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This blog post was originally published in February 2015. It has been updated with new information and republished in September 2020.
When we brought home Rodrigo and Sydney, I didn’t think about how often they needed to eat. I’ve always fed pets in the morning and in the evening. I didn't know that puppies need to eat more often (three to four times a day). And when my dogs grew up, I didn't realize that it was an option to feed them once a day – in fact, that sounded cruel. But today, I know better. I'm updating this blog post to share what I've learned over the past five years as a raw feeder.
How Many Times a Day to Feed a Puppy
We've had several puppies over the years and all of them were fed twice daily without any obvious ramifications, however, I've learned that due to a puppy's fast metabolism, they need to eat more often. If we were to bring home a puppy today, I would feed the puppy at least three times daily until they were 10 to 12 weeks of age, making sure that I was balancing their diet daily and not “over time” as I do with our adult dogs.
Keep in mind that this is for medium to large dogs. Giant breed puppies may have different criteria.
How Many Times a Day to Feed an Adult Dog
We're currently raising four adult dogs and they eat twice daily within a 10 hour period: 8:30 am and 5:30 pm. They get treats, but not a ton and their treats are primarily single-ingredient protein treats with a few exceptions. Once a week, I fast our dogs; it's a modified fast that looks like:
- my dogs have raw goat's milk or kefir instead of their regular raw meal for the day
- my dogs have bone broth instead of their regular raw meal for the day
- my dogs eat one large meal at the end of the fasting day
I used to do a modified fast (with raw goat's milk, kefir, or bone broth) because Sydney used to get hunger pukes. I began fasting my dogs to help boost their immune system while giving their guts a break. As I understand it, our dogs aren't supposed to be constantly digesting food and it's healthy for them (and us) to fast. Some people do this by feeding once a day, some people fast a couple of days a week, I do a 24 hour fast once a week (sometimes it's modified with the food mentioned above).
The choice to fast a dog is a personal choice. While my dogs have benefited from fasting (healthy weight, stronger immune system, healthy gut), I understand that fasting isn't for everyone. So if you're not fasting your dog and don't yet feel comfortable doing so, please don't feel pressured to do this with your dog.
What the Veterinarian Says
I reached out to Dr. Cathy Alinovi, DVM of Healthy Pawsibilities, to get her thoughts on this question. Dr. Alinovi was kind enough to get us started on raw and consulted with us when we were lost. According to Dr. Alinovi, how often we feed our dogs depends on our dog's age and our lifestyle.
Puppy and Toy Breeds (feed 2 – 3 times a day)
A young puppy or toy breed can be fragile and doesn’t do well without being fed a few times a day. Puppies especially are known for being hypoglycemic, as they don't usually have a lot of fat reserves. Therefore, it's good to feed them two or three times a day.
Once the dogs are older, it's really a matter of convenience. Certainly, dogs in the wild would eat when they could get food. Some days that might be once a day if they were lucky. Most dogs can stand it. The choice of feeding an adult dog once, twice, or three times a day is largely driven by lifestyle and the dog’s health.
Benefits of Feeding Once Daily
If you’re raising a healthy dog, then feeding once a day will allow you to control when they go poop; it’s easier to develop a system. If your dog has access to an outside yard or you have a flexible work schedule (or work from home) then feeding several times a day may make more sense.
If you’re raising a dog with any health issues, I’d recommend seeking the counsel of a veterinarian whom you trust.
Learn More About Fasting Dogs
- Therapeutic Fasting – This Dietary Habit of Wolves Might Be Right for Your Dog Too But Never for a
Cat WhyYou Should Fast Your Dog
- Therapeutic Fasting and Calorie Restriction