Chow Time: A Guide to Feeding Your Dog

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It’s a highlight of your dog’s day. Okay, in fairness, it’s a highlight of everyone’s day, but even more so for your pooch.

Your dog looks forward to and is delighted by feeding time. He salivates and watches your movements, attempting to anticipate when meal time arrives. Like clockwork, your dog is able to memorize his feeding routine.

Good nutrition is no accident. Your dog needs a balanced diet complete with proteins, carbohydrates, fats, minerals, and vitamins. It takes dedication and perseverance to make sure your dog eats what he should, rather than what he wants to consume.

So what exactly can you do, as a dog owner, to ensure complete nutrition is achieved by your canine? What follows is a guide for feeding your dog.

The Lowdown on Dog Food

It’s important to recognize that not all dog foods are created equal. While most dog foods are soybean-, rice-, or corn-based, better brands may have meat or fish meal listed as the first ingredient.

Although better-quality brands tend to be priced higher, they can prove worthwhile. Dogs typically eat less of high quality-products, since they have greater caloric density. This extends the time this food lasts, helping offset the higher cost.

The choice of dry vs. canned vs. semi-moist food is an individual one, but larger dogs should be fed a dry or semi-moist diet, since they may have difficulty consuming enough canned food to fulfill their caloric needs.

Consider Your Dog’s Body Weight

Your dog’s weight can be used to dictate feeding quantity. By following basic feeding rules with regards to body weight, you can serve as your dog’s unofficial dietitian.

If your dog is underweight, feed him one-and-one-half times the “usual” amount of food and consider switching to a food with higher protein and fat content. Similarly, if your dog is lean, as many active young dogs are, consider increasing total daily food intake by 25 percent.

On the other hand, if your dog is chubby, reduce daily food intake by 25 percent and limit treats. More drastic food-changing measures may be needed for an obese dog – such as switching to a low fat/high fiber diet – but consult your veterinarian before pursuing this course of action.

Feeding Frequency

The frequency with which you should feed your dog will depend on your dog’s age and size. Whereas a puppy needs to be fed three to four times per day, an adult dog only requires one or two daily feedings.

The key for dog feeding is to develop consistency. Dogs are creatures of habit and thrive with a set routine. Consider feeding your dog during your family’s mealtimes so you have a set schedule and so your dog shows less interest in your food.

Two of the most popular dog feeding methods are free-choice and limited-time. With free-choice feeding, the dog’s food bowl is kept full and the dog can eat whatever quantity he wants whenever he wants. Since many dogs do not possess the necessary discipline for free-choice, the preferred method is limited-feeding, whereby the day’s total ration is divided over a set number of feedings.

Feeding Your Puppy

Puppies have special dietary needs relative to adult dogs. When you first bring your puppy home, maintain the same food the puppy was receiving from the rescue, shelter, or breeder. This will help minimize the degree of change the puppy experiences while transitioning to his permanent home.

Puppies should be fed puppy food designed to supply all the nutrients that a rapidly-growing pup needs. Some people refer to such rations as “growth formula,” but regardless of the name, make sure the food package has a stamp of approval from the Association of American Feed Control Officers (AAFCO).

It’s a good rule of thumb to feed your puppy small yet frequent meals. An eight-week-old puppy probably needs four meals per day, with a gradual reduction in feeding frequency in the subsequent months.

Feeding Your Senior Dog

As dogs age, their health and stamina slowly decline. Consequently, proper nutrition becomes more important than ever. Managing your senior dog’s diet properly will help elongate his life.

Foods for older dogs are lower in protein, sodium, and phosphorous to help their aging hearts and kidneys. Increased amounts of certain vitamins have also proven beneficial in geriatric dogs. But the best diet for a senior dog will depend on the specific problems or nutritional requirements facing that particular pooch.

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