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All About Feeding Your Dog

Knowing what to feed your dog and how often to feed them can be a bit of a mystery. Never fear, we're here to crack the culinary code. Understanding the correct portion sizes and feeding schedules can be quite simple once you know the fundamentals.

Canned or dry food, which is the best choice?

Eating junk all day might sound like the dream diet, but of course eating a more balanced diet is what we need to feel our best. Well, the same idea applies to your dog, and although it may seem like common knowledge, premium brands are usually a better choice when it comes to dog food. No matter if it's dry or canned, meat or fish is usually the first ingredient. These brands tend to cost more but end up being a better deal overall. How could that be? Well, premium foods will provide your dog more sustenance and less filler, meaning your dog eats less, but still stays full.

When looking at dry food compared to canned food, dry food is usually more satisfying due to less filler and water inside of the food itself. This is especially true for larger dogs, because bigger breeds cannot usually meet their nutritional needs on just canned food. If your dog is over 30 pounds, dry or semi-moist food is usually the best choice.

How much should you feed your dog?

Filling your dog's stomach starts at the eyes. Always check the nutritional labels on the package of your dog's food to find out a suggested portion amount. Also, keep in mind that if your dog lives a more sedentary lifestyle, you should scale back the portion size because package recommendations are usually meant for very active dogs.

Keep an eye on your dog's bowl too. If your dog is consistently leaving food behind, gradually reduce the amount of food you provide them until you find the right amount.

Once you've found the magic portion, track your dog's weight to make sure they're maintaining a healthy weight.

How often should you feed your dog?

The two most common methods of feeding your dog are the free feeding and scheduled feeding methods.

Free feeding: If you choose free feeding, the good news is that it's very convenient for you. Just use a gravity feeder let your pooch graze throughout the day.

However, many breeds tend to have tenacious appetites, and overeating can be more common with this method, because it's harder to monitor how much, and when, your dog is eating. Also, if you have multiple dogs, free feeding can cause your dogs to steal food from each other.

Scheduled feeding: You don't have to teach your pooch the difference between the salad fork and the dinner fork to have scheduled feedings. Deciding to go this route has some distinct benefits.

With scheduled feedings, you have the ability to feed your pooch the appropriate amount of puppy food multiple times a day. Precisely how often, and how much you need to feed your pooch depends on their age and breed.

Here are some general guidelines that can be used to determine how often you should feed your dog when using scheduled feedings:

6-8 weeks
If your puppy is 6 to 8 weeks old, you can generally feed them 3-4 times a day.

8+ weeks
If your puppy is 8 weeks or older, you can generally feed them twice a day.

6 months and older
Some experts say it's okay to feed your young-adult dog only once a day. Others believe that once-a-day feedings may lead to overeating and obesity.

It's best to consult with your veterinarian around this age to receive guidance on how often and how much to feed your puppy as they grow.

Six years and older
It's generally okay to feed older dogs 2 to 3 times per day, but consult your veterinarian before adopting this routine.

Snacks and treats

When becoming a pet parent, you might not know that you need to train yourself to do some "tricks" as well. Not spoiling your pup by giving dog treats and snacks frequently, is one of the most important things we must train ourselves to do as pet parents. In fact, spoiling your dog with treats can cause obesity, make your dog finicky, and make your dog a relentless beggar.

As a general rule of thumb, treats shouldn't account for more than 10% of your dog's total food intake per day.

Your dog's nutritional needs

Whether your dog resembles a living vacuum or needs to eat from a silver spoon, the fact of the matter is that dog's don't know what a balanced diet is. No two dogs are the same, and finding a complete diet can be easier said than done. As pet parents we need to make sure that our dogs eat in a way that ensures their health and strength.

Maturing tastes

As your dog leaves puppyhood, a diet less rich in calories, protein and fat is appropriate. Switching your pooch to adult food can usually happen around 1 year of age, depending upon the breed. Just to be safe, it's a good idea to consult your veterinarian before switching your pup to adult food.

When you do decide to switch to adult food, do it gradually, over a one to two-week period. Gradually increasing the ration of adult food against puppy food.

Choosing the food

There is a galaxy of different dog foods available today, but the main thing when choosing a food is finding one that maintains a balanced diet for your dog. Appropriate amounts of protein, carbohydrates, fats, minerals and vitamins are extremely important. Don't forget to provide plenty of fresh water as well. When it comes to a diet, appearances are everything and a shiny, silky coat, with no dry skin, is a good sign.

Heading off obesity

The biggest nutritional problem for older pets is obesity. Obesity may seem like a mild ailment at first glance, but really, unhealthy weight gain can lead to much more serious health problems like arthritis, heart disease, breathing difficulty, diabetes, and bladder cancer. Fortunately, as pet parents we can ward off this danger by monitoring our dog's weight and staying near an ideal weight throughout adulthood.

If your dog is starting to fill out in all the wrong places despite appropriate feedings and exercise, your vet might want you to try out a lower-calorie food. Such products contain less fat and more fiber than typical foods. That way, your dog consumes fewer calories, but still feels full. Also feeding your dog twice daily may prevent overeating and help with weight control as well.

Finally, limiting treats and keeping a close eye on your pooch's exercise routine can do wonders to slim them down. Your veterinarian is a great source for slim down strategies, so don't be shy when asking for help.