At Team Greyhound we recommend feeding all adult dogs 2 meals per day, breakfast and dinner, and some treats of course! There are some important reasons why we recommend this as listed below:
Calorie control = Weight control
It is very important to keep all dogs at a lean weight and ideal body condition due to the health benefits this provides. Dogs that are maintained at a healthy weight generally live longer, have less metabolic problems, and also have less arthritis. As dogs are naturally active creatures, those that are overweight have decreased energy, slower metabolism, and the increased load places more strain on their joints leading to early onset arthritis and in some cases joint injuries that may require surgery.
- Controlling the amount of calories a dog eats each day by feeding them set meals is the most effective way to help them maintain this healthy weight. As care takers it is important for us to provide our dogs a healthy diet that is balanced both nutritionally and calorically for their needs. Although some dogs can maintain a healthy weight on their own through free choice feeding, it is our experience that most dogs cannot and will become overweight through this feeding method. This being said, it is also important to keep in mind that each individual dog has its own unique metabolic rate, which is a result of many factors including their breed, size, nutritional intake, and exercise level. As a result each dog will need its own specifically tailored feeding amount for each meal, which can be adjusted based on their body condition, age, and exercise level. For example, a racing greyhound will require more calories per day than a retired racing greyhound. Just as a 2 year old Labrador who is bouncing off the walls with energy will need more calories than a senior lab who exercises less.
The Multiple Pet Household Dilemma
As animal lovers, it is not uncommon to have multiple dogs living in the same household. Free choice feeding in this situation can present some potential problems.
- A decreased appetite in dogs can often be the first sign of illness. Feeding free choice in a multiple pet household makes it more difficult to know if or when an individual animal has a decreased appetite or worse has stopped eating. Feeding 2 meals per day allows you to monitor each dog’s appetite. It also allows you to notice a change in appetite sooner, which results in being able to treat any potential problem without delay.
- Some pets will develop food allergies or other diseases that may require them to be fed a specialty prescription diet, which as you suspected will cost more money than a traditional over the counter diet. In addition, some prescription diets are not suitable for normal healthy patients, even though they benefit the dog that does have the disease the diet was designed for. Feeding 2 meals per day allows you to separate each animals meal during feeding allowing you to feed the appropriate diet to each dog while at the same time saving your pocket book. Already having your dogs on this meal routine will make the transition to a prescription diet a much smoother process.
Avoiding Possible Food Aggression
As we all know greyhounds where muzzles when at their kennel at the track for the safety of the pack. This prevents bites, fights, and the dreaded thin skin lacerations. In addition, while at the track these dogs are fed one large meal per day and this is fed in their own secluded kennel away from other hounds. Free choice feedings allows all the hounds in the house to eat when they want ,and potentially be at the food bowl at the same time. This poses a potential threat for a bite or fight to occur. Particularly when the new foster, whom we do not yet know the behavioral quirks of, is introduced into a new hierarchy. Thus it is my recommendation that all foster dogs and other dogs within the house be fed twice daily meals, in separate bowls and in a consistent location in order to establish a safe routine.
Establishing a routine
When fostering dogs, we want to set our hounds up for the easiest transition into their new adopted homes. Feeding twice daily meals helps to establish a routine which creates comfort and predictability for our foster dogs. One by regulating their bowel movements so they have fewer accidents in the house while potty training. In addition, we do not know the routine of the house the dog is going into. For example, if the new home feeds twice daily as recommended in my feeding handout, it can create a conflict of schedules resulting in a more difficult transition for the new owners and the foster hound.
These same problems can arise when our foster dogs enter into their new home. As foster parents this is something we should be educating all adoptee parents about in order to make their transition as smooth as possible. Thus, for the reasons outlined in my handout, as well the reasons listed above, I recommend all of Team Greyhounds foster dogs and owned dogs of foster parents be fed twice daily meals rather than free choice as I feel it sets all of our hounds up for the most smooth transition into the pet world from the racing world.