We go to great lengths to care for our pets: we walk them, groom them, and give them more than enough love to last a lifetime. We even make sure they stay extra hydrated in the heat and procure high-quality food to keep them healthy and happy.
However, many pet parents overlook one important aspect of dog nutrition: proper portioning. How much should we be feeding our dogs, and how do we know the exact quantity necessary for peak performance and optimal pup health?
How does size play a role in determining how much my dog should eat?
While it is easy to assume the bigger the dog, the more food the they eat this might not always be true. A growing puppy will have different nutritional needs than a senior citizen.
According to Prudent Pet, one common practice to feed dogs based on their weight class, which can be categorized as follows:
- toy breed (under ten pounds)
- small breed (10-20 pounds)
- medium breed (30-50 pounds)
- large breed (60-100+ pounds)
Dogs like Pomeranians, Havanese, and Yorkshire terriers all fall into the toy dog category. There is some wiggle room with these measurements, but if your dog is within one or two pounds of the recommended weight, give or take, you can use other factors including age and activity level to determine which classification you use to determine their portion sizes!
If you have a puppy or you're considering becoming a new pet parent, you can use a size chart like the one provided by the American Kennel Club. It will give you an idea of how large you can expect your dog to become. This information is one piece of data you'll need to determine how much food they need each day.
Does my dog's age have any influence over how much they eat?
Simply put, yes, it does. Like humans, dogs metabolism slows as they age which leads to - you guessed it gaining weight more easily. While your young, high energy boxer could probably snack morning, noon and night and not gain an ounce, as they age you might start to notice the number on the scale steadily increasing.
Puppies are much like human infants in that they not only need to grow physically but also need to learn developmentally. They are learning so much so quickly and exploring the world takes lots of high quality fuel. In addition to great nutrition new pet parents should understand that puppies need a lot of sleep and recovery time.
The food puppies eat during this time is critical for their bodies and brains to develop properly, and feeding time is a key part of the training process as well.
Puppies love to eat, but they have not yet developed that internal clock that tells older dogs when it is time for breakfast or dinner. It’s up to pup parents to stick with a very consistent feeding schedule in these early stages and try not to vary meal time by more than a half-hour at first. That means if you decided to feed your puppy at 7 am on a Monday, you better stick to that 7 am time slot every day for the rest of the week, including the weekends!
Many pup parents also wonder when they should increase their dog’s food portion, and that’s when things get a bit hairy.
Since puppies grow so fast, you’ll want to monitor your dog's body weight regularly. Be ready to add a little bit more food to each scoop every time your dog increases by five or so pounds, and just use your best judgment to navigate those in-between areas. If your pup is acting extra hungry during a growth spurt chances are they really do need more food! When in doubt, consult your vet on the proper portion for your pup.
It's okay to show your pet love with food, but not too much
When you have a puppy or new dog, you might at least initially communicate with food. In puppy kindergarten or obedience classes the trainer might ask you to bring high value treats to class with you to help reinforce your dog's learning.
In this instance food is used as a reward for a job well done. Our dogs are smart and eventually they might decide ignoring us and trying to play with the other dogs or running off a case of the zoomies is way more fun than whatever mom or dad is asking. If the reward for offering the behaviors asked for is high enough, this sometimes isn't a problem. Your pup might be more likely to pay attention to you if you're offering steak or salmon than if you offer kibble or cheerios. If you're using treats that are higher in fat, calories and protein for training sessions, it's important to remember to dial back the portions at mealtime so your pup doesn't gain weight too quickly. As your dog learns, you'll be able to fade out the use of treats and keep your dog's diet more consistent.
You may not be surprised to learn, more than half of US dogs are overweight. Many dog owners tend to want to spoil their pets, but offering too many treats or table scraps can harm your dog in the long run.
Carrying around too many extra pounds can be especially bad for a dog because their bones, tendons, and ligaments just aren’t as sturdy as those of human beings and other larger mammals. Obese dogs also have a higher risk of developing other health problems including diabetes and heart disease.
Food quantity matters, but quality is important too
You may have heard about “empty calories” supplied by junk food and sugary beverages. Sure, they may taste good and send feel-good chemicals like dopamine rushing to your head, but the feeling you get after ten minutes of eating them is far from pleasant.
This sets people down a nasty spiral of becoming addicted to junk, and the longer we indulge in the habit, the more difficult it gets to break the cycle.
The same thing is true of our dogs. Many commercially available dog food brands are packed with cheap fillers and empty calories. A lot of these foods also contain artificial flavors, preservatives, vegetable oils, and binding agents that give the illusion of nutrition and taste while delivering very little quality.
Is it starting to sound familiar? Most commercial dog food is like chips or a cheap snack mix! It’s easy and accessible, but not going to positively impact your dog's health.
At Ollie, we take your pup's health very seriously and worked with a veterinary nutritionist to develop recipes that are full of delicious flavor and nutrition. Pups love our gently cooked meals that show up to their door and fit the exact specifications of their needs – including the perfect amount in every serving. Pup parents feel great about offering their dogs a meal with carefully sourced human-grade ingredients that they recognize.
Most dogs will eat pretty much whatever you put in front of them, so it’s our responsibility as pet parents to make the wise decision and bring the best quality to the table (or doggie bowl).
So, what's the right amount of food for your dog?
We bet you were hoping to find a mathematical formula or number of cups in this section and we're sorry to disappoint you. The right amount of food for your pup is the amount that keeps them at a healthy weight and gives them enough energy to do all the fun things you do together.
If your pup is acting extra hungry or tired, try increasing their food a bit or changing their diet gradually until they seem to have more energy.
Other indications that you've found the right diet for your dog are that your pup's skin is healthy and their coats are shiny. A dull coat and skin issues can be symptoms of malnutrition or food allergies so if you see this, it might be worth a chat with your vet.
The Ollie blog is devoted to helping pet parents lead healthier lives with their pups. If you want to learn more about our fresh, human-grade food, check out MyOllie.com.