There are many different feeding methods suggested for dogs but ultimately the one you choose for your dog has to suit both your lifestyle and your dog’s energy levels and appetite. Feeding twice a day has become common practice for most dog owners nowadays but there are many other methods to try if your dog is not coping with long periods of time between meals.
Free feeding or ad lib feeding is a method where you put down enough food for the day and your dog grazes on his food throughout the day. For dogs that need to gain weight this can be a great way to allow them to eat when they need to, but there are some dogs that this method is not suitable for. For instance:
- Dogs that have endless appetites (as they will eat too much)
- Those with poor appetites (as they will need a gap between meals for hunger signals to develop)
- Deep chested breeds which may be prone to gastric dilation
- Overweight dogs
- Those with certain medical conditions (diabetes)
- Dogs with digestion issues, as this method can have an adverse effect if they become enthusiastic eaters
With junior dogs and underweight adolescents, free feeding can be beneficial as they need to maximise the amount they eat. However the daily amount still needs to be weighed out as it’s important that puppies don’t over eat as this can affect their digestion and their growth.
Feeding three to four small meals a day is the traditional way of feeding puppies, but it can also work well with underweight adult dogs as they often can’t cope with large volumes of food but need to consume a lot throughout the day. This can also be a beneficial way of feeding dogs prone to low blood sugar or endurance dogs, but it is important to ensure they have a good rest before and after eating and don’t immediately resume high activity levels. Some elderly dogs prefer this method as they can eat little and often to suit their appetite.
However, for most dogs with a healthy appetite and in good condition, feeding twice a day works the best. In terms of their health, this is an effective way to manage blood glucose control and to keep energy levels stable throughout the day. In addition, most owners can find the time to be home with their dogs at least twice a day so the mealtime doesn’t become a rushed event.
Whichever method you choose, keeping to a regular schedule for meals is a good idea for dogs, it establishes a routine which your dog will adapt to and understand. Even the routine garden trips will tend to be around the same time each day as well so it’s easier to see early changes in your dog’s health like loss of appetite or when a new diet isn’t suiting your dog’s digestion.