What and When You Should Feed Your Dog

By PetcoBlogger on Feb. 3, 2017


Knowing what to feed your dog and how often to feed can be a bit of a mystery. Never fear, we’re here to crack the culinary code. It all starts with understanding the correct portion sizes, and then designing a feeding schedule that works for you and your pet.

Let's start with the "what" of what to feed your dog. High-quality natural dog food formulas are a great choice when it comes to your dog's nutrition. Wet or dry, select a food where a protein like meat or fish is the first ingredient.These brands do tend to cost more, but in the end, they are a better overall deal. How? High-quality natural foods will provide your dog with more sustenance and less filler, meaning your dog eats less, but still stays full. Also, because you are feeding less, there is less waste, often with less odor.

On the left: cheap dog food serving size; on the right, high-quality dog food serving sizeOn the left: cheap dog food serving size; on the right, high-quality dog food serving sizeChoosing the perfect food for your dog
There is a galaxy of excellent food options available, but the main factor when choosing a food is to find one that maintains a balanced diet for your dog's specific needs. Appropriate amounts of protein, carbohydrates, fats, minerals and vitamins are extremely important. When it comes to a diet, appearances are everything. A shiny, silky coat, with no dry skin, is a good sign. 

Start with age and stage
As your dog leaves puppyhood, a diet less rich in calories, protein and fat is appropriate. Switch your dog to an adult food around one year of age, depending upon the breed. Check with your veterinarian before you make the switch, he or she can provide guidance on your dog's additional nutritional needs. 

When it's time to make the switch, do it gradually, over a one- to two-week period. This will prevent stomach upset and the possibility of your dog not liking the new food. Learn more about how to properly transition your dog to a new food.

Heading off obesity
The biggest nutritional problem for older pets is obesity. Obesity may seem like a mild ailment at first glance, but really, unhealthy weight gain can lead to much more serious health problems like arthritis, heart disease, breathing difficulty, diabetes and bladder cancer. Fortunately, as pet parents we can ward off this danger by monitoring our dog's weight and staying near an ideal weight throughout adulthood.

If your dog is starting to fill out in all the wrong places despite appropriate feedings and exercise, your veterinarian might want you to try out a lower-calorie food, such as a weight management formula. These formulas contain less fat and more fiber than typical foods. That way, your dog consumes fewer calories, but still feels full. Feeding your dog twice daily may prevent overeating and help with weight control as well. 

Finally, limiting treats and keeping a close eye on your pooch’s exercise routine can do wonders to slim them down. Your veterinarian is a great source for slim down strategies, so don’t be shy when asking for help.

Choosing between dry or wet
Dry food is usually more satisfying due to less filler and water inside of the food itself. This is especially true for larger dogs, because bigger breeds cannot usually meet their nutritional needs on just canned food. If your dog is over 30 pounds, dry or semi-moist food is usually the best choice.

Wet food (available in cans, trays, cups, rolls, tubs and more) offers additional hydration and a variety to your dog's diet. Wet dog food often also contains more protein and fat than dry kibble, which is something to think about if your pup is deficient in these two vital nutrients. Learn more about feeding dry vs wet dog food.

You can also add an occasional treat to your dog's diet by adding toppings to his meal. Dog food toppings are idea for dogs who enjoy a variety. However, keep in mind that treats should not exceed 10 percent of your dog's total diet. Learn more about pets and treats.

How much should you feed your dog?
Filling your dog’s stomach starts at the eyes. Check the nutritional labels on the dog food label to determine a suggested potion amount. (Learn how to decode a natural pet food label.) If your dog lives a more sedentary lifestyle, scale back the portion size slightly. Package recommendations are usually meant for very active dogs. 

Then, keep an eye on your dog’s bowl. If your dog is consistently leaving food behind, gradually reduce the amount of food you provide until he's joined the clean plate club. 

Once you’ve found the magic portion size, track your dogs weight to make sure they’re maintaining a healthy weight.

How often should you feed your dog?
The two most common feeding methods are free feeding and scheduled feeding.

Free feeding: If you choose free feeding, the good news is that it’s very convenient for you. Just use a gravity feeder let your pooch graze throughout the day. However, many breeds tend to have tenacious appetites, and overeating can be common with this method, because it’s harder to monitor how much, and when, your dog is eating. Also, if you have multiple dogs, free feeding can cause your dogs to steal food from each other. If you choose the free feeding option, keep a close eye on your dog's weight and behavior to ensure he isn't getting too much or too little.

Scheduled feeding: With scheduled feedings, you can feed your dog the appropriate amount of food multiple times a day. Precisely how often, and how much you need to feed your pooch depends on their age and breed.

(For busy pet parents on-the-go, learn about convenient, time-saving scheduled feedings using app-enabled smart feeders.)

These are some general feeding guidelines to get you started:puppy-dog-food.jpg

6–8 weeks
If your puppy is 6 to 8 weeks old, you can generally feed them 3-4 times a day.

8+ weeks
When your puppy is 8 weeks or older, you can generally feed them twice a day.

6 months and older
Some experts say it's okay to feed your young-adult dog only once a day. Others believe that once-a-day feedings may lead to overeating and obesity.

It’s best to consult with your veterinarian around this age to receive guidance on how often and how much to feed your puppy as they grow.

Six years and older
It’s generally OK to feed older dogs 2 to 3 times per day, but consult with your veterinarian before adopting this routine.

Snacks and treats
Frequent snacks and treats can derail a good diet. Offer snacks and treats in moderation.As a general rule of thumb, treats shouldn't account for more than 10 percent of your dog's total food intake per day. Too many treats can result in obesity, make your dog finicky, and make your dog a relentless beggar.

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by L Tielens
‎02-06-2017 07:27 PM

Very helpful information.  Perhaps you could do a newsletter 2 or 3 times a month.  Thank you.

Very helpful information.  Perhaps you could do a newsletter 2 or 3 times a month.  Thank you.

Posted on Feb. 6, 2017
by TheDanTaylor
‎02-12-2017 11:14 AM

I love the tip on making treats 10% of your dog's daily diet.  I've suspected that I have been giving my dog too many treats, and this confirms it!  

I love the tip on making treats 10% of your dog's daily diet.  I've suspected that I have been giving my dog too many treats, and this confirms it!  

Posted on Feb. 12, 2017
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