Feeding your dog healthy, nutritious food is one of the best ways to care for your dog. Let’s talk about how often a dog should eat and what your dog’s eating schedule should look like.
Whether you’re deciding on how often to feed your new puppy or trying to decide if your older dog’s eating schedule is cutting it, there’s a lot of conflicting advice. Some pup parents don’t even set real eating frequencies in place by simply keeping their pet’s bowl full throughout the day.
Having a determined eating schedule for how often your dog eats is important. Your dog thrives on routine, so it’s important that you establish how often they eat. In fact, this routine can help make the transition easier on your dog if you ever decide to switch their dog food.
When it comes to how often a dog should eat, there are a variety of factors to consider. This guide breaks down these factors and how you can decide which feeding schedule is right for your pup!
Factors That Affect Eating Frequency
In general, your dog should eat at least twice a day, 12 hours apart. Your dog can eat up to three meals a day to make it breakfast, lunch, and dinner, but the caloric intake of your dog should not increase just because you add a meal.
If you wait longer than 12 hours in between meals, your dog may experience some nausea due to stomach acid, so being sure to keep your meals in between this time frame is important for avoiding hunger-induced nausea and vomiting.
While this is the general guideline recommended by pet experts, no two dogs are exactly the same. Here are a few factors that may lead to your dog eating more often or less often than this and determine how often your dog should eat.
Breed and Size
One of the determining factors when deciding your dog’s feeding schedule is their breed. Large breeds may eat more frequently while small breeds may eat less frequently and lack the same appetite.
For example, if you get a large breed dog such as a German Shepherd, Golden Retriever, Rottweiler, or Husky, you may find yourself feeding them more often than if you had a smaller breed dog.
For smaller breeds, such as Chihuahuas, Dachshunds, French Bulldogs, Pugs, or Shih Tzus, you’ll likely stick to two meals a day.
This is due to how many calories different size breeds need. Bigger dogs need more calories during the day, and smaller dogs don’t need as many. Of course, it’s much better for bigger breed dogs to spread out their meals throughout the day instead of consuming all these calories at once.
If you’re not sure how many calories your dog needs, there is an actual mathematical formula for calculating it.
Our calculator here will show you how to use this formula to determine your dog’s caloric needs!
Here is a general rule of thumb for how much your dog should eat depending on their size:
- 3-pound dogs can eat 1/3 cup per day
- 6-pound dogs can eat ½ cup per day
- 10-pound dogs can eat ¾ cup per day
- 15-pound dogs can eat 1 cup per day
- 20-pound dogs can eat 1 2/3 cups per day
- 30-pound dogs can eat 1 ¾ cups per day
- 40-pound dogs can eat 2 ¼ cups per day
- 50-pound dogs can eat 2 2/3 cups per day
- 60-pound dogs can eat 3 cups per day
- 70-pound dogs can eat 3 ½ cups per day
- 80-pound dogs can eat 3 ¾ cups per day
- 90-pound dogs can eat 4 ¼ cups per day
- 100-pound dogs can eat 4 ½ cups per day
Depending on how often they eat, divide the amount of food up equally between mealtimes.
Age is another factor that determines how many calories a dog needs and how often they should eat.
Just like babies tend to eat every two to three hours, puppies need to eat more frequently than older dogs. Their bodies are growing rapidly, and their brains are developing too, so they need lots of nutrient-rich food during this time.
You should aim to feed your puppy around four times a day until they’re three months old. At this age, they can eat three meals a day, and at six months old, they can start eating twice a day. This twice-daily feeding schedule will continue to be their routine throughout adulthood.
Adult dogs need to eat twice a day regularly. This helps prevent overeating and health problems while still fueling proper growth and replenishing them after physical activity. Your adult dog, if average size, will get all the food they need from two feedings a day.
Lastly, when your dog is older, they may experience health problems or weight changes that can affect how often and how much you’re feeding them. If they lose weight, you may need to increase the fat content of their food or feed them more. If they’ve gained too much weight, the opposite could be beneficial, as well as an appropriate increase in physical activity.
Surprisingly, many senior dogs don’t require changes to their eating schedule. If you do notice a change in your dog’s health or weight as they age, don’t hesitate to talk to their vet about whether you need to feed them less or more often.
Activity level is another factor that determines how often your dog should eat. Depending on your own lifestyle and what kind of breed you have, your dog’s activity level may be higher or lower.
If your dog roams your backyard all day, chasing squirrels or springing deer, they’ll probably need to replenish more calories than a dog who stays indoors lounging most of the day until you get home from work.
Exercise is vital, but so is replenishing calories after a long day of playing. So, if your dog’s activity level is significantly high, they’ll likely need more calories (especially coming from protein and fat) compared to a dog whose activity level is average or low.
How To Know If You Should Change Your Dog’s Eating Habits
Here are some of the reasons why you may need to take a closer look at how often your dog is eating, and if their eating routine needs to change.
If your Dog is Overweight...
If your dog is overweight, it may be time to take a look at a healthier dog food option or change your dog’s eating habits. Keep close tabs on your dog’s weight and talk to your veterinarian about any weight changes since their last appointment — schedule an appointment if your dog is significantly more sluggish and less energetic, too.
Obesity and weight gain can take as much as two years of your pet’s life expectancy because of heart disease, high blood pressure, kidney disease, breathing problems, and more.
If you do notice that your dog is overweight it may be time to reduce how often they eat, switch to healthier dog food, or feed them fewer calories. Switching to new dog food is rarely easy, but it can make a huge difference in their health.
Look for all-natural, minimally processed, human-grade food that uses fresh ingredients without any of the fillers, hormones, chemicals, or unnecessary ingredients. (In fewer words, head on over to Sundays).
If You’re Free Feeding...
Free feeding is when you keep your dog’s food bowl full all the time and let your dog eat whenever it’s hungry. This may work for some breeds, especially if they’re very active or stay outside a lot of the day. However, it is typically not recommended and can do more harm than good for dogs who don’t have self-control.
If you have multiple dogs, letting them free feed can lead to one dog stealing the other's food and overeating while the other dog doesn’t get enough. It can also lead to overeating, which can cause weight gain and lead to serious health issues.
If your dog is free feeding and you notice weight gain, it might be time to switch their feeding schedule to more of a routine. Start with twice a day for adult dogs, and if they still lose weight you can increase this frequency from there.
There’s a lot that affects how often a dog should eat — knowing how many calories your dog needs, their age, their breed, their size, and their activity levels — this requires a lot of effort. Don’t hesitate to ask your veterinarian about your dog’s eating schedule and what might be right for them!
No matter how often you end up feeding your dog, one of the most important aspects of health is what kind of food you’re feeding them. Aim to find quality ingredients that contain nutrient-rich fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and protein that promote your dog’s health and gives them all the vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, energy and amino acids they need to thrive.
Look no further than Sundays. Our human-grade, air-dried, natural dog food is an easy (and delicious) way to keep your dog happy and healthy.
How Much To Feed Your Dog | Prudent Pet
Feeding your puppy or dog | The Kennel Club
Your pet's healthy weight | AVMA