How to Feed Your Adult Dog for Maximum Health and Nutrition
Understanding Your Dog's Dietary Needs
Walking into your local pet store, you'll likely be confronted with an almost bewildering array of dog food choices. Between processed and raw-food, wet and dry, cans and kibble, it can be confusing to know which food is best for your dog. This article should make it easier for you by helping you understand your dog's basic nutritional needs and demystifying some of the options.
Which food and how much you should offer your dog to keep him in good condition depends on his breed, size, weight, age, and health. A large breed of dog that goes for regular, long walks needs a different diet from a small lap dog that takes little exercise. A dog's diet also changes during different stages of his life. Use the following top tips to help you figure out the best diet for feeding your adult dog.
When Is My Dog Ready for an Adult Diet?
Vets suggest that a dog should move to an adult diet when it stops growing. A dog stops growing once it reaches about 90% of its full weight as a mature animal. For most breeds, that's at about six or seven months, but larger dogs may continue growing for up to a year. If you're not sure, as soon as your puppy is six months old, take him to the vet to be weighed.
What Should an Adult Dog Eat?
Your adult dog needs a complete and nutritionally balanced diet. Look for commercial dog foods which display the Association of American Feed Controls certification on the label. The label will also show for which life stage the food is intended. Choose a food formulated and approved for adult dogs.
Many dog owners like to prepare their dog's food from scratch. If you want to feed a homemade dog food, make sure you follow a recipe designed by an expert animal nutritionist. Always talk to your vet first to make sure your dog will get everything he needs from your homemade dog food.
Whether you feed a commercial food or something you've made yourself, always keep an eye on your dog's health. Each dog is an individual, and you may need to experiment with different brands and foods, such as wet or dry, to find the right diet for your dog. If he lacks energy, has a dull coat, or loses or gains weight, take him to the vet, along with the food you've been feeding him, for a check-up.
How Much Should You Feed an Adult Dog?
How much food to offer depends on your dog's size, weight, and exercise regime. You can use the recommendations on food labels as a rough guide. Labels on commercial dog food recommend amounts based on a dog's size or weight-range. A smaller dog at the lower end of the weight range needs less food than a larger dog at the higher end.
All dogs should have regular outdoor exercise for their health and well-being. Larger dogs which go on long hikes may need more calories and a higher fat content than smaller breeds which only go with you on a stroll through the park. Keep an eye on your dog's weight to help you assess the right balance between feeding and exercise. If in doubt, get him weighed at the vet.
Many dogs only need to eat once a day. However, if you split his meals into two portions and feed one in the morning and one in the evening, it may help him digest his food. Each dog's needs are different, so it's worth experimenting to see what best suits your pet.
How Can You Tell If an Adult Dog Is the Right Weight?
While the only reliable way to check a dog's weight is to take him to the vet, you can make an estimate of his condition on sight. An underweight dog will have visible ribs, spine and pelvis even from a distance. With an overweight dog, you won't be able to see his skeleton at all and may not even be able to feel his ribs or spine. When your dog is in reasonable condition, you may just see his ribs when close to him and should be able to feel them under a thin layer of fat. He'll also have a visible "abdominal tuck" between his rib cage and his pelvis.
Should You Give Your Adult Dog Treats and Snacks?
All dogs enjoy an occasional treat. But be careful not to feed your dog too many calories. Commercially produced dog snacks don't have to conform to the same regulations as main dog foods and most contain added fats and sugars. Slices of raw carrot and green beans can be just as good as store-bought treats.
It's best to limit food treats. Use them only as rewards when training and only give one at a time. Treats and snacks should make up only 5% of your dog's overall diet. If you want to show your dog how much you love him, take him for a game of throw-and-fetch in the park, or pet him and tell him what a good boy he is.
Can You Feed Scraps to Adult Dogs?
Most table foods are best not fed to dogs. If your dog already has a complete and balanced diet, there's no need for him to take scraps from the table. Most times, the food humans eat has ingredients which can upset your dog's tummy or even cause serious illness and death. But use your judgement. While chocolate, grapes, cheese, raisins, and sugary foods harm dogs, a slither of chicken breast occasionally should be fine.
A Recipe for a Healthy, Happy Dog
Your dog's health and happiness depend on a good diet, plenty of exercise, and lots of affection from you. When choosing his food, always check labels, give him quantities appropriate for his size and breed, and keep an eye on his weight and condition. If you are ever in any doubt about your dog's health or the diet you feed him, take him to the vet for a check-up and follow any dietary recommendations your vet makes.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
© 2018 Amanda Littlejohn