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Are You Overfeeding Your Dog?

We take the mystery out of how much and how often to feed your dog -- and share a recipe for mutt meatballs!

Arden Moore  |  Sep 28th 2015


Editor’s note: Have you seen the new Dogster print magazine in stores? Or in the waiting room of your vet’s office? This article appeared in our August/September issue. Subscribe to Dogster and get the bimonthly magazine delivered to your home.

After merging my two dogs and one cat into my sister’s household occupied by three terrier mixes, it seems like I have taken on a new occupation: K9 short-order cook.

Gone are the calmness and ease of dishing up food to my well-mannered trio, who quietly sat and waited for their bowls to be placed in front of them. Welcome to my new feeding routine: twice-a-day endeavors that require me to get the right food (canned and kibble) in the right amounts and place bowls in six strategic locations in the kitchen for this pack of very vocal, prancing pets. Through trial-and-error, I can now accomplish this feeding process in less than five minutes, ensuring all pets stay at healthy weights and that none unleash any “hangry” attitudes.

What about you? Are you still trying to figure it out? Then you’re in the right place.

Woman feeding Dachshund by Shutterstock.

Woman feeding Dachshund by Shutterstock.

Welcome to Canine Chow Time 101. Class is now in session. Your tutors are two headliners in the field of veterinary nutrition: Joseph Wakshlag, DVM, Ph.D., assistant professor of clinical nutrition at Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine in Ithaca, New York; and Sean Delaney, DVM, DACVN, board-certified veterinary nutritionist and founder of DVM Consulting, Inc. in Davis, California.

“One of the biggest problems is that too many overfeed their dogs and, as a result, too many dogs become overweight and some even become obese,” Wakshlag said. “Some dogs are real masters at being chow hounds and give you those begging eyes when you sit down to eat. You need to not give in for the sake of their health.”

Measure it out

Let’s start by addressing how much to feed your dog. Calculating your dog’s daily caloric needs can be tricky. “There is no difference in what a calorie (or kilocalorie) means for humans versus dogs,” Dr. Delaney said. “Calorie need is difficult to calculate or estimate, as there can be as much as a plus or minus 50-percent variation in energy need among individual healthy dogs of the same weight in the same environment.”

Solution: Use the suggested feeding amounts listed on the back of the food bag as a guide, and always use a measuring cup for dry food and a measuring spoon for canned food. “Measuring cups and spoons are very helpful,” Dr. Delaney said. “Adjustments can be made based on response to the known amount fed.”

Measuring cup in dog food by Shutterstock.

Measuring cup in dog food by Shutterstock.

Dr. Wakshlag encourages you to weigh your dog monthly and adjust the amount you feed based on your dog’s energy level, health, and age. “Stop taking the guesswork out of how much you feed your dog,” he added. “By knowing precisely how much you are serving, you can adjust the portion if your veterinarian determines you’re under- or overfeeding.”

Make mealtime plural

How often should you feed your dog each day? Ideally, divide their daily needs into two mealtimes, and don’t forget to factor in any treats you dole out. “In general, dogs tend to be gorgers, but you can maximize their metabolism by feeding them a meal in the morning and one in the evening rather than one big meal a day,” Dr. Wakshlag said.

No more big dish

Here’s another tip to keeping your dog from turning into a chow hound: Opt for smaller bowls or plates. “Smaller bowls are preferable if one has a tendency to feel guilty when the bowl looks less full during feeding,” said Dr. Delaney, who prefers serving his Standard Poodle, Rosie, in a small, stainless steel bowl.

Dog food bowls by Shutterstock.

Dog food bowls by Shutterstock.

Keep the peace

Stress can also cause digestive issues in a multi-pet household. That’s why our dog food experts advised that you separate your dogs at mealtimes. “Mealtimes should be calm, welcoming events so that dogs can properly digest their food,” Wakshlag said. “If a dog is trying to steal another’s food, that can cause gastrointestinal upset.”

Make them some yum-yums

On occasion, it is fine to truly become a doggy short-order cook and serve a homemade meal to your canine chum. One of the favorites in our household is the veterinarian-approved Marvelous Mutt Meatballs recipe from my book Real Food for Dogs. The best news? This dish is also tasty for you, too, making it a time- and money-saving meal.

I swear the four-legged pack at my house sport wristwatches. It’s nearly 5 p.m., and they are doing their best to steer me into the kitchen. Bone appétit!

Recipe: Marvelous Mutt Meatballs

real-food-for-dogs

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 pound ground beef or sirloin 1/3 cup grated cheddar cheese
  • 1 carrot, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs
  • 1 egg, whisked
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste (low sodium)

Directions:

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Combine all ingredients in a medium-sized bowl.
  • Scoop out by the spoonful and roll into mini-size meatballs.
  • Place the meatballs on a cookie sheet sprayed with nonfat cooking spray.
  • Bake for 15 to 20 minutes.
  • Cool and store in the refrigerator in a container with a lid.

Read more about feeding your dog:

About the author: Arden Moore, The Pawsitive Coach, is a pet behavior consultant, master certified pet first aid instructor, author, and host of the Oh Behave! show on Pet Life Radio. Learn more at Four Legged Life and follow her on YouTubeFacebook and Twitter