Jul 28, 2023

How to Make the Best Feeding Choices for Your Pup

The scoop on all things dog feeding, from puppyhood to the golden years.

As the senior editor for Daily Paws, Abbie Harrison is finally living her dreams of writing and thinking about pets all day with her two rescue pups, Millie and Finn, by her side. Prior to Daily Paws, Abbie received both her bachelor's and master's degrees from the Missouri School of Journalism before spending four years reporting on the latest cancer research advances at the National Cancer Institute. When she's not working, you can find Abbie hiking with her pups or hunting down the best gluten-free eats in Des Moines with her husband.

We know feeding your pup can seem like the most confusing choice you’ll make as a pet parent. Then once you finally find the perfect food, figuring out how much and how often to feed your dog is just one more piece of the puzzle. Then one day, your dog turns his nose up at his dinner he used to wolf down. What gives?

From nutritional needs to food types, ingredients, costs, and considerations to help your dog maintain a healthy weight through each life stage, we’ll walk you through all the information and inspiration you need to make every mealtime matter.

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Before we even get into the ins and outs of feeding your dog, we have to talk about who to trust when it comes to dog nutrition advice and navigating the overwhelming pet food aisle. Your vet? A nutritionist? Someone you follow on Instagram? Experts say your vet is your best first option for nutrition advice and questions, but if you are attempting a home-cooked diet or are trying to manage chronic health conditions through nutrition, a board-certified veterinary nutritionist is the best person to help you with all your feeding questions and concerns.

We spoke with a board-certified veterinary nutritionist for the scoop on the importance of their job, what they do, and how they help the average pet parent needs to see one.

Not much eclipses the joy of bringing home a new puppy and watching them acclimate to their new home and family. You want to give your new friend the best start for many happy years to come, and when it comes to choosing the best food, it can be incredibly overwhelming. It’s always best to consult with your veterinarian about the best feeding schedule for your individual dog. Factors such as breed, size, and weight expectations can influence your puppy’s food choices and feeding schedule.

Before you’re able to get to that appointment, we’ve put together a sample puppy feeding schedule based on your pup’s size, including how many feedings per day your puppy needs as well as tips on what to look for when searching for the perfect food.

Life with your new puppy is busy but going great—you’re enrolled in puppy kindergarten, you’re crushing potty training, and crate training is slowly but surely happening. Then all of a sudden your puppy stops eating. Luckily, it’s not always a cause for concern—they might just be too tired from all that puppy playing—but it can be a sign of illness. Here are some potential reasons your pup has stopped eating, when to be concerned, and how to get them eating again.

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Once dogs are out of the puppy stage and don’t need frequent feedings to support their rapidly growing bodies, most pet parents opt to feed their pup twice a day—breakfast and dinner. However, there are some pups who might need to eat more frequently to help prevent nausea and vomiting. Whatever feeding frequency you land on, keep the schedule the same each day for your dog; they thrive on schedules and feel secure with routine. If you can, swap out free feeding and grazing with a set feeding schedule to help prevent obesity and other health problems.

If your dog suddenly stops eating, unfortunately the reason isn’t always clear. It could be because he’s sick, medication has changed his appetite, or he just doesn’t like his food. Here’s how to figure out if you need to get to the vet or if your dog is just tricking you into adding some tasty tidbits to his bowl.

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Does spending more mean my dog is getting better food? Do I need to feel bad about not spending enough? As long as the food you are feeding your dog is AAFCO-certified and says “complete and balanced” on the label, there’s no need to worry. Kibble will be the most cost-effective way to feed your dog, and you can expect to spend about $35 a month for small dogs and around $60 per month for larger dogs.

Here are some of our best tips to save some money on food, including buying in bulk and utilizing subscription services.

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The dog-food aisles at the store are filled with a dizzying array of bags and cans of food, and it can seem impossible to try to decide if you should feed your dog wet or dry food—or even both. Wet and dry food are processed differently, so they have different textures, moisture, and even nutritional content.

Because of wet food’s higher moisture content, vets often recommend it for dogs with kidney or bladder stones, smaller breeds, and picky eaters. However, it is messier, spoils faster, and is less convenient than dry food. We talked with a vet to break down the pros and cons of wet and dry food for dogs to help make your feeding decisions easier.

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While it’s something most pet parents don’t like to talk about, eventually our dogs will enter their senior years, which can bring an entirely new set of challenges in terms of food choices. Many brands offer senior versions of their foods, but when should you switch your dog to that food, and what’s so special about senior food? And are they actually beneficial or just a marketing ploy?

We talked with a vet who said that senior dog food is not just a marketing effort, and these foods provide different formulations for senior dogs who tend to need fewer calories as their activity and metabolism slow down with age. Senior dog food can also have a slightly different potassium, sodium, and protein breakdown to help aging kidneys, additional fatty acids to help with inflammation or achy joints, and more fiber to support gastrointestinal health. Here’s how to tell when your dog is ready for senior food (it’s not just an age-related decision).