I want to keep food out for my dog so she can eat whenever she wants, but my veterinarian says to feed her a bowl once a day. What do you do for your dog?
When I was a child, I fed my dog one meal each day. This was the accepted practice at that time. However, like so many things, we’ve learned over time that we can do better by our pets. But more is not always better! Having food available for your pet at all times may seem like the nice thing to do. In fact, equating food for love has become commonplace in our culture. This has led to an increase in obesity among people AND their pets! ‘Free feeding’ promotes overeating. While some cats and dogs can maintain a healthy weigh in the face of a constant food supply, the majority of pets will eat more than they need simply because it is available, AND because they are bored (just like people!).
‘Free feeding’ also strips you of an effective tool for monitoring your pet’s health. How much is your pet eating? Is she eating too much? Too little? Has she stopped eating entirely? When WAS the last time your dog ate? If your pet becomes ill, knowing what, when, and how much your pet has eaten can be an important dynamic in diagnosis and treatment. It also becomes difficult to determine whether ‘output’ is satisfactory if input is unknown.
Certain health conditions, as well as youth and old age, will necessitate feedings at more frequent intervals, but for the average adult dog two feedings daily are recommended. One meal in the morning and another in the evening allows for more balanced metabolizing. One meal per day stimulates the body to conserve energy and slow down internal processes, creating problems with weight control. Breaking that 24-hour fast with a breakfast also boosts cognitive function. Studies show that children who eat breakfast are better able to function on tasks and tests in school than those children who skip that morning meal. Research corroborates that dogs are also able to learn better and make better choices when fasting is avoided. In other words, a one meal a day dog may exhibit more behavior problems and have more difficulty learning new objectives than a dog given twice daily meals.
So in answer to your question, we feed our dogs twice a day, in the morning and in the evening. If you feel that two meals a day is still too little and feel compelled to give more, please offer it in a fashion that allows for an increase in activity to counter the added calories. You can ‘hide’ food around the house so that your dog has to search for it, or you can utilize store bought treat dispensers to simulate hunting. The hunting activity will engage the brain as well as increase calorie burn. Equally as important to giving two meals daily is providing meals of quality. Giving poor quality food will burn your pet out quicker than anything else!
Send your ‘Ask Annie About Animals’ questions to:
Wolf Song Enterprises, LLC
1657 S. Getty, Suite 28 Muskegon, MI 49442
or email your question to: WolfSongEnterprises@gmail.com
Annette Vida is a licensed veterinary technician with multi-species experience in day clinic, emergency clinic and mobile veterinary care facilities. She is also a certified dog trainer with 40 years experience. Annette has been involved with rescuing animals for decades and shares her home with her wonderful husband and many (rescued) animals. She owns and operates Wolf Song Enterprises, LLC, where she offers animal related consulting services and training. Her office is located at 1657 S. Getty, Ste 28, Muskegon, MI 49442. Call 231-740-3879 for an appointment—home consultations also available. www.WolfSongEnterprises.com