Important dog feeding guidelines to remember

Learning the basic dog feeding guidelines can prevent a lot of problems.

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When you have decided which dog food to buy and give to your dog then it should not be difficult anymore. Just pour it into his bowl for him to eat, right?

Well, there is slightly more to it but it's not difficult. Continue reading to get familiar with the basic feeding guidelines for dogs.

10 Rules for feeding your dog

Dog feeding guideline #1: Feed at least twice a day

A grown up dog needs to be fed twice a day. Puppies eat smaller portions and are fed four times a day. When your dog is suffering gastro-intestinal upsets it's better to give less food more often a day, instead of two larger meals.

Feeding a larger portion only once a day possibly increases the risk of bloat, which is a twisting of the stomach that can be fatal. Some dog breeds are more prone to bloat then others. Small dogs generally are at low risk of developing bloat. When you have a large dog it's preferable to feed from an elevated dog bowl rather than have the bowl on the floor. This is believed to reduce chances of stomach twists.

Dog feeding guideline #2: Feed with your eyes

On the dog food package you will find feeding guidelines where you can find how much to feed for a dog of a particular size, age and/or weight. This a rough guideline as the energy requirements can vary by breed and by dog (one dog is taken for a stroll down the park whereas another is exercising heavily for the upcoming agility contest). Energy requirements also vary with age, health and reproductive status. You can even take outside temperature into account when your dog spends a lot of time out in the open. To establish the exact quantity of dog food is more an art than a science really. Have you ever calculated the amounts and types of food you put in your lunchbox?

Take the general advice on the package into account and modify the amount using your own critical judgement. You are the one that actually sees your dog, so you are in the best position to fine tune the general guideline.

Feeding with your eyes means you have to look at your dog. Examine his waistline for instance. Is he's too thin… feed some more than the general guideline is saying. Is he's overweight… then feed less. Meanwhile, continue observing his weight and activity level. You can weigh your dog every month to see whether you are on the right track. Make adjustments to the feeding schedule when required.

When in doubt remember it's better to feed a little less than to overfeed your canine. You can remove dog food that is not eaten after 10 to 15 minutes.

Too thin or overweight dogs. When you consequently overfeed your dog as opposed to his activity level you'll end up with an obese dog making him vulnerable to weight-related disorders.

Dog feeding guideline #3: Feeding time

Some people claim your should feed your dog at the exact same time every day. But as I've never seen any dog make a true commitment in learning to tell time, this rule is not as strict as some people think it is. Remember that wild carnivores eat at irregular intervals. When your dog is used to getting his meal every day at 1800 hours sharp, you may find yourself hurrying home just because of this rule you made up. Don't go over the edge either but allow yourself a little timeframe.

Adult dogs can benefit from one day of fasting each week. This mimics their natural eating pattern in the wild and may benefit them. Fasting is not required though and should be avoided when your pooch is young, sick or underweight.

Dog feeding guideline #4: Feed room temperature dog food

When you're feeding kibbles this won't be a problem. But when it comes to fish or meat you keep in the fridge you need to remind yourself to leave this for some time at room temperature. When you have frozen meat it is best to thaw this in about 3 hours at room temperature (do not use a micro wave since this may decrease the nutritional value for your dog). Ideally, thaw raw meat in the fridge to reduce growth of bacteria.

Feeding cold dog food can, in sensitive dogs, result in stomach issues such as vomiting.

Dog feeding guideline #5: Maintain hygiene

Provide fresh drinking water and clean the dog's bowl after dinner. Hygiene is of particular importance when you're feeding a raw meat diet. Take care when handling the meat in your kitchen and don't forget to clean the location where your dog is eating. Make sure he cannot drag the meat around the house. Your dog is better equipped to deal with raw meat, but you and your family must take precautions to prevent bacterial infections such as Salmonella, Campylobacter and E.coli.

Dog feeding guideline #6: Feed the same dog food every day

Though we like variation and can handle very different meals this may be different for your tail-wagger. Generally, a dog cannot handle changes in food (of course there exist exceptions to every rule). When you need to change dog food you should do this gradually so the intestinal flora of your pooch doesn't get upset. One dog's intestines are more sensitive than the other's.

Switching dog food can result in stomach upsets and diarrhea.

Dog feeding guideline #7: Peace and tranquillity versus disturbances

Keep your dog's bowl in the same location as always.

It is often advised not disturb a dog when he's eating. This is fine of course since you like your enjoy your meal in peace as well, however one of the highest incidence rates of dog bites is when a dog's food is disturbed. So when training your dog let him get used to you taking away his food bowl when he's eating, put something extra in there (or just stick your hand in it) and then give it back to him. This way he'll get used to being disturbed during meals, thereby decreasing the risk of unfortunate bite incidents in the future.

Dog feeding guideline #8: Provide water

Have a bowl of (fresh) water available for your dog all the time.

Dog feeding guideline #9: Prevent gulping behavior

When your dog is a very fast eater and empties his bowl in just seconds he'll probably also ingests air with his dog food. This can result in stomach and digestive upsets. When your pooch is one of these you can prevent the gulping behavior by placing a large object in the food bowl. You can get special dog dishes that have obstructive elements to make sure your dog isn't eating too fast.

When you think your dog is gulping because of competition with other dogs, then simply provide them their meals in separate rooms.

Dog feeding guideline #10: Dealing with specials

Limit food rewards and let your dog work for that tasty treat.

dog food meal

Be careful with table scraps. I don't know what you're having for dinner these days, but when it's fatty or spicy then you should never give this to your dog. When you have unsalted meaty and fishy leftovers (or raw uncooked kitchen counter scraps) this usually won't be an issue. When in doubt, throw your left-overs in the garbage bag. Know that some of the foods you enjoy can be toxic to your tail-wagger (for example chocolate, onions, raisins and grapes).

Avoid cooked bones as these can splinter and harm you furry friend. The nutritional value of cooked bones is less than that of raw bones anyway.

As a general rule: Avoid mineral and vitamin additives as this can create imbalances. Only veterinary prescribed supplements should be given.

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