The label on the bag of pet food provides a guideline on the amount of food recommended for your pet. However that is just a start, as you also need to take into account your pet’s age and activity level. For example pets that are highly active, pregnant or nursing young have higher requirements than the average couch-potato.
Puppies and kittens require food at more frequent intervals than their adult counterparts. They therefore need to be fed three or four times per day, depending on their age. Keep in mind that in winter the energy expenditure of your pets is likely to drop, especially with indoor pets, as they’re less active. This means that you would need to feed slightly less than you would during the summer months to maintain your pet’s current body weight. An outdoor pet however would be burning off more energy just to stay warm, thus requiring a slight increase in food portions.
In the PetPickings.com household we typically feed one-third of the daily ration in the morning, and the remaining two-thirds in the evening. Since pets have a tendency to sleep after meals, this technique works especially well for us as our pets sleep with us, so they are less likely to become restless during the night.
Dividing daily rations into 2 or 3 meals is especially important in dogs, more specifically large dogs (although not exclusively), as it lessens the chances of your dog developing ‘bloat’ / gastric torsion, which is a potentially fatal medical emergency.
Some people can get away with letting the dog decide when and how much she eats by constantly keeping a supply of dry pellets available (free-feeding). In our household however this would never work as Kira (our Jack Russel) would simply eat herself into a diabetic coma. Free feeding also rarely works in a multiple dog household, as it often creates competition and food issues.
Another reason not to free feed is that it becomes difficult to pick up when your pet’s eating pattern changes or appetite drops, which could be an early warning sign of illness.