How much should I feed my dog?

Are you over feeding your dog? Learn how much you should be feeding based on size, activity levels and environment

by Cate Burnette, RVT

Your adult dog requires sufficient nutrition in his diet to meet all his energy needs and support and repair all his body tissues. The amount you feed him should be based on his size, his weight, and his activity levels. These levels can vary significantly from dog to dog and play an important part in determining the kind of food he eats and his caloric intake.

Many pet parents attempt to show their love for their pets by overindulging them with big meals and tons of tasty treats, resulting in obese dogs prone to diseases such as diabetes, pancreatitis, and osteoarthritis. As a responsible dog owner, you need to hold off on the fatty, calorie-laden foods that can lead to health problems and indulge your four-legged companion with affection and nutritious, tasty meals suited to his particular needs.

If you have more than one housedog, you may notice that their activity levels vary widely. For the dog with a “normal” activity level, meaning at least 30 minutes of heavy play or exercise daily, “maintenance” calorie intake is necessary to sustain body weight and conditioning.  Your typical “couch potato” pooch requires 10 percent below maintenance levels, while active dogs that exercise regularly outdoors may require maintenance plus 20 to 30 percent.

Working canines – police dogs, cattle dogs, and guide dogs – have energy needs related to their work and/or stress levels. A dog with a moderate work load may need a 40 percent increase over maintenance levels, while a dog with high work/stress load may need as much as 70 percent over maintenance.

If the dietary needs of show dogs are not properly met, it shows up in their coat quality and energy levels. They may need as much as 20 percent more calories while on the show circuit. Once home and resting, maintenance levels of nutrition will suffice.

Dogs recovering from trauma, surgery, or suffering from a disease require more calories and nutrition in order to heal, repair, and fight off infection.

Extreme hot or cold weather can also influence your dog’s energy needs. Both keeping warm and keeping cool require extra energy, so consulting with your veterinarian about changing your dog’s nutritional levels when the weather changes may be essential for his health and well being.

Most veterinarians recommend all dogs be fed twice daily with full access to free choice water. The best foods are all-natural, grain-free, and packed with amino acids, probiotics, fruits, vegetables, and multiple protein sources. They’re also manufactured to fit the needs of different dogs – from those pets that are a bit overweight and need fewer calories, to those with skin allergies or coat issues that require more Omega fatty acids.

Additionally, veterinary nutritionists suggest feeding treats in moderation, making any treat less than 5 percent of your dog’s daily caloric intake. All-natural treats made with peanut butter, fruits, and veggies can provide your dog with that extra bit of tastiness he craves without overloading him with calories.

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