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Feeding Your Adult Dog FAQ

WebMD veterinary experts answer commonly asked questions about creating a food and nutrition plan for your adult dog.
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How can I tell if a food is right for my pet?

Watch the condition of its body and coat. If your dog appears to be thriving on the food and has a glossy coat, lots of energy, and a fit appearance, the food agrees with him.

Sometimes, the way a food is processed or the ingredients it contains may prevent your dog from absorbing all the needed nutrients. If your pet has a dull coat and lacks energy, try another kind of food. Also, check in the backyard for other signs of trouble: Lots of feces may indicate a problem with digestibility, says Joseph Wakshlag, assistant professor of clinical nutrition at Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine.

It’s rare for a dog to be malnourished because of a badly formulated diet, says C.A. Tony Buffington, DVM, PhD. Buffington is professor of veterinary clinical sciences at The Ohio State University Veterinary Hospital. He advises owners to focus on providing the right amount of food and making sure dogs are active and engaged. About one out of every four dogs is overweight.

How much food should my adult dog eat each day?

That depends on the size of the dog, its age, and how much exercise it gets. Use feeding charts on pet food labels as a guide. Start by checking the amount recommended for your pet’s weight range. If your dog weighs on the lower end of the range, feed the smaller recommended amount. Dogs on the heavier end of the scale may need more food.

Assess your pet’s activity level. Lap dogs who get little exercise may need 10% less than what’s recommended on the package label. An active dog that exercises outdoors may need 20% to 40% more. Working dogs -- those that regularly receive high-intensity exercise, such as a sled dog or police dog -- may need a food designed for working or performance dogs. These foods have a higher fat content to provide extra calories.

Next, you may need to make adjustments based on your pet’s body condition. The Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine web site has a body condition scoring chart that shows and describes various body conditions, ranging from emaciated to obese. Your dog’s vet can help you understand how your dog’s body condition affects the amount of food she needs.

Serious illness, pregnancy, or nursing can increase a dog’s energy needs. Ask your vet about adjusting the type or quantity of food.

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