Why Portion Control Is Important For Your Dog
As a loving and responsible dog owner, you want nothing but the best for your furry companion. From providing them with a comfortable bed to regular exercise, you want to meet their needs and help give them a happy life.
However, one key aspect of your dog’s health often goes unnoticed: portion control. Just like humans, dogs require a well-balanced, high-quality diet in appropriate quantities to maintain optimal health. Yet, many pet owners unintentionally overfeed their dogs, leading to a host of potential health issues. That’s where portion control comes in.
In this blog, we’ll delve into the significance of portion control for your canine bestie – the potential benefits it offers, the risks associated with overfeeding, and practical tips to ensure you’re providing your dog with the right amount of food.
Let’s dive into the world of portion control and discover why it matters more than you may think.
What Factors Should You Consider When Determining How Much To Feed Your Dog?
1. Dog Feeding: Weight
When determining how much to feed your dog, their weight should be taken into consideration. The ideal weight range for dogs can be categorized into:
- Toy breed (3-6 pounds)
- Small breed (10-20 pounds)
- Medium breed (30-50 pounds)
- Large breed (60-100 pounds)1
However, these categories are not hard-and-fast rules, and other factors (as you’ll see below) should also be considered.
To truly determine if your dog is overweight or underweight, it’s always best to chat with your vet. Together, you can establish where your pet falls on the chart and whether the goal is weight loss, weight gain, or weight maintenance.
2. Dog Feeding: Breed
Different dog breeds have distinct characteristics, such as metabolism, activity level, and even predispositions to certain health conditions that may affect how much they should eat each day.
For example, a high-energy dog breed, like a Border Collie, will have different needs than a traditionally lower-energy dog, like a Pug. That’s because high-energy dogs will burn a higher number of calories per day than a more sedentary breed, so they’ll need more calories.2
Always talk to your vet to get their best advice on the nutritional requirements for your specific breed of pup. There are, of course, other factors that come into play, but the breed is an important element to consider.
3. Dog Feeding: Life Stage
Puppies typically need larger quantities of food because they are growing so rapidly. But, they also don’t have much space in their tiny tummies – so they’re often fed smaller portions more frequently. By six to eight weeks of age, puppies need to be fed between four and six meals a day.3
On the other hand, senior dog diets often require fewer calories, higher protein, lower sodium, and fewer carbohydrates, as well as bonus ingredients, like probiotics or omega-3 fatty acids to help maintain a healthy digestive system.4
It’s key that you talk with your vet about the best food for a senior dog, as they will also need to take into consideration any health issues your older pup may have.
4. Dog Feeding: Body Size
It’s a common misconception that large-breed dogs require more calories. In reality, small dogs actually need to take in more calories per pound than large dogs because they have very high metabolisms.5
This is vital to understand because larger dogs, and it’s why portion control is so important. Larger dogs tend to have issues with joint discomfort as they age. Any excessive weight gain may put further strain on their joints, increase the risk of obesity-related health issues, and shorten their already shorter lifespans.6
A good starting point is to reference a dog feeding chart for a large breed dog. An even better method is to talk with your vet about portion control for your dog’s size. And of course, you absolutely want to follow the portion recommendations on your dog food bag.
5. Dog Feeding: Activity Level
Breed-specific energy levels are important, but there are other things to consider, including a dog’s overall activity level and daily exercise. A dog that’s active throughout the day will require more energy from their food, while low-energy or senior dogs may require fewer calories.7
This is paramount because feeding a sedentary dog too much food can lead to excess weight gain, while a dog that’s exercising a lot but not getting enough food may develop a calorie deficit and lose weight.
The bottom line is that the amount of exercise your dog gets each day can significantly impact how much food they need to maintain a healthy weight.
The Best Way To Portion Out Food For Your Dog
Step 1: Determine Portions
To start, determine your dog’s daily feeding portion based on weight, age, and activity level. The best way to get a ballpark guideline is to buy a high-quality dog food and simply read and follow the guidelines on the back of the bag.
Divide this daily portion into their number of meals – most adult dogs thrive on two meals a day about 12 hours apart.8 Use an actual dry measuring cup to ensure accurate portion sizes and avoid guessing.
Remember, you can adjust the portion size for more active dogs or more sedentary dogs. But talk to your vet about the right way to do this. You should also consider pre-allocating your pup’s daily treats so you know exactly the amount that they’re getting. This can also help to avoid overfeeding.
Step 2: Try A Slow Feeder Bowl (If Appropriate)
Once you’ve determined the proper portion amount, you can also use a slow feeder bowl to help slow down your dog’s eating pace. This can help encourage your dog to chew their food better, which can help support good digestion.9
Slow-feeder bowls may not work for all dogs. Fussy dogs and dogs who aren’t food-motivated can just become frustrated with the process and not eat.10
Step 3: Talk To Your Vet
Consulting with your vet is an important part of the process when determining the appropriate portion size for your dog’s diet.
Your vet can help you determine the exact amount of food your dog needs based on all the factors discussed above – your dog’s age, weight, breed, activity level, and any underlying health conditions they may have.
It’s important (and helpful) to check your dog’s weight every 2-4 weeks and take note of the results. If your dog is gaining or losing weight, discuss these changes with your vet, and work to adjust their portion sizes accordingly.11
Regular consultations with your vet can help ensure that your dog is getting the right amount of food to maintain a healthy weight and overall well-being.
Step 4: Be Consistent
Consistency is key when it comes to portion control for your furry friend. Sticking to a regular feeding schedule can help your dog maintain a healthy weight and prevent overeating.
But remember, slow and steady progress is better than a crash diet. Make small daily reductions (or increases), and be patient. By focusing on consistency and healthy habits, you can help support your dog’s quality of life and health.
The Pitfalls Of Feeding From Your Own Plate
You should always avoid feeding your dog human meals because they can be too rich, fatty, and heavily seasoned for them. Even snacks of human food can quickly add up and throw off their daily caloric balance. Feeding your dog human food can also lead to perpetual begging, behavior issues, or future picky eating.12
Certain human foods can also be toxic to dogs, such as alcohol, chocolate, garlic, onions, and macadamia nuts. Always stick to dog-friendly meats, fruits, and vegetables to ensure your pup’s health and well-being.13
How Many Calories Should My Dog Eat Each Day?
The Animal Medical Center in Chicago advises the following chart as a starting point for determining a pup’s estimated caloric needs.14
This is, of course, not taking into account other factors, like fitness levels and health issues. So, talk to your vet to check whether these guidelines need tweaking for your particular dog.
What Nutrients Should My Dog’s Food Provide?
To provide for your canine’s optimal health and wellness, always choose high-quality, nutrient-rich dog food.
Your canine’s diet should be well-balanced and include all the essential nutrients – protein, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, and minerals which are involved in all of the basic functions of the body.
For example, protein is important for building and repairing muscles, while carbohydrates provide energy for daily activities. Fats are also a source of energy and help with the absorption of vitamins. Vitamins and minerals play a vital role in maintaining a healthy immune system, strong bones, and overall wellness.15-17
Always speak to your vet for more information on specific nutrients that your particular dog may need.
What Are The Dangers Of Overfeeding My Dog?
Overfeeding a dog can lead to weight gain and certain health issues. In fact, depending on the breed, overfeeding and the weight gain that results can actually shorten their life span.18
Even if it comes from a place of love, you may be hurting your pup by overfeeding them.
How Can I Tell If My Dog Is Overweight Or Underweight?
Determining whether your dog is overweight or underweight is a crucial aspect of their general health assessment. Here are some key indicators to help you determine if your dog is overweight or underweight:19
Visual Assessment: Look at your dog from a bird’s-eye view and a side view. In an ideal weight range, you should be able to see a visible waistline behind the rib cage and abdominal tuck.
- If your dog appears round or lacks a discernible waistline, it may be overweight.
- On the other hand, if their ribs, spine, or hip bones are prominently visible, they may be underweight.
Physical Feel: Gently run your hands along your dog’s sides and back.
- If you can easily feel their ribs without excessive fat covering, they are likely in a healthy weight range.
- If you struggle to feel the ribs due to a layer of fat, it suggests they may be overweight.
- If the ribs are highly palpable or prominent, they may be underweight.
Remember, it’s important to consult your veterinarian for a truly accurate assessment of your dog’s weight and health.
Are There Any Special Feeding Considerations For Puppies?
Puppies require relatively larger quantities of food because they’re growing rapidly and have limited space in their stomachs.20
At 6 to 8 weeks of age, they need about four to six meals a day. By 6 months, the need for food is decreased because puppies are about 75% of their adult size and can be fed two to three meals a day.21
However, it’s key not to overfeed puppies, as this can still lead to weight and other health issues. Consult with your vet to determine the appropriate portion size for your puppy based on their breed, weight, and age.
It is always recommended to consult with your veterinarian to assess your dog’s specific needs and develop a tailored portion control plan just for them. Your vet can provide guidance on proper feeding practices, monitor your dog’s weight, and offer support on maintaining a healthy body condition.
By prioritizing portion control and providing your dog with balanced nutrition, you are paving the way for their long-term health and happiness by your side.