10 FAQ’s about dog feeding guidelines
How often should I feed my dog?
- Puppies require small meals throughout the day and generally should be started with 5 small meals a day, bringing this down to four meals a day at the age of 3 months, then 3 meals a day at 6 months. It is important that the puppy is fed a diet designed for its age and breed size. There are diets specifically designed for puppies and young dogs which will ensure the growing dog receives the nutrition required for healthy growth.
- For dogs of 12 months or older, traditionally it has been recommended that they should be fed just once a day, with small breeds being fed twice a day because they only eat a small amount at each mealtime.
- It is better to stick to one variety of good quality “complete and balanced”dog food and not add any supplements (unless instructed by your vet), as over supplementing can be harmful to your dog.
- If your dog does not eat all of its meal in one go, you may be offering it too much, Not all dogs eat the amount recommended by the food manufacturers. The right amount should produce firm, dark brown, crinkly stools. If the stools are firm, but get softer towards the end, this is a classic sign of overfeeding.
- Never change your dog's diet abruptly(unless under the direction of your vet). If you want to change its diet, do it gradually over a period of a few days to a week.Do not feed your dog before travelling in the car as this can encourage car-sickness, or an hour before or after exercise as this could contribute to a stomach dilation and torsion (also known as bloat) which is a life threatening condition requiring immediate veterinary intervention.
- Medium to large breeds of dogs should be fed from a raised bowl to prevent them from swallowing air while they eat, which can also contribute to bloat. You can buy bowl stands for this purpose. For owners of breeds who are thought to be susceptible to this condition, you should seek advice from your breeder, vet and/or breed club on further precautionary measures.
- Leave your dog in peace while it is eating from its bowl. Taking the bowl away while it is eating causes anxiety, which can lead to aggressive behaviour. If you want to be sure that your dog is comfortable with you approaching it during mealtimes, add a little food to the bowl while it is eating, so it sees you as an asset, rather than a threat.
- Never feed your dog from the table or your plate, as this encourages drooling and attention seeking behaviours such as begging and barking.
- Make sure that water is always available to your dog, so never take its water bowl away.
How much should I feed my dog?
- Choose a high-quality dog food and look at the recommendations on the label. Most high-quality dog foods recommend approximately 1-1/2 cups per 10kg of body weight per day for smaller breeds, since they require 15-25% more calories per pound than larger breeds. Large and giant breeds are more often fed 1 cup per 10kg.
- actual calorie content of the food
current weight and projected target weight if necessary
- Other environmental variables (temperature)
- Any additional calories from treats or table foods
- Does the amount to be fed in the feeding guidelines pertain to each meal or the daily amount?
- It pertains to the total daily amount to be fed. If feeding multiple meals, divide the daily amount accordingly.
How accurate are the feeding guidelines on my dog food label?
The manufacturers’ recommended feeding guidelines are rarely accurate and should only be used as a rough starting point. Most guidelines vary considerably depending on the manufacturer. This means there is little consistency between brands. Your dog's age, health, reproductive status and exercise level will influence the amount of food your dog should receive. All these factors should be taken into account when deciding on the quantity of food your give your dog. If in doubt always consult your veterinarian.Like human food, pet food is regulated and must be pure and wholesome containing no harmful substances. It also must be correctly labelled. Food does not required FDA approval for either human or pet consumption before they are marketed. However, they must be made with ingredients that are "generally recognized as safe" (GRAS) or ingredients that contain approved food and colour additives.
Pet food ingredients must be listed on the label in descending order by weight. However, this weight includes the moisture in the ingredient, which makes it tricky to interpret. Similar materials listed as separate ingredients may outweigh other ingredients that precede them on the list of ingredients.
How should I determine what to feed my dog?
Choose a high-quality food as poor quality foods produce more waste, can cause digestive problems and often end up being more expensive (because to satisfy your dog you will need to feed him comparatively more). It is important to know your dog’s weight as well as the ideal weight of its specific breed. You can always consult with your veterinarian if you are not sure about the ideal weight for your dog. The next stage is to determine the dogs activity level, remember to factor in all variables (exercise level, age etc) and any additional calorie intake like treats. The starting amount of food can then be adjusted accordingly. After you have started feeding your dog an appropriate amount of food, weigh your dog at least once a month to determine if you are on the right track. If necessary, increase or decrease the amount of food slightly until the dog stays at his ideal weight. Most dogs are overfed and under-exercised so, if in doubt about how much to feed initially, feed a little less.
How can I stop my dog from rushing his food at meal times?
Dogs that gulp their food down too quickly tend to take in large amounts of air whilst eating which can cause stomach and digestive system upset. This can be avoided by placing a large object such a ball in the bowl to encourage him to take smaller bites, or there are some “slow-feeding bowls” available that have built-in obstructions within the bowl. If you have more than one pet, feed them separately to reduce competition for food.
How should I go about introducing a different food to my dog’s diet?
Your dog will need to be introduced to the new food gradually as the number and type of bacteria in the intestines, which assist in digestion, can be changed and their ability to digest the food may be affected. Because dogs can often be sensitive to changes in their diet, try and make any transition as smooth as possible. Start by mixing the new food with your usual brand, before gradually increasing the proportion over seven to ten days until your dog is only eating the new food. The amount of new food should be decreased if the dog shows any signs of vomiting, has soft stool or appears constipated.
Is it ok to give dogs healthy table scraps?
It is always best to feed your dog treats that are specifically developed for dogs and to only use them to aid with training. However, you can feed leftovers providing they do not comprise more than 10% of your dog’s diet. Although many owners do, it is not recommended to feed your dog scraps, as it's almost impossible to create a well-balanced diet from these. Never feed fatty scraps as these may cause your dog to gain weight. Uncooked vegetables are generally not a good idea either. These can cause stomach upsets as dogs are not well equipped to digest a lot of fibre. Raw meat can be infected with bacteria, and bones can damage teeth and cause obstructions in the gut. It is also not ideal to feed your dog cat food as, since it is designed for cats, it doesn't have the right balance of vitamins and minerals for dogs. Never feed dogs chocolate as it is toxic to them. Feeding table scraps can encourage your dog to beg during meal times and steal foods from the table, some of which could be hazardous to his health.
What foods should I avoid feeding my dog?
- Chocolate contains theobromine which can cause increased heart rate, restlessness and vomiting. In large doses it may be fatal.
- Grapes and raisins are toxic to dogs and can cause renal failure.
- Onions may cause anaemia
- Garlic is also part of the onion family. In large doses it may cause dermatitis and asthma. Some owners, however, use garlic tablets as a natural flea repellent. Always follow dosage instructions carefully.
- Lactose, which is found in milk and dairy products, cannot be digested by dogs,/li>
- Fruit can be high in sugar and can also be acidic. This will upset your dog's digestion and is best avoided.
- Feeding potatoes are not recommended due to their high starch content, which is not easily digested by dogs and may cause problems.
- Many common household and garden plants and flowers such as the Daffodil can also be toxic to dogs, causing anything from skin irritations to severe poisoning and death.
Should I feed my dog a breed specific food?
A dog’s nutritional requirements depend on many factors including his activity level, age, and temperament. Therefore, it is important to choose a diet that fits his specific health and nutritional requirements rather than his breed. If in doubt ask your veterinarian for advice.