Dog nutrition attracts a lot of heated discussions. There are people who are strong advocates for RAW, BARF, home-cooked, or commercial diets. As a veterinary doctor, I am still researching and keeping a more flexible view. I tend to avoid new trends that have a little scientific background. On the other hand, I agree, dogs are unique and there is no one recipe, one brand suits them all. In this article, I would like to answer the most common canine nutrition questions – how often and how much should I feed?
How often should I feed my dog?
Depending on your dog’s age, you should feed your dog from 3 times to once a day. Ideally, until 3 weeks of age, a puppy should drink mum’s milk. From the 3rd week, you can slowly introduce the dog to puppy food. Normally, the puppies are weaned at the age of 6-8 weeks. This is when you should have a meal scheduled 3 times daily.
From 6 months to when the dog is matured you can switch the feeding schedule to twice daily.
Dogs mature at a different age, depending on the breed. Toy breeds like chihuahuas, miniature pinschers, toy poodles reach maturity with 10 months of age. Small breeds like west highland terriers, dachshund with 12 months. Large breeds like labrador retrievers, pointers are considered adults once they reach 15 months. Giant breeds, e.g. Newfoundland, Great Danes are still growing until they reach 24 months. Until the dog is matured, it is important to feed them twice per day, because the digestive process is very fast and feeding once could cause low glucose levels in the blood.
How much should I feed?
How much food should you give really depends on the type of food you feed and on your dog’s size, age, activity level.
Some raw estimates of the minimum calorie requirement per kilogram you can find in the tables provided. This is a minimum nutritional requirement of an adult dog who has “normal” activity levels and has no health, physiological conditions.
To be more precise and to calculate the caloric requirements for your dog, you can refer to this article.
How to know my dog tolerates the food?
Make sure that you change your dog’s food gradually. You should switch from the old food to the new one gradually, not quicker than in one week. That means every day, mix in some new food, increasing the proportion of new food in the food bowl. A sudden change in the diet can cause diarrhea and vomiting. These are also signs of food intolerance. Other possible signs can be dandruff, itchy skin, building up of gas. Good quality food should have a high digestibility score. So if you see that your dog produces a lot of feces, this is the sign that your dog doesn’t take in the nutrients well or they are of poor quality.