“How many times a day should I feed my dog?”
Another question we get asked a lot here at The Pet Parlour. The answer is really down to the Dog owner’s discretion and of course, the actual Dog itself.
A Dog’s nutritional intake alters throughout their life stages, many dog owners will notice phases of dogs ‘going off their food’ at which point they often panic and switch out foods or add things like wet food or gravy to entice their Dog to eat, but these phases are perfectly natural. As a dog grows and develops through life they will go through numerous stages where they will self-fast or self-reduce their calorie intake to regulate their metabolism, it’s perfectly normal so no need to panic!
Regardless of diet, many owners feed dogs two or three times a day (plus varying amounts of treats of course) We feed them in this pattern because we treat our Dogs like family, like children, so we tend to adapt that same logic of rearing to our pets too. When we (used to) go to work, we would often feed our Dogs before we left the house and then again when we returned home from work. Spreading their meal throughout the day with the logic being that they won’t go hungry. This feeding schedule is a contributing factor to why canine obesity and/or diabetes is so prevalent amongst the Dog population right now. As current statistics show 50%+ of Dogs globally are obese or overweight!
Below is a common rule of thumb chart for feeding Dogs throughout their life stages:
The optimum frequency of food for healthy Dogs of 6 months plus would be one meal a day! This puts their body into a fast state and lets the body put energy into growth and development rather than digesting an abundance of food. (Kaya has been fed on a one feed schedule for over a year now and she does very well on it)
Intermittent fasting also helps to regulate their metabolism, reduces inflammation and strengthens the immune system, as the gut is allowed to function at an optimum level, which, importantly, has been shown to contribute to the improvement of their behaviour and ability to train. This is according to behaviourists and trainers, many who have noticed a significant difference in their Dogs after changing up their feeding schedule.
That said, some dogs simply cannot be fed once a day as they may suffer from “Bilious Vomiting Syndrome” (Hunger Pukes) but this typically occurs when their caloric needs aren’t being met in the meal that’s being fed in the first place (nutritionally deficient supermarket foods for example) or when their metabolism simply burns through calories quicker than the average Dog. This however doesn’t mean that they can’t go into a fasted state. These Dogs can still be fed twice a day yet still achieve intermittent fasting, they just need a minimum of a 16 hour gap before the last and first meal, Example:
As you can see here, they get a 16 hour gap between 4pm and 8am the following day. This window can be altered to change your needs (such as work commitments) but this fast period is sufficient to support their immune system too!
Between the hours of 8am and 4pm you can feed them their meals and any other training treats too. NOTE: this applies to healthy Dogs of 6 months+!
This schedule will be alien for a many to read but the evidence of intermittent fasting to support Dogs on a cellular level is overwhelming. It’s also biologically appropriate to them as they are scavenging carnivores after all.
To expand on this……although they aren’t Wolves, Dogs do share 98%+ of their DNA with them so they are anatomically similar and their nutrient requirements are the same. Modern wild canids like Wolves, Foxes, Dingoes and Coyotes are also natural fasters. They have the ability to go without food for several days…. it’s a feast or famine survival metabolism but even if prey was abundant, they would intermittently fast naturally. They wouldn’t over eat just because they could!
Fun Facts: Wild Canids are very well tuned to and in control of the eco management of their environment and know the repercussions of over hunting their lands. In Disney’s The Lion King, I’m sure you’ve seen ‘The Pride Lands’ after the Hyenas over hunt when Scar takes over? This is what can happen when lands are over hunted, a brilliant message by the creators.
This is exactly why Wild Canids are being reintroduced to areas following the success of introducing Wolves to Yellowstone National Park back in 1995. Humans simply cannot replicate the management of the lands that Wild Canids like Wolves can provide. They even changed the behaviour of Rivers. Many species would become extinct if it wasn’t for the contribution of Wild Canids and their eating patterns!
This just shows how we don’t give Dog’s the credit they deserve. They don’t need to be fed multiple times a day and we can actually do more harm than good by allowing them to do so.
This brings me to another common method that we often hear mentioned at the shop, the “free feeding” method. This is similar to cows grazing. Some people simply put a week’s worth of dry foods in a trough-like holder and their Dog(s) can help themselves whenever they like.
For those out there that “free feed”, it’s really not ideal, especially if you’re feeding dry foods because the longer dry foods are sat in the bowl exposed to the air, the more they oxidize. Fungi like aflatoxins can begin to fester and these can be toxic, even fatal to your Dog if consumed.
In the news recently, we heard about some of the big branded pet food recalls in North America and Canada. These recalls were due to the presents of aflatoxins in the foods. Sadly, over 70+ Dogs died after eating these tarnished foods.
Free feeding also makes it difficult to know if your dog has lost their appetite. A Dog losing their appetite could be a sign that there is something wrong with them and if there was something wrong with them, then the earlier you seek a Vets attention, the better!
This is just one of the ways we should be tackling canine obesity, we need to stop overfeeding out of love. As Dr Richard Patton says, pets can be “ruined by excess and perfected by lack!”
We hope this has answered some of your feeding related questions.
Feel free to contact us regarding any Dog related topic you may need help with, food or not!
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