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Why Is It Important to Measure the Food You Give Your Dog?

Portion control is as important for dogs as it is for humans. Measuring makes it easier to know how much your dog is eating, which helps control your dog's weight. "You don't need any special tools," Carreker says. "Just use the same measuring cups you use for cooking."

And how much food should you give your dog? "That depends," Carreker says, "on your dog's size and level of activity." You can ask your vet about how many calories your dog should get each day. You can also use the guide printed on dog food packages. But, Carreker says, you need to do so with caution.

"The guides on packages are average ranges. And most guides are overestimated," Carreker says. "You need to know your dog's activity level and monitor its weight, and make adjustments based on what you see happening."

What if Your Dog Is a Fussy Eater?

Both Winquist and Carreker say owners are usually responsible for making their dog a fussy eater. Lots of things can contribute to fussiness, from leaving the dog's food out all day to overfeeding him treats or giving him scraps from the table.

"Sometimes," Carreker says, "the dog may not be fussy at all. It may simply just not be hungry. You can pick up his food and watch what happens next time your feed it."

"The thing not to do," Winquist says, "is dote on a fussy dog. Trying to cajole your dog to eat only makes not eating more interesting." The thing to do, she says, is to stick to a feeding schedule. Then if the dog doesn't eat, just pick the food up without making a fuss. "The next time you put food down," Winquist says, "if she's hungry, she'll eat."

Should You Be Concerned if Your Dog Skips a Meal?

An early sign of illness in a dog is often loss of appetite. So some people get concerned if their dog misses a meal, Carreker says. "But if there are no other symptoms of illness -- such as vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy -- there's no particular reason to be concerned about an occasional missed meal."

Dogs can go a long time without eating, Carreker says. So a dog might go several feedings in a row without eating. "Of course, if there are other symptoms," she says, "you should contact your dog's vet."