The question “How many times should a dog eat?” is probably one of the most common ones that vets get asked. Truthfully speaking, there’s no single correct answer, since you need to take several points into account. We did some research and gathered all the basics.
How Many Times a Day Should a Dog Eat?
When seeking info on dog feeding frequency, you’ll mostly find a dog feeding schedule by age.
According to the Pet Food Industry Association of Australia (PFIAA), puppies (typically dogs under the age of one) need to eat at least three times a day. If it’s a large breed, reducing the frequency to twice per day is okay at 4–5 months of age.
As for adult dogs, again, the answer can depend on the size (discussed in more detail later in the text), but most experts agree that fully grown dogs should be fed at least twice a day. Lifestyle, individual metabolism, and spay/neuter status can also play a role.
Finally, when it comes to senior dogs, twice a day is recommended again. The PFIAA notes that most senior dogs need a different kind of food and lower amounts than adult dogs, since their physical activity and metabolic rates usually drop.
However, some sources claim there’s no reason to make dietary changes unless a senior dog has some health issues, such as arthritis, dental problems, diabetes, etc.
Other Things Worth Mentioning
People with pets know how special that companionship is, but you may not be aware that having a pet can even bring you health benefits. It’s only fair that you do everything in your power to protect your best friend’s health, isn’t it?
Apart from the age factor, when designing a dog feeding schedule, you should think about the following:
How Much to Feed a Dog by Weight
Gallant offers a thorough feeding chart that combines age and weight. Let’s look at various dog sizes and the suggested food range for adult dogs (daily amounts):
- 3-5 lbs: ½ to ¾ cups per day
- 5-10 lbs: ¾ to 1¼ cups per day
- 10-20 lbs: 1¼ to 1¾ cups per day
- 20-30 lbs: 1⅓ to 2⅓ cups per day
- 30-40 lbs: 2⅓ to 3 cups per day
- 40-60 lbs: 3 to 4 cups per day
- 60-80 lbs: 4 to 5 cups per day
- 80-100 lbs: 5 to 5¾ cups per day
Extra Large Dogs
- 100-125 lbs: 5¾ to 7 cups per day
- 125-150 lbs: 7-8 cups per day
- 150-175 lbs: 8-9 cups per day
Some folks simplify the feeding process by opting for dog food delivery services, as these companies typically give you a questionnaire and design an individualized dog meal plan with specific portions for your pooch.
What Time a Day to Feed Your Dog
Speaking about the best time to feed a dog in an interview, Dr. Sara Ochoa, a veterinary consultant, explained:
“While there is no best time, with most dogs that eat twice a day, it is best to feed them in the morning as soon as you get up and then again when you get home from work in the afternoon. This gives them time to digest their food and go outside to potty before you have to leave for the day or go to bed.”
According to the doctor, dogs eating twice a day should have their meals 10–12 hours apart.
What to Do When Your Dog Doesn’t Want to Eat
We covered the question — “how many times a day should a dog eat?” — but what if your pet doesn’t want to eat at all?
According to the American Kennel Club, there are several reasons a dog refuses to eat. The most probable one is an illness, in which case you could try to make their food more appealing by microwaving it or offering some wet food if they are used to dry food and vice versa.
A lack of appetite could also be a result of taking medications, social and emotional issues, owner absence, or your dog’s personal preferences not being met.
Regardless of the reason, if the “hunger strike” continues for longer than a day or two, you should contact your vet.
How to Get Your Dog on a Feeding Schedule
As usually is the case with any habit one wants to build, the best thing is to set up a routine. That means you ought to feed your dog in the same place every day at the same time if possible.
You should also try to encourage good mealtime behavior. For instance, teach your dog to sit and wait for your command to eat. Additionally, once they start eating, leave them alone to enjoy their meal.
Scheduled Feeding vs Free Feeding Dogs
Previously mentioned Dr. Sara Ochoa claims that free feeding is only for dogs that self-regulate what they eat. If your dog tends to overeat when given a chance, you shouldn’t have a bowl of food out at all times in order to avoid obesity.
Free feeding may seem more convenient because you don’t have to be home to feed your dog, but let us remind you that you could get an automatic food dispenser.
Moreover, having a feeding schedule for puppies will add structure to their day and help you notice potential changes in their appetite.
Is Fasting Good for Dogs?
Experts say therapeutic fasting leads to numerous benefits for animal and human health. For example, calorie restrictions are connected with increased lifespan, decreased osteoarthritis, and protection of normal cells from adverse effects of chemotherapy.
It’s crucial to underline that fasting does not equal starvation — vital tissues need to be maintained!
Is it cruel to feed a dog once a day?
Some studies indicate that feeding dogs once a day might keep them healthier as they age. Nevertheless, it is underlined that the findings are not meant to be treated as veterinary advice, just an intriguing first step to studying the matter.
There’s also evidence that providing one meal per day leads to aggression and other behavioral problems. A normal dog’s stomach typically empties in 6–8 hours, so one feeding in the morning would leave the dog hungry and agitated at the end of the day.
The total amount rather than the frequency might be more important to consider.
(Newsweek, 2021; k9aggression.com, 2022; New Scientist, 2021)
How often should you feed a puppy?
For most puppies, eating three times a day is the appropriate frequency. That’s because a puppy’s stomach is too small to hold enough food in a single feeding to meet its daily requirement of needed nutrients.
As previously explained, depending on breed size, feedings can be reduced to twice per day when puppies are 4–5 months old.
How long can dogs go without food?
A healthy dog can survive up to five days without food, provided it has access to drinking water. In extreme situations, they are known to survive for longer, but usually with some health-related consequences.
(Camp Canine, 2020)
Why is my dog hungry all the time?
If a young, healthy dog of normal weight exhibits a notable increase in appetite, it’s probably because of intestinal parasitism. It may also be diabetes or some other health-related issue.
If that’s not the case, it means dietary changes are necessary to improve the nutritional value of the food.
What’s the best way to change my dog’s food?
To avoid upsetting your dog’s stomach, you should follow this rule:
- Day 1: 25% new diet, 75% old diet
- Day 3: 50% new diet, 50% old diet
- Day 5: 75% new diet, 25% old diet
- Day 7: 100% new diet
(American Kennel Club, 2022)
Since dog domestication thousands of years ago, these little creatures have proven their unconditional love time and time again. Every dog owner should thus take care of their pet with utmost dedication.
That means learning answers to questions such as “How many times a day should a dog eat?” and we hope our guide has helped you.