Many pet owners believe that their dog requires more food than it really does, thus dogs are typically overfed, with more than 50% of all dogs on earth being overweight or obese!
Obesity is associated with a variety of serious diseases, including arthritis, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease, as well as an increased risk of mortality. Dogs that are overweight might live up to 2.5 years fewer than dogs at a proper weight whilst underfeeding also causes nutritional deficiencies.
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To decide how much food to give your pet, you will have to estimate how many calories he needs. The best way is to do some research on the amount of exercise your dog gets during an average weekday and weekend.
Most dogs need about 250 to 300 Calories per day, but this may vary depending on the dog’s lifestyle and breed. You can also ask your vet, but make sure you describe the dog’s lifestyle to him or her (active, couch potato, etc).
In general, a dog should be fed about 2-3% of its ideal adult weight. This is usually expressed as 2 or 3 percent of the ideal adult weight times the number of pounds per day. Adult dogs weighing 30 lbs and more should be fed at around 1 ½ to 2 ½ cans daily (for example).
Large/Giant breed dogs (Doberman, Great Dane, Saint Bernard, etc.) should be fed at 1-2% of ideal adult weight.
Barbary wolves were kept in zoos for many years and during that time their diets were measured and analyzed. They can serve as a good template for how much you should feed a dog. Assuming the zoo diets were the best possible diets for a dog, bear in mind that excessive amounts of Vitamin D can be toxic to dogs, so bear this in mind.
Really old or really young dogs have lower metabolic requirements and should have their food intake reduced accordingly.
In addition to its food, your dog will need water daily. If it’s hot, make sure you give extra water.
The general rule of thumb is that the more active your dog is (the more exercise), the more it’ll need to drink, especially in warmer weather. You should expect your adult dog to consume about 1 cup of water for every 10 pounds of body weight per day.
3 things to consider are when it comes to feeding your dog:
As your dog matures, his nutritional requirements change. A puppy needs food for growth and development, whereas a more mature dog may benefit from a formulation that kept him active and alert.
His dietary requirements will be determined by his life stage and lifestyle.
Consider your dog’s size. A tiny breed, such as a Chihuahua, requires a distinct quantity of calories compared to a Great Dane. Choose a food that is tailored to your dog’s breed, size, and age.
Consider their activity levels: are they a working dog who works regularly, or do they spend most of their time indoors with little walks during the day?
Please consult your local veterinarian for specific guidance on how much to feed your dog if you have any doubts about what amounts to offer.
Labels can be misleading……
The feeding recommendations on commercial dog foods are too generous, resulting in overfeeding. The starting point is to adhere to the feeding guidelines, which may usually be found on the food’s packaging.
To add to the confusion, nutritionists aren’t even on the same page when it comes to calculating a dog’s calorie intake (there are three distinct methods!)
The simplest approach to begin is to follow the directions on the package (though they are overly generous). Then, if you need to make adjustments later, you may do so.
Also, remember the label’s recommendation is for the entire day, not each meal, therefore split the meal into 2 portions! Another issue is that the label is based on the phrase “IDEAL WEIGHT,” which means that if your dog is a little bit overweight and you follow the directions on the bag, you’re over- feeding them and keeping them fat!
Don’t forget Quality!
The TYPE of calories you’re providing to your pet is far more essential than the quantity, you could fulfill his calorific requirements by feeding your dog mostly fat or mostly carbohydrates which you don’t want to do.
That’s why looking at the dog food label is so important! Proper nutrition is more concerned with the TYPE of calories than the number of calories.
Named flesh proteins and named fats, as well as named carbohydrates are always preferable because there can be a lot of undesirable ingredients in pet food. (check out our guide on the dangers of some ingredients in pet foods)
Ideally, you want to see a NAMED meat/protein 1st on the label and preferably 2nd and 3rd on the label too! If it’s meat 1st and 2nd 3rd and 4th are grains (barley, oats, grain) then you are primarily feeding your dog a grain-based food’
Look for nutrient-dense veggies and fruits (carrots, peas, kelp, blueberries, or pumpkin) as well as natural colors and preservatives (rosemary, vitamin C [ascorbic acid], vitamin E [mixed tocopherols].
While these natural preservatives do not have as long shelf life as chemical ones, they are far safer and better for your dog.
Dogs need several different kinds of nutrients to survive: amino acids from proteins, fatty acids and carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, and water. They require approximately 40 different nutrients in the proper form and quantity (balanced) to ensure that they receive adequate nutrition.
Complete and balanced nutrition delivers enough of each critical mineral within the dog’s daily calorie requirements. The recommended minimum daily requirement for each essential nutrient has been refined through years of study.
1) The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) is a group that establishes nutritional requirements and ingredient standards for food. Their statement is essentially a nutritional claim stating that the product is complete and suited to a certain age group. (The statement is generally located near the ingredients list)
2) Look for the words ‘tested’ in the AAFCO statement. This implies that the dish has gone through a food trial and that it does not include any contaminants like salmonella, which is good news.
3) Look for the ‘LIFE STAGE’ of your dog. Dogs go through four life stages: puppy, adult, mature adult, and senior. It’s best to eat a diet that is tailored to your dog’s current stage of development.
How Much Should I Feed My Dog?
To find out your dog’s current weight and therefore feed him more appropriately, you need to determine your dog’s body condition score (BCS), then determine an appropriate calorie amount needed. For this, you will need the help of your vet.
A body condition score (BCS) is a number assigned to your pet based on the evaluation of fat at a few key locations on their body. A BCS can range from 1 to 9 (though some hospitals use a 1 to 5 scale). A BCS of 1 means an animal is severely underweight, probably in danger of death from starvation.
On the opposite side of the scale, a BCS of 9 means an animal is severely overweight, covered in fat, and at risk for suffering from arthritis and diabetes to name a few complications of obesity. An ideal BCS is 4-5 out of 9.
For every number above 5, your pet is an extra 10 percent overweight. For example, a dog with a body condition score (BCS) of 7 out of 9 is approximately 20 percent overweight.
An ideal BCS is 4-5 out of 9
To determine your pet’s body condition score, you will need to evaluate the ribs, waist, and hips:
At an ideal body condition, you will be able to feel your pet’s ribs easily with flat fingers. If you need to use the tips of your fingers, but can still find the ribs easily, your pet is closer to a 6 out of 9.
If you have to really work to find the ribs with your fingertips, that’s a 7 or 8 out of 9. If you can’t find those ribs at all, you’re looking at BCS of 8 or 9 out of 9. On the other side, if you can very easily feel the ribs and just barely see them, that’s a 4 out of 9.
If you see your pet’s ribs very easily from across the room, they are too thin with a BCS of 3 or less. There are some exceptions for very lean body type dogs such as greyhounds.
You can practice on your hand: Make a fist: The knuckles are 3/9, and the backs of your fingers where your rings would sit is a perfect 5/9; now open your hand, palm up: the knuckles where your fingers meet your palm is a 7/9 and the middle of you palm is a 9/9.
There should be a visible “waist” behind the rib cage. You should be able to feel it or see it when they are wet in fluffy pets. Starting where the chest ends and going up toward the hips, you should be able to notice a “tuck” to the abdomen.
Pets get “love handles” just like we do! You should be able to feel the points of the hips easily, with no squishy bulges on any side. If you can clearly see the hip bones or there is no muscle on them, the pet is too skinny.
If you can’t feel the hips, but you can see them clearly, and there is no noticeable layer of fat, then the pet is too thin. Poor nutrition or illness may cause a dog to lose muscle mass which will make it look like its bones are protruding more than normal.
In general, dogs who are at a healthy weight have the following:
1) “hourglass” figure when you look down on them from above. The abdomen should be narrower than the chest and hips.
2) Are “tucked up” when you look at them from the side. This means that their chest is closer to the ground than their belly when standing.
3) Have ribs that are not readily visible but are easily felt with only light pressure.
The system has been likened to costly x-ray equipment that measures percent body fat and the findings correlate perfectly with this chart (BCS Chart). It’s critical to check your dog’s weight regularly and keep an eye on their body condition score. This will assist you in keeping their weight under control while also allowing you to understand how much they should eat.
Every two to four weeks, weigh your dog and keep a record of the results.
If your dog is gaining or losing weight improperly, adjust your portion sizes and discuss this with your veterinarian.
The quantity of food your dog requires may vary throughout its life. As your dog ages and becomes less active, it will need a lower energy intake to maintain its ideal weight and form, so you’ll want to review the diet as well as the food’s quality from time to time.
What to do next!
Did you know that a dog’s gut health has a significant influence on its overall health?
A recent scientific study reports that 70% to 80% of all illness begins in the gastrointestinal tract, and the majority of dogs are enzyme deficient as a result of being fed almost entirely on processed food!
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