How you feed your dog is something that dog owners are passionate about. What, when and how much are some of the main questions that come into the blog. One hot debate is free feeding or set meal times.
Free feeding Vs meal feeding
Here is a quick rundown of the concepts.
Free Feeding is when you leave food down all day and your chi can help himself. Meal feeding is a set meal time at regular times of day. Adult dogs need two meals a day and puppies will need 3. Puppies also need food that is higher in calories until they are at least a year. (This differs for different dogs, so check with your vet)
Free Feeding Pros
Cons of free feeding
You can only feed dry foods that won’t spoil (or will it)
You don’t know how much your dog has eaten
Food may get eaten by cats
It can be harder to toilet train a puppy (eating will make them want to poop)
Greedy dogs like mine, will overeat and get fat
‘Pet Guide’ suggests that free fed dogs are less food motivated and this can make them harder to train.
Meal feeding pros
It is easier to monitor and control how much your chihuahua eats
You can feed fresh or wet foods
Dogs that resource guard can be fed separately
You can spot if your dog is off food and possibly unwell
It is easier to tailor meals to your dog’s nutritional needs
Meal feeding cons
It requires you to stick to schedule and can tie you down (you must get back for the dogs or arrange someone to go in and feed them)
It is easier to overfeed, chihuahuas are easy to overfeed as they are so small. Just slightly too much can pile on the weight.
Your chi inhales the food because he feels pressured to eat. (Competition eating)
Meal feeding is the way forward for us, we home cook a lot of the time and like to tailor our food. We have a mixed bunch of chihuahuas and they all have different nutritional needs.
Minnie is a young and unspayed (at time of writing) and needs more calories than a spayed female. But she is also greedy and on a weight reduction programme.
Arlo, the puppy (18 weeks at time of writing) needs more calories and gets three meals a day.
Mika is an older neutered male. He needs less food than a complete dog. He is also prone to anal gland issues. Meal feeding gives us the opportunity to add a bulking agent to his food. This helps by creating larger, firmer stools that will express the glands as he poops.
Add in my own supplements
With meal feeding and using wet food, it’s easier to add in supplements. I have a couple that I use all the time. Calm-K9 as it contains L-tryptophan which has a calming action and helps reduce random barking. It also supports the gut and firms up stools which helps with anal gland issues. Read more about anal glands here. Not having to go to the vet every month is saving me a fortune.
I put this in to help with teeth cleaning. I add it in daily to their food for the day. Seaweed makes plaque fall off teeth and helps aid cleaner teeth. Read more about how to clean your chihuahua’s teeth without brushing.
We have a lot of chihuahua owners who worry that their chis are not eating enough, often they are eating more than you think, but free feeding makes it harder to monitor. Here is some more on dealing with a picky eater.
Also, if you have a tiny chihuahua prone to hypoglycaemia making sure they have eaten regularly is vital. These chis often require smaller more regular meals during the day.
In the end, you must do what works for your family and your dogs. There is no definite right and wrong.
But there is a movement away from dry dog foods that are high in carbs and contain fillers. If you are free feeding dry food make sure you research and get the best one for your chihuahua. Read why you must stop feeding carbs to your dog.
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