Feeding Your Dog

Feeding your dog

Dogs of every age need to be fed a nutritious diet including lots of fresh water. But a puppy's diet is especially important to ensure proper growth and development.

Puppies 8–12 weeks old need four meals a day. Puppies 3–6 months old need three meals a day. Puppies six months to one year need two meals a day. Puppies should be fed a high-quality puppy food (ask your veterinarian for a recommended brand) two to four times a day. Use extreme caution in feeding your puppy human food because it can cause puppies to suffer vitamin and mineral imbalances, bone and teeth problems, and may cause very picky eating habits, as well as obesity. Have clean, fresh water available at all times. Wash food and water dishes frequently.

Once your dog reaches one year of age, one meal a day is usually enough. For some dogs (such as larger ones or those prone to bloat), it's better to continue to feed two smaller meals. Premium-quality dry food provides a well-balanced diet and may be mixed with water, broth or some canned food.

What to Feed

There are many excellent commercial dog foods on the market today that provide all the nutrients your dog needs. Select a good quality food that is nutritionally complete. Ask your veterinarian for recommendations on specific brands. Dogs under one year of age must have food designed to meet the nutritional needs of growing animals. Dry food or kibble is the least expensive, most convenient food to use. It's nutritionally balanced and helps keep teeth and gums healthy. Canned foods may be added with water to dry rations. However a premium dry kibble will usually be quite palatable by itself. Table scraps are not recommended because they generally don't provide balanced nutrition and can make your dog a finicky eater. If you choose to add them, they shouldn't comprise more than 10% of the diet. Lean meat scraps and vegetables are acceptable additions to your pet's diet. Avoid spicy or rich foods, uncooked meat, or bones from chicken, pork, steak, or fish which may splinter. Changes in diet should be made gradually over several days. Abrupt changes in diet often cause diarrhea. Once you have found a balanced food that your pet enjoys, stick with it. When you adopt your pet, find out what he has been fed in his previous place of care. You might find it simpler to continue with that brand of food.

When to Feed

Puppies younger than three months of age should be fed four times a day at regular intervals: morning, noon, evening and bedtime. At three months, the bedtime meal can be eliminated. At six months, the noon meal can be eliminated. After one year, you can switch to once-a-day feeding. It's important to establish a feeding schedule that you can maintain. Irregular feeding is confusing for the dog. Having food available at all times is not recommended for most dogs. Always provide ample fresh water. Feed your dog from his own clean bowl in the same place each day. Don't allow children to disturb your dog while he's eating.

How Much to Feed

How much to feed your dog depends upon its individual requirements and activity level. If your dog develops loose stools, you may be overfeeding him. If you think you are feeding your dog adequate amounts of food, but he looks thin or loses weight, have him examined by a veterinarian. Well-meaning owners often indulge their pets into obesity. Overweight pets have shorter lifespans and are more prone to heart and respiratory problems, arthritic pain and diabetes. Help your dog stay healthy by keeping him at his proper weight.

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