For most adult dogs, two meals per day is optimal to maintain the dog's weight and health. Feeding more often may be necessary depending on your dog's age and health conditions. Regardless of how many times you opt to feed during the day, try to keep a consistent feeding schedule to develop good eating habits. Consult your veterinarian to determine the best type and amount of food your dog needs during her different life stages to maintain a healthy weight and digestive system.
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Feeding guidelines for puppies
Once young puppies are able to start eating dog food, you should feed them four small meals each day. From three to six months of age, you can reduce the feeding schedule to three times per day. When your puppy reaches six to 12 months of age, feed two times per day. You will also switch from feeding puppy food to adult food during this time. Small breeds can switch earlier than larger breeds. Work with your veterinarian to determine the best time to switch to a new food.
Maintaining a set schedule not only adds stability to your dog's day but also helps with potty training. Take your young puppy out to pee and poop about 10 to 15 minutes after eating when he will likely need to eliminate.
Feeding schedule for adult dogs
Feeding your dog twice per day is recommended for adult dogs. Having set meal times can help to create a routine that can help make changes easier to introduce. When changing kibble, set meal times mean your dog is hungry and more likely to eat the new food. It also offers comfort and stability when there are life changes like a new baby or pet.
Free feeding or offering one large meal is not recommended. Not all dogs will overeat, but keeping the bowl full at all times rather than feeding smaller meals can create challenges. If your dog is ill, it can be difficult to estimate how much she has eaten. It can also lead to obesity if your dog's eating gets out of hand. In addition, it can make changes like introducing a new pet more challenging, especially if the new pet doesn't moderate his eating well.
Meet nutritional needs
Make sure you are feeding the right amount of the right dog food at feeding time. Shopping for pet food can be overwhelming for even the most experienced dog owners. Consult your veterinarian to decide what diet is best for your dog.
Select your dog's food by ensuring it has high-quality ingredients with few fillers and is appropriate for her breed and age. For example, select puppy, adult, or senior food depending on your dog's age. Make sure the food you select for senior dogs does not have decreased protein. Some brands will also have special formulations for toy breeds, small breed dogs, and large breed dogs.
Once you have selected a food, check the label to determine how much to feed your dog each day based on her weight. Then divide that by the number of meals you are feeding each day. This should offer your dog the right amount of calories and nutrients to maintain your dog's weight. You may need to adjust this slightly depending on your dog's activity level.
Health considerations and concerns
Avoid overfeeding, which can lead to increased body weight. If you are using treats for training, you may need to decrease the amount of dry food you offer to allow for the extra calories. Be sure to consult your vet if your pet is over or underweight on the recommended amount of food to make sure she doesn't have any underlying health concerns.
Dogs who eat a large meal quickly may suffer from a life-threatening condition called bloat. Although the exact cause of bloat is unknown, rapidly eating or drinking followed by exercise may play a factor. The condition affects large breed dogs with deep chests such as great Danes, standard poodles, and Weimaraners.
Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.