Am I underfeeding my dog? How do you know if your dog is hungry? It’s a question we often worry about! As proud pet owners, we love taking good care of our dogs. A common concern when it comes to caring for your pooch is whether or not you’re underfeeding him, particularly when he always seem to be hungry. With that in mind, let’s take a look at ways to make sure your dog is getting the right amount of food.
How do You know if You Dog Is Hungry?
- Start simple – what does the bag say? Each bag of dog food gives you a serving suggestion based upon the weight of your dog. Keep in mind that servings also vary based upon the type of food you give your dog, so if you change food brands, you need to check the new food’s recommendations.
- Hunger may be a cue – or it may not. Most dogs love to eat, and they’ll eat everything you put in front of them (and steal food off the counter if they can). In my experience, large dogs are more likely to be eating machines, whereas smaller dogs have a tendency to be a bit more discerning. That said, even with my chow-hound Golden Retriever, Lucy, before mealtime, she follows me around and jumps up and down when I get near the dog food bin. The rest of the day, she begs for food, but she doesn’t do her food dance unless it’s mealtime.
- Use body type and ribs as an indicator. There are some dogs that should always be lean – greyhounds and whippets, for example – whereas other dogs are built a little stockier. A good rule of thumb for whether or not your dog is eating enough (or too much) is her ribcage. You should be able to feel individual ribs as you run your hand along your dog’s ribcage, but you shouldn’t be able to see the definition of each rib. This is a good test to determine if you need to increase or decrease the amount your dog is eating.
- Provide more than one meal a day. Growing up, my family fed our dogs once a day. Now that I have my own dogs, I prefer to feed them smaller servings twice a day. I don’t want them to be ravenous by the time they eat, and it seems twice a day is right for us. If you do decide to offer more than one meal a day, keep the total amount of food over the course of the day the same – just split it appropriately.
- Modify food intake based upon activity level. If your dog is getting up in years and isn’t as active any longer, decrease food intake a bit since he isn’t burning as many calories as he once was. By contrast, if you take your dog with you running twice a week, give her a little extra food on those days to account for the extra calories she burned.
- Just like humans, snacks add up. As much as we like to pretend snack calories don’t count, they do. And they do for your dog, too. If you are working on training a new behavior and your dog is getting lots of treats one day, decrease the food intake a bit to account for the extra calories he’s consuming that day.
So how do you know if your dog is hungry? Chances are good that if you’re feeding your dog regularly, he is not going hungry. For most dog owners, overfeeding is a much greater concern than underfeeding, but whichever side of the coin you fall on, these tips are a good guideline to make sure your four-legged friend has the proper diet.