How much Should You Feed Your Dog?

I want to tackle a subject that is, in my opinion, one of the most important areas of any pets’ care; how much feed to give you pet, specifically your dog, for this blog. Here at Saint Leonard Veterinary Centre, we’re not alone in seeing some chubby dogs; it’s becoming all too common in practices up and down the country.

Some of our clients are the parent of “generously padded” pooches, and here at SLVC we do run clinics specifically for weight management. So if you need any advice, please don’t hesitate to contact a member of our great team – it’s why we’re here 🙂

For some of our canine clients we have to recommend a specific diet; perhaps a bitch is pregnant or maybe diabetes has to be considered, or a special kidney-friendly diet is needed. Whatever the reason, we are well placed to recommend the right products for your pooch and will monitor them closely each and every time they come to see us.

The majority of our dogs though don’t need a specific diet once they reach maturity, so what you feed them is up to you. I always recommend that you buy the best you can afford though; a lot of cheaper foods contain “fillers” that might satisfy your dogs’ hunger, but isn’t actually very nutritious for them. Again, if you’re unsure, please contact the Saint Leonard Veterinary Centre team.

Each food manufacturer will state the recommended feeding guidelines for its product on its packaging, so always read these and feed according to their suggestion. There are many factors to take into consideration when feeding your dog: age, weight, breed, activity levels, and the number of treats they have each day. Remember also, that if you feed your pooch twice a day to split the daily allowance in half for each meal. Otherwise you may end up giving Fido a feast of double portions, and end up with a dog that looks more like Moog from Willo’ The Wisp! Showing my age there, aren’t I?! Your hound may thank you, but his joints, heart, lungs, and me (!) won’t.

Many of the “Giant” breeds such as Great Danes and Saint Bernards, which are expected to make 45kg+ at maturity, have different dietary needs to their more standard sized peers and need to be fed specific puppy foodstuffs until they reach 18 months – 2 years old. These types of dogs are also considered as “senior” earlier than other breeds; typically they become senior in terms of dietary need at 5 years of age, and will need specific senior dog food products.

Large dog breeds (25-45kg at maturity) should be moved from puppy feed to adult foods at around 12 – 18 months old and would usually stay on these products until they’re considered seniors at 8 years old, barring any medical reasons.

Small and medium breeds (i.e. those expected to weigh 5-10kg and 10-25kg respectively at adulthood) can both be moved onto adult feedstuffs at 9 months – 1year old. Medium sized dogs reach O.A.P (Old Age Pooch!) status at 8 years old; their smaller counterparts join them at a decade old, as do “Toy” breeds which weigh less than 5kg as adults. Sometimes being small has its advantages!

Here at SLVC we can help you choose, and tailor, a diet to your breeds’ need and your individual dogs’ growth pattern. Good nutrition in the early years really will get your fur-baby’s health off to the best possible start and help them lead a happy, healthy (and hopefully) long life.

There are many different products on the market, both wet and dry feedstuffs; what you feed is entirely your personal choice, and your pet will certainly let you know if they approve of your selection!

One school of thought says that the wet, pouch-type or canned meat varieties increase the rate at which Tartar builds up on the teeth. I think it does have some effect, and the dry kibbles don’t really make a huge difference in slowing down Plaque accumulation. For this to happen, your dog would have to actually chew their biscuits, which in my experience simply doesn’t happen; to them, chewing is an alien concept. Most dogs go to their bowl, open their mouths wide enough to collect the maximum amount of food, then swallow!

This is where you can help, by brushing your pets’ teeth regularly or offering them a dental cleaning treat every day. Which brings me nicely on to the subject of treats; I could really go to town on this subject, but that’s an issue to tackle in another blog. In a nutshell, you need to remember that treats, and this includes oral-care products, shouldn’t make up more than 10-15% (ideally 10%) of your Canine’s calorie intake per day. It goes without saying that human food is NOT suitable for your dog; some of them are actually toxic to canines, and their calorie value tends to be much higher – not ideal if you’re watching Fido’s waistline!

As I mentioned earlier, porky pooches are not a rarity at a veterinary centre, so it’s not that SLVC patients are anything special in that respect. You are special to us though; our furries and their humans are just the best 🙂

Ideally, Fido should be getting about 1hours exercise on a daily basis. I say ideally, because sometimes life gets in the way; sometimes it’s work, sometimes it’s the kids, and sometimes it’s illness that means your dog hasn’t been walked. Don’t beat yourself up, just reduce their feed/calorie intake by 10% – tomorrow is another day.

As a general rule of thumb, wet feeds weigh more than their dry equivalents, thanks to their water content; water may measure on the scales, but it has zero calories. Talking of scales, a common mistake that folks make is not to weigh their animals’ feed – I can’t stress the importance of this enough. It’s scary how we humans have a distorted view of our food portion sizes (no surprise, in our “go large” society), so please familiarise yourself with what a portion should be for your pet. Make a mark on an old mug with permanent marker and use that as your food scoop – or any container really, as long as it’s used solely for Fido’s feed.

If your dog suddenly goes off their food, or their eating habits change, please get in contact with a member of the Saint Leonard Veterinary Centre team as soon as possible. There may be nothing to worry about, but equally it could be a sign of something that needs our attention.

Hopefully this will have given you some food for thought (no pun intended), but if you do need the SLVC teams help, just let us know! Until next time; stay safe, stay well, and be happy 🙂