For many pet owners, it’s difficult to juggle life, work and pet responsibilities. Long hours at work or outside taking care of other errands might mean feeding a dog at consistent times every single day is difficult. In most of these cases, pet owners often resort to free-feeding - leaving a bowl of food out at all times.
With free-feeding, refilling only happens when your pet’s food bowl is low. This way, your dog has constant and consistent access to their food, no matter where you might be. Free-feeding is convenient and easy - but it does come with many drawbacks that might outweigh its benefits.
#1 It causes obesity
Leaving a bowl of food out and filling it whenever it’s empty most likely means your pet has access to an almost endless supply of food. For dogs with a big appetite, this could mean they might be eating more than their recommended daily intake - every single day. This naturally leads to your dog gaining weight and eventually becoming obese.
Obesity can be deadly as your pets become more susceptible to health conditions like diabetes, heart disease, respiratory distress and high blood pressure among other illnesses. Even if your pet doesn’t contract any fatal diseases, obesity can still reduce the length and quality of your pet’s life in the long run.
#2 It harms your dog's health
This is especially so as free-feeding often results in pet owners who are unable to estimate their pup’s consumption habits and appetite. For animals unable to vocalise their health problems, this means pet owners may be losing a valuable opportunity to monitor their pet’s health through their appetite or lack thereof - leading to unchecked illnesses that could become even more serious later in life.
Free-feeding a fussy dog might also mean they aren’t getting the nutrients they require on a day-to-day basis, and you may not even know.
In addition, leaving your dog’s food out for extended periods of time is entirely unsanitary and could even be unhealthy. Over time, food that is left out, no matter the brand, can become susceptible to spoilage or bacterial contamination. It also attracts some unwanted critters and pests like ants, flies and rodents that aren’t just a nuisance in the home, but may also be carriers of disease that could affect your dog or even the humans in your home.
#3 It deprives your pet of you
With our hectic lifestyles, many pet owners just don’t have the time to play and interact with their pets for extended periods of time - it’s also, as aforementioned, the reason why free-feeding is becoming so popular.
However, with this decrease in interaction with our pets comes behavioural and even medical problems as our pets could be lacking in mental and physical stimulation. Separation anxiety and high stress levels are just some of the outcomes of leaving your dog alone for most of the day.
Taking 10 minutes a day to feed your dog regularly doesn’t just give you and your dog invaluable time to play, but it also gives you an opportunity to train your dog on some basic commands like stay and come. In the long run, your dog will become more disciplined and feel more safe in its environment.
A better solution: scheduled feeding
Instead of free-feeding, consider making use of scheduled feeding. This means portioning meals at specific times throughout the day. Depending on the species, breed, age, size and activity level of a pet, you should feed your dog 2-3 times a day. For the best feeding schedule, consult your veterinarian as different dogs have different preferences and requirements.
If your dog is being picky about food or has special dietary requirements or sensitivities to certain food, tryGrandma Lucy’s. Made with high quality and tasty ingredients, this blend of all-natural, grain-free and gluten-free freeze dried recipe is great for maintaining your dog’s digestive system and heart. Do still consult a vet about your choice of pet food if your pet has serious food allergies.
You could also help make mealtimes with your pet a little more tasty withBone Broth Dr’s Salmon Bone Broth. Even the pickiest of dogs will enjoy their food more with a healthy dose of bone broth. If your dog is still refusing food, you may want to consider trying out different types of food like canned food, semi-moist food or even home cooked and raw food. Certain dogs may also develop preferences for specific type of protein.
If switching out your dog’s food doesn’t work, or if they’ve been refusing food either all of a sudden or for longer than 48 hours, consider bringing them to a vet as a lack of appetite could be a sign of a range of health problems from a loose tooth to kidney failure.
Transitioning from free feeding
Pet owners transitioning from free-feeding to scheduled feeding might be concerned about your pet’s hunger - it may take some time for your dog to get used to it’s new feeding schedule. In between meals, you could introduce some chews and treats like BARE’s Pork Chompers for your dog to gnaw on. This could help keep their appetite at bay while cleaning their teeth and providing some entertainment for the day.
Being a pet owner is a big responsibility - and choosing the right way to feed your pet is important. Your dog’s consumption habits will affect their health in the long run, so taking the time to bond with your pet during meal times and monitoring their appetite will help make your dog healthier and happier.
Tammi writes articles about anything from data analytics to animal health, and loves doing the occasional craft. But most importantly, she loves hanging out and doing photo-shoots with her dog.