What to Know about Your Best Friend’s Diet

We spend a lot of time obsessing over human diets, but many of us don’t know exactly how to put together a healthy, nutritious eating plan together for our dogs. We may have never really learned how, or else we’re exhausted from trying to sort through all the information we see online.

If your pup isn’t obviously ill, you’re probably doing it right. But here are a few basics you should know to help ensure your pup is eating a well-rounded diet, according to the ASPCA:

  • There are six essential nutrients dogs need to have in their diets to promote health and well-being: water, protein, fats, carbohydrates, minerals and vitamins.
  • The amount you should feed your adult dog depends on their size and energy output. Those who have a normal energy level likely should be fed a maintenance diet, which your veterinarian should be able to advise you about.
  • Lap dogs may require only 10% or so of that maintenance level. Working dogs in public safety, guide, medical assistance, herding or other kinds of service may require 40% to 70% above the maintenance level.
  • Most dogs should be fed twice daily, eight hours apart. Simply divide the total daily recommended diet in half. Some dogs who don’t tend to overeat when given 24-hour access to food can have free-choice feeding; otherwise, portion-controlled manual feeding or timed feeding is the way to go.
  • Dogs should always have access to water, both inside and out.
  • Treats should make up no more than 5% of a dog’s diet, with the rest coming from a nutritionally complete dog food. This includes treats given as motivation for tricks and other tasks.
  • Dogs may be overweight if you can’t feel their ribs or backbone easily through their skin, or if they don’t have a “waist” between their rib cage or their hips or their tummy hangs down between their rib cage and thighs. Consult their vet before starting any weight-loss program.
  • Their “senior” diets should begin at about 7 years for dogs under 50 pounds, age 6 for 50-90 pounds and at age 5 for dogs over 90 pounds.