Humans eat three meals per day plus a few snacks, but you might not be sure whether your dog should also eat that often. The question of how often to feed a dog doesn’t have one pat answer, so read on to find out what you should keep in mind as you make this decision.
Puppies Need to Eat More Often
If you have a puppy under six months of age, you should strive to feed him three or four times per day. Puppies have small stomachs and unique nutritional needs that make it necessary to feed them a small amount of food more often than you’d feed an adult dog. For more information about your dog’s nutritional needs, check out this article on balanced diets for dogs.
When you look at the dog food package, you might be surprised at how much a puppy should eat in comparison to older dogs. Since puppies are still growing, they need to take in more calories than similarly sized adult dogs. Split up the recommended amount into the three or four feedings. For example, if your puppy should eat two cups of food per day, give three to four meals of 1/2 to 2/3 cup at each meal.
Once your pup is six months of age, he can switch to two or three feedings per day. Be sure to increase the amount of food you are giving him at each meal to compensate for one fewer feeding as well as his weight, which is probably steadily increasing.
Small Dogs Eat Less at Each Feeding
When your dog is an adult, you can switch to feeding him twice per day. Some people want to feed their dogs once per day, but small dogs can usually only take in a small amount of food in one sitting. This makes it necessary to feed them more than once per day. Split up the recommended amount into two feedings. If your dog eats better in the morning, you can feed him a bit more in the morning and a bit less in the evening (or vice versa if he is a better eater in the evening!).
Large Dogs Can Experience Bloat From Eating Too Much at Once
Lest you large-dog owners think you’re off the hook and can feed your dog just once per day, keep in mind that larger dogs are often prone to a condition called bloat. Bloat is a potentially deadly condition that can lead to twisting of the intestines. It can be caused by ingesting large meals, so it is better to feed your large dog twice per day rather than once per day.
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Don’t Forget to Factor in Snacks
If you are like most dog parents, you probably want to give your dog some treats. This is part of the fun of having a dog! Just as you would not give a child a pile of cookies before dinner, however, you should keep an eye on the time before giving your dog treats. Remember that canine cookies and other doggie delicacies do contain calories, so you will need to remember the adage, “everything in moderation.”
Giving your dog a biscuit or two before bed can help prevent hunger during the night. Some dogs will become nauseated and even vomit in the morning due to an empty stomach, so a late-night snack of a couple of dog cookies or even an early morning appetizer might be a good idea.
The Bottom Line
Dogs will generally adapt their appetites to your schedule. Ideally, young puppies should eat about four times per day, older puppies should eat about three times per day, and adult dogs should eat twice daily. If you need to feed your adult dog only once per day, however, just check with your veterinarian to be sure it is appropriate for your dog and then go ahead. Similarly, if you are home most of the time, you might choose to feed your adult dog three times per day to match your mealtimes. Whatever works for you will often work for your dog, so go by his hunger cues and make the decision that is right for you!