Discover the truth about how much you should be feeding your dog
You’ve probably noticed that your dog always seems hungry. Whenever you sit down with a plate of food, there they are, staring at you with those irresistible puppy dog eyes.
But chances are, you’re probably feeding your dog too much. Those feeding instructions on their food label are just a guide and don’t take into consideration your dog’s breed, size and activity level.
So how do you determine what the right amount of food is? Follow these steps below.
First things first - Get your dog weighed so you can tell if they’re over, under or ideal by a proper physical exam. Dogs are the right weight when you can see a distinct waistline that’s narrower than their rib cage and you can feel those ribs without them being visible. You can also download our free app (search PoochPlay in your App Store / Play Store) and check your dog's body condition score using a very simple chart as shown below.
Your vet can also help you come up with a plan of action, including how much your dog should be eating. You can easily keep track of this information by entering into your PoochPlay app, where you’ll get reminders and suggestions tailored to how much activity your dog’s had on any particular day.
Top tip: Trouble getting your pooch on the scale? Try this. Weigh yourself first, to the smallest possible denominator. Then pick up your dog and step back on the scale. Subtract your weight from the combined weight and presto!
This is where the science comes in. A dog nutritionist can figure out a pup’s specific caloric needs based on their weight, activity level and age – a bit like figuring out your BMI.
Find out what your dog’s ideal weight is in kilograms. You can ask your vet or you can use PoochPlay to tell you right away. Next, you need to calculate their resting energy requirement (RER). The formula for this is (weight in kg x 30) + 70. You can use this to determine your dog’s Daily Energy Requirement, in kilocalories.
Sound a bit complicated? There’s an easier way. Simply add your dog’s weight, breed and age information into your PoochPlay app and we’ll tell you how much you should be feeding your dog, taking into consideration their daily activity levels. No need for calculators, measurements or monitoring – we’ll do it all for you and make suggestions on types of food that might suit your pet best.
If your dog’s eating more kilocalories per day than their Daily Energy Requirement, they’re overeating and will gain weight. To shed some pounds, make some adjustments to the amount you’re feeding them. You can take a guess or reply on our sophisticated technology to help you get it right first time.
Note: Make sure your dog doesn’t lose more than 2% of their body weight every week. And if they need to gain weight, it should be slow and steady.
For overweight dogs
Overweight dogs live significantly shorter lives than healthy ones – almost two years, which is a long time in doggie years. Just like people, dogs are happier when they’re active and lean rather than heavy and slow.
So it’s not just the food you feed them you need to watch. Keep a close eye on treats and titbits and be strict with dog walkers, family and friends about the food your dog is given.
Mix up their exercise to keep them interested in it. If your dog loves other dogs, take them to a dog park where they can run and play with their friends. Go for a long walk, visit the local lake and let them have a swim or take them on your morning run.
Use the PoochPlay activity tracker to see just how much exercise your dog is getting when you’re not around (probably very little) and we’ll send you reminders when it’s time for a trip outside.
For underweight dogs
As we’ve mentioned, most dogs love their food. So if yours isn’t eating or has started to show less interest in meal time, it could be an indicator something’s not right. Maybe your pooch is feeling depressed, has something wrong with their teeth or has worms.
These kinds of issues are particularly common in rescue dogs or puppy mills. Take them to the vet for examination and then get them on a high-quality, nutritious diet that’ll help them build up their strength. It’s better to monitor their diet than encourage laziness now, so keep up their activity levels.
Stick to a feeding schedule. Most vets and dog trainers (including our experts at PoochPlay) discourage owners from leaving a big bowl of food out all day for your dog to graze on. Most pups will wolf it down in one go, and to eat little and often is better for their health.
Setting mealtimes in the morning and evening gives your dog behavioural and physical boundaries. Your dog will recognise you as the leader of their pack once they realise you’re the one who controls their food bowl. And you’ll have an easier time house training and predicting when they need to go out if you know when they’ve most recently eaten.
Remember: the amount of food the label tells you to feed your dog is per day, not per meal. So make sure you divide portions equally. And if you’re prone to forgetting, our app will remind you exactly what and when to feed your pup to help you along.
Top tip: If your dog’s prone to wolfing down their food in one go, try using a puzzle toy during the day to get them to work for their food and slow them down.
Consider food quality. If you lay around eating burgers and chips all day, you’d probably gain weight – and lose out on vital nutrition. The same can be said for dog food. Lots of the most well-known brands are packed with things like corn, animal byproducts and artificial preservatives and flavours.
PoochPlay will recommend nutritionally dense foods that you might not have heard of, so you can be sure your dog’s receiving the best quality possible. If you notice your dog’s stools seem loose, it’s probably because they’re eating ‘junk food’ – their body won’t be absorbing those nutritionally-empty ingredients.
Additionally, too many treats can cause obesity in dogs. When you’re training, make sure you reduce the amount of food you give them for dinner and try to limit treats to no more than five a day. If you make a note in PoochPlay of what and when you’re handing over a snack, we’ll automatically adjust the amount of food to feed your pup that evening. One less thing for you to worry about.
Sometimes, dogs need extra calories. If your pooch is under six months old they’ll need more calories to grow, while pregnant females and nursing mums all require extra calories to feed their young.
Watch out for big food companies. Obviously, the faster your dog empties a bag of food the sooner you’ll need to buy another, so they may not have your dog’s best interests at heart. The recommended amounts may be skewed towards overfeeding, so do your own research and let PoochPlay help you figure out what you really need to be feeding them.
Seek out a company that lists meat as a first ingredient, as protein will fill your dog up faster. High-quality food may cost more at the outset, but you’ll use less – and have a healthier dog overall.
You want to be the owner your dog deserves and part of that is being responsible for their weight and diet. Help your dog live a long, healthy life – download PoochPlay today.
NOTE: Visit your vet to put your mind at rest about any underlying medical conditions that could be contributing to their weight issues – chronic illnesses like thyroid problems or parasites can lead to weight gain or loss.