Canine Diet and Nutrition Information Part 1
The Proper Care and Feeding Of Your Dog
 

How Much to Feed A Dog to Meet His Energy Needs

By Joe Bodewes, DVM

One of the most common questions that I am asked concerning dogs is how much to feed them.

While this seems like a very straightforward question, there are actually some unique circumstances that make this question very difficult to answer. This article will help to explain those circumstances and will help pet owners choose the right amount of food for their canine diet.

The importance of knowing how much dog food to feed

I once had an elderly client that bred and raised Labrador Retrievers. Whenever she brought her dogs in to the clinic I was consistently impressed with the fact that they were always about the perfect weight with beautiful coats and good muscle tone. Finally, one day I asked her what her secret was that allowed her to feed her dogs in such a way that they were always the perfect weight. She thought for a few seconds and then leaned forward and in a serious whisper divulged, "when they are skinny I feed 'em more and when they get fat I feed 'em less." 

Several years and hundreds of nutritional consultations later, I am still impressed with the simplistic truth of that statement. Despite our determined efforts to devise a quality canine diet that will tell us exactly how much to feed a dog of a given weight, we still do not have one, and it is very unlikely that we ever will.

What that owner displayed was years of experience that allowed her to make slight adjustments in the canine diet to keep her dogs at the perfect weight. 

Unfortunately, most owners do not have years of experience and hundreds of dogs under their care to allow them to become good at regulating their dogs' caloric intake. Yet, maintaining the proper weight is critical to ensuring a healthy canine diet.

Underweight dogs often suffer from poor muscle tone, delayed healing, loss of energy, and metabolic and reproductive disorders. Overweight dogs, which are much more common, suffer from arthritic problems, an increase incidence of metabolic disease including diabetes and liver problems, as well as a lack of energy, and an increase in skin problems. They may also have a shortened life expectancy. The health benefits from providing proper nutrition in your canine diet are immeasurable.

What the pet food labels say...

There is one readily available source of information concerning feeding amounts. Every bag of food has a suggested feeding guideline based on the weight of the dog. But there are several problems with these guidelines. First, there is usually a wide range of recommended quantities to be fed. Second, determining a quantity to be fed based on weight is an extremely inaccurate way of feeding. Third, there is little consistency between brands in the recommended quantities to be fed. For example, I did a quick survey of the labels of three of the most popular brands of dog food. They were all adult maintenance formulas with fairly similar ingredients, levels of fats, proteins, fiber, etc. All three labels had different recommendations on the total daily amount to be fed. One recommended 1 cups, the second recommended 2 cups, and the third stated 2 cups. This is a discrepancy of over 50% in recommended feeding amounts between three of the most similar types of dog food. What happens when you take into account puppy, senior, performance, and low fat foods? It is little wonder consumers are confused on this issue. The point is that the amount on the back of the bag is rarely the amount that should be fed, but should be considered a rough starting point.

Click Here for Part Two

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