Advice on Feeding Quantities

Guidance on assessing your puppy’s food requirements.

On a weekly basis assess how settled your puppy is in-between meals. If they are having periods of play followed by sleep, then it is likely you have a good balance in the quantity of food you are giving. Your puppy should settle to sleep for the night without needing to get up until the morning. There are exceptions to this rule in as much occasionally they will need to wake up in the middle of the night for a wee.

Assess the look of your puppy. The waist should be tucked in slightly, but shouldn’t be tucked up entirely. The chest should have a nice covering of skin that feels slightly padded but not thick.

The best way to describe this is to visualise the feel of his skin – it should feel like a blanket covering his ribs. It shouldn’t feel like a duvet covering his ribs. It shouldn’t feel like only a sheet covering his ribs. His coat should feel glossy and pliable.

If you feel your puppy is settled and has a nice covering of skin over his/her chest and his/her waist is not to tucked inwards. Then it is likely you can continue on that level of food for that time and it will not need increasing.

To me it is not as straightforward as saying your dog requires however many grams per kilo. A good benchmark for puppies is roughly 20grams per kilo however in puppies with higher activity levels and high metabolism the dog may require slightly more than this.

If you increase his food rations very gradually – making the assessment weekly you can up his quantities every other week if required. The guidance being, should you feel he has put on too much weight you can then reduce very slightly the amount he is having. Don’t be concerned if you have felt your puppy is doing well on the same quantity for three weeks in a row as this is good!

The general guideline is to change from four meals to three meals at roughly 12 weeks of age. Then at 6mths to change to 2 meals a day.

You need to consider which food your pup will be on as an adult. I tend to put puppy’s on to adult food at 6mths purely based on the protein content. Protein is lower in adult dog food. If you are unsure about the food – check the phosphorous and calcium balance is correct it should be a ratio of 1:1

It is very hard to say exactly how much each individual puppy should be on as they all have different metabolic rates, if they are a boy or a girl will also come into the equation.

When you are used to how active your dog is and used to how they put on weight and knowing how to assess his needs, you will be confident the level of food you are giving is correct. When you get to the point of the fat layer being increased before your eyes then clearly you are feeding too much! It will be a case of getting to know your dog. The good thing is that being aware of your dogs needs means that if they put a little bit of weight on that is considered too much, then you will know more or less right away and you will not be oblivious to your Labrador becoming a ‘flabrador’. You will be confident you can reduce the rations very slightly in order to rectify a slight increase – which years down the line a massive increase of weight would be very hard to reduce.

Our adult dogs generally do not need the level of food increasing or decreasing however if they steal something then I will give a smaller ration of food for the following meal. If I feel they have put on weight I will reduce slightly for a few weeks assessing all the time how the dog is doing and increasing slightly up again until I am happy my dog is on the correct level. I am constantly assessing their dietary needs. It is second nature to me to be checking their chest all the time to see if I can feel the ribs.  It is about the balance in a happy active dog who visually looks well but not fat!

To me the guidelines on the pack are often way too much and are too set in stone (to take on the individual requirements of every dog). I think it is something that should be assessed throughout a dogs life as their lifestyle changes from a week to week basis, taking into consideration metabolism, frequency and length of exercise, illness, old age and how a dog will slow up in later life.  A good way to assess your dog is whilst you are playing with him, you can subconsciously check his chest for how it feels, when you stroke him you can feel  if his coat is glossy.

Too much food?

When using manufacturers guidelines you need to keep in mind there is a chance they are helping you to overfeed your dog. I hear it time and time again that people have stuck to the guidelines. There is a reason that some manufacturers advise you to feed too much – for you to require buying another bag quicker!

How can you tell if you are giving too much? Apart from the obvious – weight gain there are other symptoms to watch out for. The first sign can be fussy eating as they lose their appetite.

A balanced diet is only balanced if an animal is not receiving anything in excess. So if you are feeding too much this will result in your dog creating more waste and also receiving an increase in nutrition that they do not need.

The Symptoms of Excessive Nutrition

Hyperactivity (usually down to too much protein)
Kidney problems (too much protein)
Persistant moulting/shedding/itching/raised bumps around muzzle/scurfy coat
Biting and/or licking feet
Some Diarrhoea and/or Vomiting
Discharge from eyes, ears or genital systems
Impacted anal glands (caused by soft poos – firm stools enable natural emptying of the gland).
Dark coloured, strong smelling urine
Bad breath
Tartar on their teeth

It should be noted that excessive licking can be down to irritation (due to excess nutrition) or a small wound but it may also be down to a tick or an infestation of a parasite. Animals will reveal pain by licking an affected area – so excessive licking should always be investigated.

If you are unsure you should always seek the advice from your breeder or a veterinary surgeon.

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