How much dog food should your dog be eating? Just as in dog training, questions about feeding also are often answered with: “It depends.” There is no one easy answer to this question.
If you feed your dog a commercial kibble, the package will have guidelines for feeding. These are usually based on the weight of your dog, but age and activity level might also be listed. Remember, these are only general guidelines and are not meant to be a “one-size-fits-all” answer. If you feed a raw or home-cooked diet, the guidelines generally use a percentage of body weight. Same goes there, these are guidelines to start you out, but you need to make personal adjustments from there.
Do you know people who seem to eat anything they want and never gain weight? But you or someone else you know seems to gain weight just by looking at food? You might be the same size, age and gender as someone else you know, but it does not mean you both should eat the exact same amount of calories to maintain a healthy weight. Same goes for dogs.
Our dogs are fed a home-prepared raw diet. Romeo, our Vizsla, is 5.5 years old and weights in around 45 pounds. Zuzu, our Greyhound is 1 year old and weights in somewhere around 60 pounds. Based on that information, how much would you guess that each one eats in comparison to the other? You’d probably guess Zuzu eats slightly more than Romeo. But you’d be wrong! Zuzu eats THREE TIMES the amount Romeo does. And she is still very thin. We feed her A LOT, and I add in lots of healthy treats to try to add some good healthy calories to her diet. She is happy to eat, but never seems overly hungry. She does not counter surf and go looking for food because she’s starving. She has plenty of energy. She’s pretty content.
Why does Zuzu eat so much more than Romeo? In part, she’s much younger and more active. Romeo used to be much more active when he was in his adolescent, growth, high energy stage of life – the stage Zuzu is in now. She burns more calories, so she needs more calories.
When you are determining whether you are feeding the right amount, your first sign will be whether your dog is overweight or not. While many of the dogs who board with us are a good healthy weight, there have also been plenty who are overweight. Some are just slightly overweight, but some are really overweight. Can you feel your dog’s ribs? Without having to push hard through a doughy abdomen? Do you see a waistline? Or does your dog’s middle look like a barrel?
How much exercise does your dog get? Lots of running and playing? One or two walks per day? Time to play with dog friends? Go for off leash hikes? The more exercise your dog gets, the more calories they burn. If your dog is not getting enough exercise, then you might need to cut back on his food. If your dog is getting a ton of exercise, you might need to add a little extra to the diet.
Do not depend on your vet to tell you if your dog is overweight. While your vet should tell you, they might not mention it, or you might not see them until your dog is seriously overweight. If you’re not sure, make a point to ask. But make your own decision. And be honest. Your dog will be much healthier at a lean weight rather than carrying extra pounds. As they get older, arthritis and other ailments can be exacerbated by excess pounds.
Is your dog at a healthy weight?