For dog owners, especially first-time dog owners and those whose favorite canines are sick, it can be quite challenging to work out the right feeding pattern for their beloved animal.
While it is of utmost importance to take the guidance of an experienced veterinarian for working out the feeding details of your dog, you can use some pointers to help. When feeding dogs becomes stressful, or if your dog not eating food despite all efforts; the below pointers will surely help.
- Create a feeding and monitoring plan specifying important factors like diet, amount, frequency and feeding method.
Use a diary or tracker
- Keep a diary to note the daily feeding and elimination details like type of food, quantity, feeding times and other important details as well as the number of times your dog has gone for potty during the day. This kind of diary will help you to recognize any patterns that could be causing problems.
- Determine any changes required in current feeding management and any necessary environmental changes based on the patterns that are releaved from the diary / tracker.
Try feeding free choice vs defined amount of nutrients
- Determine whether your dog does better when he is fed free-choice or does he need feeding of appropriate amounts of nutrients to maintain good body condition.
- Always measure the amount of food being given each time (whether feeding free choice or meals).
Use measuring cups
- Always use appropriate measuring cups.
Essential foods + comfort foods / favourite foods
- When your dog is refusing any required food, offer comfort foods that your dog eats regularly along with the essential foods, or pair with foods which are your dog’s favourites. This helps to promote food intake.
Use proper timing for new foods
- Avoid introducing new foods suddenly or during a period of sickness / increased behavior problems if they are intended for long term feeding as there is always a risk of inducing aversion to a new food. Food aversion is when a food item makes one uncomfortable, causing symptoms like nausea, or the dog might dislike the taste or they might have problems swallowing them. Therefore, the dog may tend to avoid these foods altogether.
- Include feeding toys for reducing feeding-related conflicts with the dog. Feeding toys also help in case of competition for food.
- Provide ample opportunities for activity (play, exercise, etc)
- Decrease the perception of threat from other animals (including humans)
Avoid unpredictable changes
- Do not make too many unpredictable changes in the animal’s environment or routines
For hospitalized dogs
Veterinarian drafted feeding / monitoring plan
- In case your dog is hospitalized, follow the feeding / monitoring plan drafted by the veterinarian.
- In case of sickness or hospitalization, the optimal feeding method required to fulfill nutrition needs should be reassessed daily. Different feeding methods you can try with the help of the hospital/veterinarian.
Oral feeding voluntarily
This is the easiest and must be tried first.
- Using simple coaxing techniques and small changes, such as warming the food, taking the dog to a quiet area for feeding, having another family member feed the dog, stroking the dog while eating can enhance food intake.
- Be careful with syringe feeding dogs having nausea or those that are stressed, as it can induce food aversions.
- Other nutritional support techniques may be required for animals that have not eaten sufficient amounts by using the above methods for over 3 days (including the total time of reduced appetite whether at home or in the hospital), and if there seem to be no signs of them resuming reasonable amounts of food intake as it will further compromise their nutritional status. The below feeding methods can help in such cases:
i. Veterinarians will use a feeding tube for dogs that are not eating adequate amounts voluntarily. Parenteral nutrition is used for dogs that have major gastrointestinal dysfunction or in dogs whose risk of aspiration is increased due to enteral feeding. This is done at the hospital level by a trained veterinarian.
ii. Veterinarians will watch closely for complications associated with the method of feeding used, especially with recumbent or neurologically impaired dogs.