It’s natural as a pet parent to want to make sure you’re doing everything you can to care for your canine companion. And, of course, there are few things more important than giving your dog a healthy doggy diet. However, even after choosing the best dog food, there’s still the question of how much to give them. So, how do you know how much to feed your dog? And what are the signs that you could be underfeeding them?
The amount a dog should eat will vary depending on their age, breed, size, gender, and neuter status. After all, you wouldn’t expect a Miniature Dachshund to eat the same amount of dog food as a Great Dane, would you? It also depends on your canine companion’s current weight. If you own a podgy pooch who is a little overweight, you’ll need to feed them less than if they were on the skinny side. You’ll also need to consider your dog’s lifestyle since very active dogs will require more calories than those who are more sedentary.
It’s always a good idea to use the feeding guide on your dog food packaging to give you an idea of how much to offer. However, a rough general guide for adult dogs is to feed them around 15 grams of food per kilogram of their body weight. Also, take a look at our in-depth feeding guide for german shepherds.
If you think you might be underfeeding your dog and recognize some of the following signs, it’s worth checking the feeding instructions on your dog food and speaking to your veterinarian.
Body Condition Score is a way of describing how overweight or underweight a dog is. A scale of 1 to 9 is usually used, where 4 to 5 is normal, while 1 is emaciated and 9 is morbidly obese. Your dog’s body condition score is based upon how easily (or not!) you can feel or see their ribs and spine and how much of a waistline they have. If your dog’s ribs can be seen and felt easily, it’s likely that you aren’t feeding them the amount they need.
If your dog is constantly hounding you for food, runs to their food bowl every time you get up, or hangs around begging whenever you eat in front of them, they might not be getting enough food. However, some dogs are just greedy, so there are definitely exceptions to this rule!
Some dogs are naturally quite lean, and it can be pretty normal for them to have very little fat. Examples of this are greyhounds, whippets, and other sighthounds. So, how do you know if your dog’s weight is a problem? Sometimes, the trend in their weight is more important than the actual figure. If your dog’s weight is stable, this is far less concerning than if they are losing weight.
If your dog seems ravenous before mealtimes and their food barely touches the sides, this could be a sign that you are underfeeding them. This is especially true if they look for more food even after finishing their meal. On the other hand, some particularly ‘foody’ breeds can seem to be a bottomless pit! So, it’s important to consider how much you feed your dog alongside their current weight and body condition. Otherwise, you could end up over-feeding them instead.
If during walkies, your dog spends all their time with their nose on the ground hunting for human leftovers, animal poop, or other unpleasant things to eat, it could mean that they’re not getting enough calories from their food. However, it’s in some dogs’ natures to scavenge, so this could be normal behavior if your dog is a healthy weight.
Underfed dogs won’t have as much energy as they should. Of course, dogs can be lethargic for many other reasons, but if you have a young dog who is underweight and lethargic, it could be due to poor nutrition.
Dogs who are malnourished may have thinning fur and a dull coat. They might also develop dandruff.
You might notice a change in your dog’s breath if they aren’t getting the calories they need. This is because of a change in your dog’s metabolism as it starts to use fat stores as energy. This isn’t the only reason malnourished dogs can be smelly, though. You might also notice they produce more wind due to digestive disturbances.
When dogs are underfed, they start to lose weight and become lethargic. Their bodies use up any remaining fat stores, and they can even begin to break down muscle. These changes lead to general signs of failure to thrive like a dull coat, fur loss, and bad breath, but can also lead to organ damage over time.
It’s really important to feed your furry family members the right amount of food to sustain their health and lifestyle. If you’re not sure how much to feed your dog or think you might be under or overfeeding them, speak to your veterinarian or a qualified veterinary nutritionist.
If your dog is showing any of the signs listed above, it could mean that you are underfeeding them. When choosing how much to feed them, remember to use the guidelines on the dog food and take into account your canine companion’s activity level and current body weight. If your dog is losing weight, but you think you’re feeding them enough, you should speak to your veterinarian.
If your dog is chronically underfed and their body begins to starve, you might initially notice them scavenging or eating things they shouldn’t. Over time they will lose weight and become more and more weak and lethargic until they cannot stand.