As dog owners, we are often confronted with the question, 'what is the best time to feed our dogs?' Is it better to feed a dog before or after exercise? Or is it a completely different part of the day?
There are a lot of questions that are vital to supplement our dogs' health.
While there is no right answer to 'best time to feed a dog,' we can simplify the affair if we approach the task keeping the following points in mind.
1. Dogs are Creatures of Habit
More often than not, our dogs are partial to having a routine and habit of helping them through their day. They are naturally inclined to eat at a particular time and go out at a specific time. This habit can work in favor of pet owners.
A regular feeding schedule set in place right from their puppy days helps house train them to be more obedient doggos. Having a schedule also works excellent in adult pets who were adopted and had not been introduced to a schedule or training.
Biologically, puppies tend to relieve themselves around 15 minutes after a meal. Therefore, it makes sense to have a walk scheduled at that time to help your pet attend to nature's call in peace and also train them to control their urges while outside the house, at a proper location.
Believe it or not, the location too can act as a potty training accessory for your young pup.
This also sets the foundation for adulthood, where the dog now understands that the meals are the cornerstone of all the activities and the constant on which they can rely on.
2. Dogs have Sensitive Stomachs
Just like humans, dogs too have sensitive stomach anatomy. The food enters the stomach and then moves on to the small intestine after 8 hours. These are the hunger signals that the dog receives. It is therefore ideal for feeding your dog at least twice a day, exclusive of little (regulated) treats in between
Check out: Peanut Butter Dog Treats
However, it is important to be mindful of the portion and follow the schedule that will train your dog to expect food at fixed hours to encourage healthy food habits and avoid grazing.
If you notice your dog not eating on time, even after a habit formation, it is time to visit the vet.
3. Follow the Sleep Pattern
On average, a dog sleeps for 14 hours a day, but they sleep for shorter times when compared to humans. Following their sleep pattern is important to fix a meal schedule and determine how much you should be feeding them. This again points to an ideal of two meals per day.
4. Should I walk my dog before or after food?
Since dogs are more inclined to relieve themselves after 15-20 minutes post their meal, it is ideal for walking them after feeding time. However, that is not the only reason why you should consider this walking time. Many experts believe it is a good habit to feed a dog two times a day in an interval of 10-12 hours.
Bloating is common when it comes to big dogs. Therefore, consistency in feeding is essential. As a pet parent, you must ensure that they aren't fed close to their exercise time.
This brings us to your next question, "Should I feed a dog before or after exercise?"
It is always advisable to feed a dog after the walk but not immediately after the walk. Leave a considerable time, say half an hour to 45 minutes, before you give them their meal. Feeding your pets while they are still warm and panting from their walk can cause digestive problems.
Related blog: Why should you walk your pet?
5. What are the problems of feeding a dog before or after exercise?
If you choose to feed your dog before the walk, wait for at least an hour before taking them out. Failing to do this can result in GDV (Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus).
GDV is a concern that is caused by the twisting of the dog's stomach. This is caused when a dog has a big meal before vigorous exercise, stress, anxiety, etc. This affects the dog's metabolism and leads to nausea and vomiting. It can also lead to bloating. Bloating involves the expansion of the stomach, which is caused due to food or expansion where the air accumulates. Swollen stomach, increase in heartbeat, harsh breathing, and drooling are common symptoms.
GDV is a life-threatening condition and is common in big breeds. If affected by GDV, the mortality rates range from 10 to 30 percent after treatment.
When a dog is fed right after or before the walk, it causes dysfunction in the sphincter, which is placed between the stomach and esophagus.
Here is a scan report of how this condition would look like:
This condition causes a twist in the stomach around the longitudinal axis called the Volvulus in the digestive tract, and this causes gas distension. When this occurs, the stomach rotates at 360 degrees. If the Volvulus is placed above 180 degrees, the esophagus gets closed, resulting in bleaching and vomiting.
6. Treatment for GDV
GDV is fatal and can become life-threatening in a matter of a few minutes.
Treatment of GDV involves intravenous fluid therapy and sometimes surgery. During the surgery, the stomach is pulled back to its original position. Although this would be done under Anesthesia, it can be a very painful process post-surgery for your dog.
7. Which time would be best to feed my dog?
Humans follow a routine when it comes to food, breakfast at 8, lunch at 2, tea/coffee at 6, and dinner at 9. But does that mean that your dog has to follow the same as well? Not necessary.
Each dog differs when it comes to food. Just like humans, your dog can be a light-eater as well. And, there are dogs who want more food. It all comes down to how well you understand your dog's food habits.
As a new pet parent, finding this out initially might be a daunting task. If you prefer feeding your dog twice a day, it is recommended that you do this once early in the morning at around 7-8 and then again in the evening at around 6. This is because a canine digestive system will often require 4 to 5 hours to digest the food. It takes about 8 hours after the initial feed for the dog to feel hungry again.
This is when the dog would start searching for food. Feeding your dog at this time will ensure that he eats the food completely. If you have a puppy, then it is advised that you feed him at least 4 times a day. If you have a senior dog, it is recommended that you follow a once-in-a-day approach or feed small quantities of food at different intervals. This entirely depends on the type of dog and his eating habits.
If you have a hyperactive dog, you might have to look at feeding them more than two times a day as most of their energy is drained by their activities. You can also consider leaving the food in the bowl all the time so that they eat when they require it. This is not to be followed if your dog is suffering from diabetes or any other health issues.
That said, there is no hard rule on when you should feed your dog. It all comes down to what activity your dog does and how much energy your dog needs. If your dog is hungry, make sure you feed him and do not wait until the feeding schedule. A feeding schedule often helps working pet parents to make sure that their dog is fed properly. But, otherwise, it all depends on your dog and when they want to eat.
The bottom line, make sure that you give adequate time between the meal and the exercise. This ensures that your dog has a healthy life.
Now you know whether to feed a dog before or after the walk. Go on, start applying it to your pet's routine and make them healthy.
Common Dog Feeding Questions by Pet Parents
Q: Should puppies be allowed to eat all they want? Even if that includes 3-4 meals a day?
A: Also known as 'ad libitum' or 'free choice' feeding, these multiple meal times are not recommended by experts as they are a gateway to obesity, orthopedic issues, and diabetes. Allowing your puppy to overeat will not only set them on a binge-eating path but also cause bloating, indigestion, and of course, discomfort. While dogs grow up to know their portion limits, puppies need to be trained for the same. Therefore, controlled meal portions are the answer here.
Q: How many meals should I feed my dog?
A: The number of meals usually depends upon the dog's lifestyle. In ideal situations, where dogs sleep for 12-14 hours with adequate exercise, giving them two full meals each day is a good way to go. The meal gap must not go beyond 12 hours as it can cause hyper acidic generation in the stomach, leading to nausea.
Q: Should grazing be an option for dogs who don't finish their meal?
A: Grazing is the act where a dog eats their meal intermittently, with no fixed timings. While this is a natural act for the dog who is simply responding to the hunger pangs, it does more harm than good for them.
It is better to create food expectations during mealtime and tweak their behavior to emulate a 2 meal per day routine. However, if that does not work, measure the food reserved for one meal and branch it out into smaller portions throughout the day to keep the measures controlled while complementing your dog's preference as well.
Q: Is feeding a dog better before exercise or after?
A: Since dogs tend to relieve themselves 15-20 minutes after food, it is better to sync their exercise/walk time after a meal.