What should I feed my feed? How much should I feed him? How do I know if my dog’s overeating? These are some of the questions that come up when it’s about dog nutrition and health.
A balanced diet is crucial for dogs’ physical and mental well-being. It gives them energy to sustain their daily activities, as we do for humans. But can all types of human foods be fed to dogs?
Not. Some food items can help their growth and sustenance, while some may prove hazardous for dogs. Irrespective of the food, a dog’s diet would differ from ours.
Before we know the nutritional requirements, we need to see the guide to feeding dogs at various life stages:
Dog Feeding Guide: Know How to
Similar to humans, dogs go through various stages of their lives. And obviously, there would be differences between what we feed a puppy and a fully grown dog. Dog nutrition needs differ greatly.
Consulting a vet before creating a diet chart for your pet would be the best way to know the proper way and amount to feed them.
As a new pet parent or even an experienced one, knowing what and how to feed your dog can also greatly benefit them. So how do you start?
You start by identifying whether your pet’s a puppy, an adult, lactating, pregnant, or a senior dog and consult for a nutrition plan. Here’s how:
If you’re wondering,” How much should I feed my puppy?”, know that puppies require frequent feeding periods compared to adult dogs. As they’re still growing, their bones and muscles are developing; hence, their feeding schedule would differ according to age (article).
- 12 months: This is the period when most puppies mature into adulthood. Especially for toy or small dog breeds.
- 10-12 months: Medium dog breeds mature into adult dogs.
- 18-24 months: Large or giant dog breeds mature. Well, not into Clifford’s size, but we’re close.
Focusing on optimal growth for puppies should be ideal, especially when avoiding excessive weight gain and obesity.
However, once your puppy matures, you must wean them off puppy food and transition into adult dog food. This usually takes 1-2 weeks, but most dogs can do that easily within a week.
Note: It might take longer with puppies with sensitive stomachs, around 2-3 weeks.
2. Adult dog
Once you’ve weaned your dog off puppy food and proceeded towards adult food, try to increase portions that contain healthy veggies and proteins and supplement them with vitamins and minerals.
Remember that adult dogs usually consume around 3 ¼ or 3 ¾ cups daily. You can divide this into two feeding times or feed them the entire amount all at once.
For optimal results, dogs can be fed once a day. It has been proven that dogs fed once a day, have lesser cognitive dysfunction, gastrointestinal, dental, kidney/urinary issues, etc., leading to a healthier dog and better aging (study).
3. Pregnant dog
Your dog’s about to be a mama, so ensuring this period is blissful for them should be your #1 priority.
With a growing belly of puppies, your dog will be more hungry. After all, she’s supposed to be eating enough for the 7 or 8 of them, right? What should you do to help?
Ensure your dog is well-cared for and comfortable while gradually increasing the food quantity. So by week 8, the dog may be consuming up to 50% more food than she was pre-pregnancy. And this is a short phase, as by week 9, her food intake might decrease again.
Be on the lookout for your dog’s dietary changes and eating patterns, and feed them accordingly.
4. Lactating dog
With new puppies’ arrival, your house gets chaotic, but nobody’s more exhausted than the new mama.
Constant feeding cycles and suckling the puppies for up to 6 weeks can take a toll on her health (study). The dog’s calorie intake will increase depending on the number of puppies she has for the lactation period (4 weeks). Consult a veterinarian before making any changes in the food intake and follow a recommended dietary chart.
Note: Large dog breeds usually have smaller digestive tracts, meaning they won’t be able to eat enough to sustain themselves during lactation periods. In such cases, you may need to feed supplements early.
5. Senior dog
There is no standardized diet for senior dogs. What could differ, however, would be their nutrition profiles.
With decreased metabolism, senior dogs should not be fed additional amounts, as they can only exercise a little. Obesity is one of the common conditions that is often seen in senior dogs.
Instead, contact your vet, and look at the dog and its medical conditions. This can help design a diet chart that benefits the dog’s long-term benefit.
What Are The Nutritional Requirements of Dogs?
Firstly, learn what your dog requires besides an opened bag of treats and attention.
Secondly, while we share similar food groups, our dietary requirements differ. What we eat does not necessarily have to be safe for dogs too. According to the AAFCO, there are six essential nutrients a dog requires to function correctly:
Unsurprisingly, water is one of the most important requirements for any animal to function. Just like humans get dehydrated, so do dogs.
Without water, their body becomes weak, their eyes sunken, they feel tired, have issues of indigestion, etc. (article).
Ensuring your dog gets clean and fresh water will keep your dog healthy. Also, Dogs love runny water, so getting a small fountain would be the cherry on top!
Proteins help build tissues, cells, muscles, and antibodies in dogs. They contain the necessary amino acids that your dog needs. Any meal that does not have enough amino acids is marked as incomplete protein.
Although that’s no reason to go gaga over adding protein to your dog’s diet, too much protein can damage your dog’s kidneys! (study).
As for the question– how much protein should your dog have? Your vet should have an answer for that.
When we say including fats in the diet is good, we mean good fats!
You can make your dog’s food in oils like flaxseed and chia seeds, as these can bring healthy fat to your dog.
The key here is to make sure that your dog is not getting obese!
Also, did you know? Fats give more energy than carbs!
4. Carbohydrates and Fiber
Is your dog addicted to carbs too? We get it!
Carbohydrates are an essential energy source and make for great companions with protein. Although they are not considered essential nutrients, including them in your dog’s diet is vital to ensure a balanced diet (article).
Besides, they’re a prime component of dog foods too!
We all know and understand how important it is to get our vitamins in. That’s just the case for dogs too!
However, most vitamins cannot be synthesized by their bodies, so dogs need to obtain that essential source through foods. Vitamin B12 is the only water-soluble vitamin in a dog’s liver that’s required for necessary neurological functioning (article). This is not produced in the dog’s body, and they need supplementation.
It’s the opposite for vitamins C and K, which can be synthesized in the liver but are not required.
Note: Over-supplementation can cause excess vitamins (hypervitaminosis), leading to poisoning (article).
Minerals and vitamins go hand-in-hand. So it’s no surprise that minerals are also crucial for a happy doggy.
Minerals promote a shinier coat, great nails, and great energy. This is great for puppies who are still growing and need strengthening their bones and immune systems. For better functioning, dogs need to have an optimal ratio of calcium: phosphorus, which can be around 1.2-1.4:1 (study).
You can quickly note the symptoms of a lack of minerals, such as skin disease, hair loss, lack of energy, and infection.
Risks of Poor Dog Nutrition
If a plant doesn’t receive sunlight, air, and water, it will wither, right? The same works for dogs too!
Without adequate nutrition and exercise, bones can become brittle, and dogs would not have sufficient energy to play with you! Isn’t that terrible?!
But besides these, the risks can we need to watch out for:
Once you start free feeding your dog, you’ve led them down a dangerous road. Dogs would never say no to a treat.
And this habit can lead to obesity or weight gain. Overweight dogs have limited energy and are at a higher risk for heart conditions, increased flatulence, and other organ issues. Additionally, their sedentary nature would lead to more weight gain.
While nutrition can not be linked directly to hypertension, an increase in weight certainly has (article).
With increased food consumption, especially treats and highly processed snacks, dogs’ arteries or blood vessels can become clogged, leading to shooting up blood pressure levels.
Obesity and poor nutrition are the evil duos that cause this.
When combined with an overweight dog, sweet treats, or high sugar content in foods, diabetes can be prevalent among pets. A carbohydrate heavy diet can cause a rapid rise in blood sugar levels.
4. Hair loss
The lack of minerals and essential vitamins means that not only does your dog lose the sheen in his coat, but also his hair!
An incomplete diet does not help a dog’s body synthesize essential nutrients in the liver that he needs to function properly, causing neurological loss and his hair to fall off.
5. Decreased immune system
This is an obvious one. In the battle between the good and the bad, the latter should not prevail. That’s what we’ve been taught.
It’s the same inside a dog’s body as well. In case of infections or diseases, their body’s defenses would be down. So, without the proper protection, even a minor health issue can become problematic as their body’s too weak to fight it. Hence, a robust immune system is essential.
Also known as Degenerative Joint Disease (DJD), this is often seen in senior dogs or those with poor nutrition.
The deterioration of cartilage causes a progressively worsening inflammation of the joint. Bones and joints are affected, affecting the range of motion in the dog.
How to Know if Your Dog is Eating The Right Food?
Before you try finding the right dog food, you should look into the calorie count and ensure you follow the 10% rule. The 10% rule means that you’re feeding your dog the recommended calorie intake necessary for their daily functioning.
There would be variations in choosing between dry or wet food for your dog. To make dietary changes, consulting a vet would be best.
But how do you know if the food you’re feeding your dog benefits them? Here’s how:
- Their coats would be sleek and shiny. The quality of their hair would be good and tick. Additionally, you won’t find dander. That’s a good start!
- Your dog’s nails would be translucent. For dog breeds with clear nails, that would be a good sign. If your dog belongs to a breed with dark or black nails, it should be shiny.
- Stools should be standard. The dog shouldn’t have a lot of flatulence, be a chronic vomiter, or have irregular eating patterns. These issues point toward the dog having a sensitive stomach or eating the wrong food.
- Diets can vary according to breed, energy levels, stages of development, sex, age, etc. So consulting a vet or pet nutritionist before creating a diet chart would help!
Ways to Curb Overeating in Dogs
We all love a chubby good boy. But.. that could be better when it comes to pets, especially dogs.
On average, any dog would require a minimum of 30 minutes of exercising, irrespective of the breed. Active breeds like Retrievers, Huskies, or Collies might need more physical exercise. So, being a couch potato would do more harm than good for them.
To help you check if your dog is overeating, here are some tips:
1. Feeding schedule
Ideally, it would be best if you always fed your dog on a schedule. Schedules may vary according to the stages of development, sex, age, etc.
For example, the amount you feed a puppy would differ from that of an adult dog. While puppies might need frequent feedings, an adult dog must be fed once or twice, depending on their age and exercise levels.
2. Avoid free feeding
Free feeding is like being the only person at a buffet. Eating to your heart and belly’s content(?).
But free feeding for dogs isn’t advised. A schedule or meal time should be followed when you serve them dog food. Feeding dogs on a schedule allows you to pick up on medical problems earlier, especially if they display irregular eating patterns. PLUS, you can count the amount of calories you feed them.
3. Be aware of body composition
Knowing your dog’s body composition is essential to prepare a complete and balanced diet. A lot of dogs can develop a lot of chronic diseases later in life if they’re overweight and not lean and fit.
Pet parents can do Body Conditioning Scoring (article), which is easily found online. This method means that their abdomen should tuck up when we look at a dog from the side. And when we look down from a bird’s eye view, they should have a waist in front of their hip bones.
4. Feel for body bumps
Most dogs can easily be checked for body weight as it’s visible to the naked eye. That’s not the case for fluffy dogs.
Under all that floof, your dog could be overweight. So the best way to feel them is along the rib cage. When moving your hands over the ribs, there is nothing but skin and fat. It’s easy to feel those bumps then.
If there’s a jelly-like feeling or any extra tissue, know that it means your dog is chubby and needs to be on a diet.
5. Homemade dog food recipes
Nothing beats a good home-cooked meal—packed with the right amounts of vitamins and minerals, amino acids, fat-soluble vitamins, and essential fatty acids that are great for dogs.
Dog nutrition meals comprise easy homemade recipes like stews, salads, fruits and veggies, protein, and desserts! Now that’s what we call a complete and balanced diet!
Homemade dog food recipes are quite popular among pet parents and their dogs. You can even look into making holiday treats and meals for them, stew for when they feel sick, or even a festive meal.