The best feeding times for your dog

In the past, it was common to feed dogs only once a day. This is convenient for you and makes your dog’s digestion predictable. Meanwhile, the trend is to feed the dog two or even three times. This is not only beneficial for your dog’s digestion. Ideally, you’ll find a rhythm for feeding times that is perfect for you and your dog.

Do dogs need fixed feeding times?

Fixed feeding times are usually more convenient for you than for your dog. You can schedule feedings into your daily rhythm and know exactly what makes your dog’s digestive clock tick. Your dog itself does not necessarily need this. Also, fixed times can cause deviations from feeding time to make your dog decidedly restless.

Feeding periods have proven to be effective. This gives you leeway and prevents your dog from always demanding his food at an exact time. If you feed twice a day, you can, for example, feed in the morning between six and nine and in the evening between 3 and 6 pm.

Feed the dog twice a day, or more often?

How many feedings per day are optimal for a dog is controversial. The prevailing view was that one dog feed per day is sufficient. Meanwhile, many nutrition experts advise to look individually what your dog’s dietary needs are. As a dog owner, you are asked to observe the eating behavior of your four-legged friend closely.

As a general rule, large dog breeds, very small dogs and seniors should receive their dog food two or even three times a day. Especially in very large dogs, a large meal increases the risk of gastric distention.

Sick dogs suffering from digestive or pancreatic problems should definitely be fed several smaller meals. This also applies to puppies and young dogs, in which the digestive tract is not yet fully developed.

Different sized food bowls filled with dry food stand on a table, around them chewing bones. Label reads: In some cases, many smaller meals are better than one large one.
In some cases, many smaller meals are better than one large meal.

Feeding times for overweight dogs

For dogs prone to obesity, one meal a day is often recommended. This provides a great feeling of satiety due to the quantity. However, the human factor is just as important here: If we feed twice a day, we often cheat with the amount of food because half the portion seems too little to us.

When is the best time to feed your dog?

If a dog is fed only once a day, this main meal should be given in the evening. If you have several portions, you can choose the time, for example, in the morning and early evening. There is something to be said for not feeding after 5 pm.

Studies have shown that feeding too late upsets sleep and digestive cycles. A dog that digests at night sleeps fitfully. This can increase the risk of heart disease, arthritis and diabetes. In addition, a dog converts supplied energy immediately. The result may be that he then has difficulty resting in the evening or at night.

Especially with young dogs, late feeding can cause him to have to release again at night. If you feed earlier, you can take him outside again before bedtime and you’ll both have a quiet, trouble-free night.

Feed before or after walking the dog?

Both are possible and depend on your daily rhythm. Do your walk before feeding, this can make training easier. On the other hand, a very hungry dog is potentially looking for food more often. This increases the risk of him ingesting unsuitable food such as food scraps or even a poison bait.

If your walks include a lot of activity, you’d better be out before feedings because of the potential risk of gastric dist ress.

Jumps and fast racing games are often no longer possible in a dog with joint disease.
Jumping and fast racing games should be avoided after a meal.

Tip: Again, look at your life and your dog’s behavior and adapt this rule to your daily life and habits.

Rest after eating

After eating, you should give your dog a rest to digest. The greater the quantity at feeding, the longer the pause.

This is mainly important in large and/or older dogs to minimize the risk of gastric distortion.

It is not proven that a full stomach in combination with exercise causes gastric torsion. But since the health of our four-legged friends is paramount, caution is advised.

Feeding times for puppies

Puppies and young dogs need to be fed several times a day. Immediately after weaning from breast milk, five meals are useful. According to the age, you can reduce the number to four, three and finally two meals. Especially in puppies, digestion works quickly. So you should schedule a walk after each feeding.

In general, it is useful to go outside with puppies every two hours. This way, your dog will get used to a set rhythm right from the start and will be more easily housetrained. To do this, you should take your puppy outside to loosen up not only after feeding, but also after playing or sleeping.

Welsh Corgi - puppy and adult dog on sofa. Label reads: Depending on the age of your dog, you should adjust its food.
Depending on your dog’s age, you should adjust his food.

Feeding times for old dogs

From the age of 8 years, dogs are considered seniors. It often makes sense to then switch to a special senior food or a diet food for dogs. Make sure to change the food gradually to avoid digestive problems such as diarrhea. Also useful is to increase the number of meals.

If you have been feeding once, now divide the feed rations into two, three or four times. Giving the food in this way throughout the day is easy on the stomach and digestion of our older four-legged friends. Often older dogs also have a reduced sense of hunger, lower energy needs and prefer to eat smaller portions anyway.

Feeding times for heartburn

Just like humans, some dogs also suffer from heartburn. You can recognize this by increased smacking, salivating and gagging. Many dogs then eat more grass. When heartburn occurs, the predigested gastric mush returns to the esophagus. The contained stomach acid causes a burning sensation – the so-called heartburn.

If your dog suffers from the above symptoms, it may be due to the food, the time of feeding or the eating behavior. Too large portions in the evening and too long intervals between meals can be the cause.

If you divide the daily ration into smaller portions and feed several times a day, the heartburn often disappears all by itself. If not, ask your veterinarian or a dog nutritionist for advice.

The best tips on the right time to feed dogs

As you have already read, many different factors play a role in the appropriate diet for your dog. Look at the feeding behavior to find the appropriate time of day to feed.

1. regular daily routines

If you always feed your dog at the same times, it will bring calm to the daily routine and also to your dog’s digestion. It may also cause your dog to gorge less. This is especially true if you feed him several times a day.

2. feed two to three times a day

Even though dogs can eat very large quantities at once: Smaller meals are easier to digest. So feed two or even three servings a day. Puppies and seniors should generally be fed several times a day.

3. feed type determines digestion time

Wet food digests your dog faster than dry food. You should therefore feed dry food rather in the evening, wet food is the ideal food for the morning.

4. rest periods after feeding

Plan for rest periods in your feeding times as well. After eating, your dog should have at least an hour’s rest before heading out for an extended play session. With puppies, this is different: due to the rapid digestion, the little ones often have to almost immediately after the meal.

Young Affenpinscher in completely black on green meadow. Caption reads: schedule regular walks with your puppy. Especially after meals.
Schedule regular walks with your puppy. Especially after meals.

Plan feeding times – for predictable digestion

As mentioned before, you can feed your dog once, several times, or at irregular times. Some dogs are also fed “ad libidum”, i.e. as needed, or have food available all day – usually dry food.

However, there is a crucial disadvantage: If your dog eats very irregularly, this also affects his digestion. So you never know when your dog is going to defecate.

For dogs that have free access to the outdoors all day, this is not problematic. However, if you want or have to keep fixed walking times yourself, this can cause problems and confusion.


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