The Dog Box

2017-10-12 06:00

Hi Susan, my family has always fed our dogs just one meal a day because wolves gorge themselves on a hunt and then go without until the next day’s hunt. A friend has advised me to feed my mixed-breed Shepherd twice a day to prevent the risk of him suffering from bloat. What is best? My dog is not interested in eating in the morning.

G.H.

Research has shown that our domestic dogs do not follow an eat-starve cycle, and consequently physical and behavioural problems can arise from a gorging-abstaining cycle.

Some pet dogs switch themselves to once a day meals when they no longer require the rapid growth nutrients of their puppy months. People then assume that this is best, but feeding once a day can lead to gastric torsion.

A dog with an empty stomach for more than 12 hours can also develop “hunger tension”, which in turn can lead to destructive chewing, eating and stealing behaviour. A satiated dog is calmer, and has fewer behaviour issues.

The wolves’ stomachs enable them to eat vast amounts of food at a time, which remains stable in the abdomen in the event of the wolf needing to run or jump.

Dogs’ stomachs, on the other hand, have evolved to accommodate much smaller amounts that are discovered during the mornings and evenings while scavenging around rubbish or human settlements.

Research shows that free-ranging dogs spend eighty-percent of their day resting close to dumps.

They travel during dusk when their stomachs are empty. After a large meal a dog’s stomach is heavier and hangs loosely.

If the dog eats too much or is active after eating, the stomach can flip on its axis closing the entrance and exit. The stomach expands as fermenting gases and acids build up, pushing the stomach against organs and arteries in the abdomen. These acids can dissolve the stomach lining. Gastric torsion (turned stomach) is a life-threatening veterinary emergency.

It is best to divide you dog’s food into at least two meals. Don’t feed your dog for at least half an hour before exercise, and make sure he doesn’t run around or play madly for at least an hour after he has finished eating. If you usually feed him before a walk in the morning, rather feed after the walk.

In addition to this being healthier and safer, your dog will happily return from the walk to enjoy a meal and to then have a pleasant siesta.

Susan Henderson© (accredited animal behaviourist) info@dogboxtrain ingschool.co.za 082 386 5805.

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