First-time dog owners (and even experienced dog owners) have a host of decisions to make when they bring home a new dog. From what to name their canine companion to what type of food to feed him, the list can feel overwhelming. One of the most common questions is: How many times a day should a dog eat? Veterinarians will tell you there are no hard and fast answers to this popular query.
How Many Times a Day Should a Dog Eat?
Most veterinarians recommend feeding at least two meals a day. Some dogs may require more frequent meals, depending on their age, health, and breed. Puppies, especially toy-breed puppies, require small, frequent meals throughout the day. Dogs with medical issues, such as megaesophagus, special dietary needs, or feeding restrictions may require specialized feeding schedules. Talk to your veterinarian about your dog’s health to make sure you are meeting his nutritional needs and healthcare requirements.
How Much to Feed a Puppy
Puppies less than one-year-old need frequent small meals of a breed-appropriate diet throughout the day. Your dog’s breed, as well as his age, is very important to consider when deciding how much food to give him. For example, there are huge differences in caloric requirements for a 2-month-old Yorkshire Terrier compared to an 11-month-old Yorkie.
Frequent feedings are especially important for toy breeds, which are prone to hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). Toy-breed puppies less than 3 months old need very frequent feedings (4-6 times a day). Medium-breed puppies at 4-6 months of age require 3 feedings a day, but can be cut down to 2 feedings after they reach the 6-month mark. Large-breed puppies, on the other hand, usually require 3-to-4 feedings a day of a large-breed puppy food.
How Much to Feed an Adult Dog
Most owners opt to feed healthy adult dogs 1-2 meals a day. Though your dog might try to convince you that he needs to share your lunch, most canine companions do just fine on a once- or twice-a-day schedule. An occasional healthy treat combined with a short training session will help keep him active and mentally stimulated in-between meals.
Free Feeding for Dogs?
Free feeding means making food available to dogs at all times and letting them regulate their intake. Many veterinarians caution against free feeding dogs, but some pups do well on a free-feed system. However, dogs without self-control may overeat, leading to obesity, and free feeding in a multiple-dog household makes it difficult to feed different diets and keep track of each dog’s appetite and intake.
Talk with your breeder about whether or not free feeding might work for your breed of dog. Some breeds are less food-motivated than others and do well having access to food throughout the day. Just be sure to change the food and clean the bowl daily.
Understanding your dog’s nutritional needs is the first step toward creating a feeding schedule that works for you and your dog. Talk with your veterinarian about your dog’s health and any conditions that may impact the number of times a day you should feed him.
Dogs thrive on consistency, so try to stick to a schedule — especially when potty training. Always read the product feeding instructions on the label and use a measuring cup to ensure proper and consistent feeding.