Is Free Feeding Good or Bad for my Dog?
Is Free Feeding Good or Bad for my Dog?
If your pup is like…well, just about every other pup large or small, chances are good he/she loves to eat.
Knowing how/when to feed Trixie is important. Give her too much, and she’s going to wind up overweight (according to 2018 statistics published by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, 56% of dogs in the United States are overweight or obese).
Perhaps the best way to avoid this problem is to feed Buster scheduled meals: best, say some veterinarians, is two meals per day, about 12 hours apart, though a “human” schedule of breakfast, lunch, and dinner is good, too. Letting too much time lapse between meals can lead to an overly acidic stomach, which results in nausea, says Ryan Llera, BSc, DVM, and Robin Downing, DVM, CVPP, CCRP, DAAPM.
But is free feeding good or bad for Fido? Is this method an option in some cases?
Like anything, there’s pros and cons of your fur baby. Let’s examine some facts about both positions and see if this particular manner of feeding Bowser is the way to go.
Are There Benefits to Free Feeding Fido?
For the most part, free-feeding a dog has more benefits for Mom and Dad than it does Fido. It’s way convenient to top off the dog bowl in the morning and just let your pup “graze” throughout the day, and in theory that’s great. The dog eats his recommended portion of food for the day and you have peace of mind.
For an active dog, this can be a good option, as activity burns calories and these calories can easily be replaced over the course of the day.
Some say this feeding method eliminates “food guarding” and thus reduces aggression; since the food is readily available, Ginger doesn’t have to feel the need to eat it in a hurry and thus doesn’t have to “guard” it as some dogs might who eat once or twice a day.
Generally, though, this works best for busy fur baby parents: fill the bowl once a day and don’t worry about it again (of course, this does NOT work for the water bowl: a dog should always have fresh water available, so this bowl should be checked and refilled as often as needed). Those with busy or crazy schedules find this the best way to go, even if it’s not always in the best interest of Chet or Rosie.
Why Free Feeding is NOT the Way to Go
The American Kennel Club (AKC) states that “Free-feeding, or leaving food available to dogs at all times, is often not recommended by veterinarians.”
According to some sources, a dog’s natural instinct is to eat what’s put in front of him/her. So, if you’re putting a full day’s worth of food in the bowl every morning, chances are it’s being gobbled up in one sitting (or standing, as the case may be).
Eating this much food at one time could lead to a condition known as gastric dilatation-volvulus (GDV), which can be deadly. And even if GDV does not result from inhaling a large amount of food, eating in this manner can as stated earlier, lead to obesity.
Other arguments against feeding your dog in this manner include: leaving food out can attract insects and rodents, and this method can make it difficult to potty train; since the dog is not on any set eating schedule, neither will he/she be on any “elimination” schedule, either.
“Health-wise, free-feeding doesn’t allow you to keep an eye on a pet’s appetite,” says William Howe, a veterinary technician in New Jersey. As appetite loss is often an early sign of some illnesses, you may not notice that your dog is not eating as much when leaving out a daily portion of food as compared to feeding limited portions twice a day; by the time you do see a decrease in appetite, illness could have grown much worse.
Also, if you have a puppy, it’s recommended to use the scheduled feeding method. This promotes better training and also avoids the “eating everything at once” response that can lead to potential sickness.
It’s worth mentioning, too, that free feeding is not recommended for multi-dog households, as it becomes impossible to measure how much one pup is eating over another or can lead to more aggressive dogs dominating the food bowls.
Think a friend or anyone you know needs to know what’s best when feeding their canine companions? Feel free to share this article on all of your social media outlets!
Written by Harrison Howe