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Your Dog’s Feeding Schedule: How Many Meals Should Dogs Eat Per Day?

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Lindsay Butzer, DVM
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Dr. Lindsay Butzer
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Brown Labradoodle anticipates scheduled meal served by pet parent

Does your dog eat twice a day, graze at a buffet of kibble all day long, or are you still figuring out their best meal schedule? By feeding your dog at the same times each day, you can monitor for changes in appetite, maintain a healthy weight, and even regulate their potty breaks. Learn how different meal times can affect your dog’s health and nutrition, and how to set a predictable, manageable schedule that works for both you and your pup.


How Many Meals Should Dogs Eat Per Day?

Most adult dogs over 18 months old should eat two meals per day, around eight hours apart.
Healthy treats can be given anytime, but should make up no more than 15% of your dog’s diet.


How Many Meals Should Puppies Eat Per Day?

Until your puppy is six months old, they should eat at least three times and as many as five times per day.
In the first six months of life, your puppy will do the most growing. During this rapid growth period, they will need to consume about twice as many calories compared to an adult dog of the same body weight. Frequent meals ensure that your puppy can eat enough to support their growth and development through the day. After six months, your puppy can eat twice a day.

Small and toy breed puppies are prone to hypoglycemia, low blood sugar, if they go too long between meals or after periods of intense exercise. By offering frequent meals, you can avoid dangerous dips in your puppy’s blood sugar. By the time your puppy is about six months old, their body will most likely be more efficient at regulating their blood sugar.


How Dogs Eat In The Wild

All dogs, from tiny Chihuahuas to ALL the Doodles, share about 99% of their DNA with wolves. The species are so closely related that they can produce offspring. But while their digestive systems are similar, they are not quite the same.
In the wild, a wolf takes down large game like deer, elk, and moose. After a successful hunt, a wolf can eat up to 20 pounds of meat in one sitting, then may go several days without eating until their next meal.

A dog’s stomach, just like that of a wolf’s, can stretch to accommodate a large meal. But while wolves and other wild canines consume a high-moisture diet made up of meat from their prey, dogs have adapted to living and eating alongside humans.
Scraps from human foods, as well as modern dog foods, contain ingredients rich in fiber and carbohydrates, like rice, corn, and potatoes. These foods are digested more quickly than meat. So, dogs need to eat more frequently than their wild counterparts, but don’t necessarily need to divide their daily food intake into lunches, appetizers, and snacks like we do.


Why Your Dog’s Feeding Schedule Matters

A regular feeding schedule makes it easier to monitor your dog’s appetite and food intake so you’ll quickly notice symptoms that can indicate a health issue. You’ll also find it easier to adjust your schedule around events or travel, administer medications, and even work on training when your dog is hungry at the same time each day.

With a regular meal schedule, your dog’s stomach will produce acid in anticipation of each meal. When dogs go long periods between meals, this influx of acid can irritate the stomach lining, causing nausea. Your dog may bring up a small amount of sour-smelling, yellowish, foamy vomit. Even with regular mealtimes, some dogs experience bilious vomiting syndrome. Offering a small treat before bedtime can help prevent vomiting in the morning.


Do Dogs Benefit From One-Meal-A-Day Fasting?

It’s not uncommon for dog owners, especially those with large and giant breeds, to feed just once a day so the dog is essentially fasting for 24 hours between meals.
In humans, fasting is touted as a way to control weight, improve focus, fight disease, and stabilize blood sugar. While some dogs may potentially benefit in similar ways, more research is needed to establish whether 24-hour fasting could be a healthy option for some dogs.

It’s possible that fasting may be more suitable for dogs that eat a raw meat diet, rather than a traditional kibble or canned diet.
Keep in mind that large meals can put dogs at a greater risk for bloat, especially large and giant breeds that are already susceptible. Bloat is a life-threatening medical emergency in which the stomach twists and becomes distended and filled with gas.


How Mealtimes Affect Your Dog’s Potty Schedule

As your dog settles into a regular feeding schedule, you’ll likely start to notice that their poop and pee schedule becomes more predictable. This is invaluable if you’re house-training your puppy, or if you work outside the home during the day and aren’t always available to let your dog out.

Most dogs experience a gastrocolic reflex, in which the beginning of the digestive process immediately after a meal makes them have to poop. Like clockwork, your dog will poop around 20-30 minutes after they eat.
On average, it takes an adult dog about 8-10 hours to digest a meal. So, when your dog poops after dinner, it’s likely to be the end result of their breakfast that ends up on your lawn.

If your puppy or dog has accidents overnight or wakes you up to go outside, you can help ensure they will sleep through the night by adjusting their meal schedule. As digestion rates vary between dogs, you might need to push for a slightly earlier dinner, or feed them later to ensure their digestive process is not complete until morning.


Changing Your Dog’s Feeding Schedule

If you need to adjust your dog’s mealtimes to match their growth and development, potty habits, or even because your own schedule has changed, it’s best to do so gradually. For some dogs, a difference of just an hour due to daylight savings can pose a challenge.

Push your dog’s mealtimes back or forward just 15 minutes each day until you achieve the desired schedule. If your new schedule will mean more time between meals, you can give your dog a few treats or a small portion of food to hold them over and prevent nausea and vomiting.
If your dog experiences gastric upset, changes in appetite, or if you just have questions about choosing the best diet and meal schedule for them, make an appointment with your veterinarian as soon as possible.



Every pet deserves to live a long, happy, healthy life.