my dog?”, and with canine obesity on the rise this is becoming an increasingly important question.
Every breed has different energy requirements, but even dogs of the same breed can have different energy requirements – for example, older dogs typically require less energy than a 1 year old.
A recent study investigated the way we feed our dogs and it turns out the majority of us may be making a simple, single mistake when it comes to dishing out the dog food.
So, How Much Should I Feed My Dog?
Firstly, what should we be feeding our dogs ideally?:
- Dogs should be fed twice daily with the recommended amount given by the manufacturer of the feed you are using.
- Between 6-8 weeks of age, puppies are growing rapidly and as such may require 3 or 4 smaller meals a day.
- Young puppies below 8 weeks of age will be getting the energy they need from their mother, this does mean you will have to ensure the mother is receiving all the energy she needs to produce enough quality, high energy milk. 3/4 weeks after birth, you can try to move the puppies on to more solid food.
The amount a dog should get per portion depends on their natural energy levels, their breed, life stage and their lifestyle. Larger breeds, or more energetic breeds will require more food per portion.
Bare in mind that a high quality diet is important. Some manufacturers provide specific diets for individual breeds or life stages.
How Do I Know If I’m Feeding Too Much?
Nearly ever reputable dog food manufacturer provides different diets for different breed sizes (typically small, medium and large).
Firstly, make sure you’re buying the appropriate diet and if possible buy breed and life stage (puppy, junior, senior, pregnancy) specific diets.
Once you have the right food, check the packaging for the recommended daily feeding quantity and provide this twice each day.
Be sure that water is available at all times and monitor for fluctuations in your dog’s weight.
If you notice a change in your dog’s weight be sure to alter the diet accordingly – never make drastic changes to the diet or portion size, if decreasing or increasing the portion size, do so gradually.
You can always check whether your dog is over or underweight using our dog BMI calculator.
So What Mistakes am I Making?
If you’ve followed the advice so far; good quality, breed and life stage specific dog food, fed twice a day, then you are doing great.
There is just one problem that recent research has identified and it is nothing surprising.
The accuracy with which we measure out our dog food is poor. A lot of dog owners use a cup or similar measuring device to create portion sizes, which has been shown to lead to an over-estimate in portion size of up to 80%!
Even a small over-estimate in the portion size of energy dense, dry dog food can lead to a greater-than-recommended intake of calories. Over an extended time period, all these extra calories can mount up and put your pet on the path to obesity!
So, What Can I Do?
Back to the original question of ”How much should I feed my dog?” Where possible, you should attempt to get portion sizes as close to the manufacturer’s recommendation as possible. You can do this by physically weighing out the correct portion size using kitchen scales.
Once you’ve measured out the right portion size, you can always mark on a measuring cup the right amount – so next time, it is much easier to get the right portion!
Whilst this might all sound like a lot of effort for something that doesn’t sound like a major problem, it is important that we are aware canine obesity is on the rise. Not only this, dog food manufacturers are managing to concentrate the energy content of their diets in to smaller and smaller amounts.
- Choose the right food for your dog’s breed size and life stage
- Feed the manufacturer’s recommended daily portion size, twice daily
- Measuring food with a measuring cup or similar can lead to over or under estimates in portion size
- Monitor your dog’s weight often to be aware of major fluctuations
- Never make major changes to your dog’s diet, changes should always be gradual
For further reading: Imprecision when using measuring cups to weigh out extruded dry kibbled food (2011) A. J. German1, S. L. Holden1, S. L. Mason1, C. Bryner2, C. Bouldoires2, P. J. Morris3, M. Deboise4 and V. Biourge4