If you look at the feeding guide on the back of dog food bags you will find quite a variation between brands. Now, common sense tells us that you should expect to feed less of a high quality food than a cheap brand using less digestible ingredients.
But when you look at premium brands there's quite a difference in the feeding guide despite the fact that the ingredients are very similar.
So why the difference? Why does one brand proudly state that you can feed 10g/kg and another 12-15g/kg body weight when the ingredients and calorific value are so similar?
Is one better than the other, or are feeding rates generally too vague?
OK, let's try and look at this sensibly!
Getting the feeding amount correct is important. Feed too little and you end up with a lean/thin dog that could border on the underweight. Underweight dogs may suffer from poor muscle tone, delayed healing, loss of energy, and metabolic and reproductive disorders.
Feed too much and you can create an overweight dog (this is more common) which may suffer from arthritic problems, diabetes and liver problems, as well as a lack of energy, and an increase in skin problems. They may also have a shortened life expectancy.
It has been proven experimentally that leaner dogs are healthier dogs, but there can be a fine line between lean and too thin!
The main problem with feeding guides on dog
food bags is that they are only guidlines. Quite
often there's a wide range of suggested feeding
rates for weight bands of dogs, and determining
quantity to be fed based on weight is not a
terrific system to use.
Well, look at it this way. Humans are very much
like each other, and The World Health
Organisation can make recommendations for
minimum nutritional standards with some degree
of accuracy for age and degree of activity.
But with dogs it is different. Thinks of all the different breeds out there, the huge size variation, growth rates in puppies and lactating bitches, daily activity levels, skin and coat thicknesses, living conditions and other environmental factors.
Or as an extreme example compare the energy
needs of a young Malamute living outdoors and
learning to pull a dog sled to that of an adult
Pomeranian living in a heated apartment - and
the difference in caloric requirement for a
healthy life could be over tenfold.
These kind of differences rarely happen in
humans and are why it is so difficult to have a
set answer for how much a dog should be fed.
Take the information on the bag as a starting point. If your dog is a couch potato then 10g/kg body weight might be ideal. If you've an fairly active dog then you might need to up the amount from that on the guide. Most premium diets have similar calorific values which is the main criterion. If your brand doesn't show calorific value on its web site (if not on the bag) then ask them why not. It helps when you are comparing foods like for like.
Check the table below and see where your dog lies on it. If it checks out as ideal then weigh the dog on your bathroom scales (weigh yourself, then with you holding the dog if possible - subtract the two for your dog's weight)
Now you have something to go on. Adjust the feeding amount so that an adult dog maintains its body weight, or a puppy grows steadily to adult weight.
Lactating bitches need extra food (check the brand's website for info or ask them) and seniors need less.
If your dog is too thin, then adjust feeing rates up slightly until the body condition is correct.
If your dog is overweight, then adjust feeding rates down (or use a light diet) until the correct body weight is achieved.
It's not rocket science, but it's probably a more accurate way of looking at feeding rates than believing that these should be adhered to religiously!
FEEDING RATES ON BAGS ARE JUST A GUIDE - TREAT THEM AS SUCH, IGNORE THE MARKETING HYPE AND YOU'LL BE FINE!