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We all know how important it is for dogs (and humans) to maintain a healthy weight.
Malnourished dogs struggle with vitamin deficiencies, fatigue, skin issues, and weakened immune systems, while overweight dogs have a higher chance of health problems such as diabetes, arthritis, and even cancer.
A nutritious diet and plenty of exercise are key to keeping both humans and dogs at a healthy weight, but how much to eat is just as important as what to eat.
Knowing the proper portion sizes will help you keep your dog's health in check.
Most people have a pretty good idea of what a "healthy weight" is for humans, but are you able to tell whether your dog is under- or overweight?
There is no average weight for a dog because there is no average dog size. Dogs range from 4-lb. Chihuahuas to Great Danes the size of a pony. Your pet's "perfect weight" will depend on their breed, size, and age.
You should be able to feel each of your dog's ribs under their skin. If you can't feel them, your dog is overweight. If you can see your dog's ribs, vertebrae, or hip bones, then they are probably underweight.
You can also assess your pet's weight by simply looking at their body.
Look at your dog's waistline from the side. There should be a taper from the chest to the hips. If their belly protrudes, they are overweight.
You should also be able to observe this taper when viewing your dog from above. The area below the rib cage should taper in an "hourglass" shape.
Most dog food brands have a recommended amount to feed your dog based on his or her weight, but—depending on your dog's size—these guidelines have a large range that can be difficult to follow.
For example, one popular dog food brand recommends that you feed a 60-lb. dog (the weight of an average golden retriever) between 2 3/4 and 3 1/4 cups of food every day. That 1/2 cup of food might not look like much, but it can contain as much as 150 calories.
For a dog who only needs 900 or so calories a day, 150 calories a significant amount.
Being off by a little bit is fine for a day, but if you're wrong every day for years, those extra calories (or lack of them) can lead to big nutritional issues.
Unfortunately, you can't examine your dog's eating habits to determine whether or not they are getting enough to eat. Most dogs will eat as long as something appetizing is available or constantly beg for treats but turn their nose up at food.
Your dog's weight is a good starting point for deciding how much to feed them, but it's just that: a starting point.
At Rick's Dog Deli, we use the following guidelines:
Puppies 4-8 weeks: 6-8% of body weight
Puppies 8 weeks-1 year: 5% of body weight
Adults: 2-3% of body weight
Seniors: 2% of body weight
Puppies are still growing and have a much higher activity level than adult or senior dogs, which is why they need to eat more often and consume more calories. Now you can see why keeping your adult dog on the same puppy food they've been eating since birth is problematic. They simply should not be continuing to eat such a calorie-dense diet.
Your dog's age, breed, activity, and individual metabolism should all come into consideration when feeding your dog. But just as important is the caloric density and nutritional value of their dog food.
Two cups of one dog food could have significant differences in calories and nutrition and you will need to adjust accordingly. This is something most people don't take into consideration when switching dog food formulations or brands.
Assessing how much to feed your dog comes down to more than how much your dog is willing to eat.
You need to think about your dog's individual health concerns as well as the quality of the food you're feeding them.
At Rick's Dog Deli, all of our meal formulations are made with the highest quality ingredients and frozen to lock in nutrients. Simply put, a portion of Rick's Dog Deli food is not the same as a portion of dry dog food from the pet store shelf.
Furthermore, your dog will love eating it!
With a steady, nutritious diet of high-quality food catered to their individual health needs, you'll find that your dog naturally settles at their own healthy, ideal weight.