Come & Get It! Feeding In Your Facility
Many things can go wrong when it comes to feeding the pets staying at your facility; the wrong food is fed, pets refuse to eat or become ill, pet parents forget to include instructions or mention important information about eating habits. Below is some basic, but helpful info to consider when feeding in your facility.
A calorie is a measure of how much energy is in the food. Foods vary a lot as far as the number of calories in a cup of dry food or a can of wet food. For example, dry dog foods can vary from around 300 calories per cup in “light” formulas to over 400 calories in “puppy” formulas.
A dog which is usually a “couch potato” in its home environment may not normally burn many calories so won’t need to eat much. But if that dog is lodging at a pet care facility with free play, it may be burning a lot more calories so will need an increase in its calorie intake. Because of this, it is important to weigh the dog at intake and every few days according to facility protocol. If the pet is losing weight, you may need to increase its portions.
How to Feed
Occasionally, pets may need to be fed in a specific way due to health or behavior issues. Some examples include:
- Elevated food dishes (the bowl at the dog’s head level) in cases of neck pain or esophagus disorders
- Adding water to dry kibble
- Hand–feeding in ill or senior pets
- Feeding in a slow–feed, or “maze” dish to slow down eating.
The pet parent should leave directions if any special feeding is required.
How Often to Feed
Pets may be fed in two ways:
- Free feeding, also called “free choice” or “ad lib.” This means the pet has food (generally dry kibble) available at all times to nibble on.
- Meal feeding. This means the pet is fed a measured amount (e.g., half a can, two cups of kibble) at certain times of the day. Pets may be on a meal schedule of once a day, twice a day (morning and evening), or more.
Other Things to Consider
If a pet parent does not bring along the pet’s usual food and elects to have you feed the facility’s “in–house” diet, some pets may experience stomach upset or soft stools due to the sudden change. Usually the feces will firm up in a few days, but a probiotic (like the “good bacteria” found in yogurt for people) may help normalize the intestinal tract. Do some research or consult your facility’s preferred veterinarian regarding the best option for your “in-house” diet. It will likely be a grain–free, limited ingredient diet.
Always feed pets separately. Even if two dogs are boarded together from the same family and the pet parent advises they can be fed together, exercise extreme caution; dogs can display food aggression typically not seen at home, simply because they are in an unfamiliar environment.
Gastric dilatation and volvulus (GDV) is more likely to occur in large breed dogs who only eat one meal a day (particularly if they “wolf it down”), so they should be fed at least two meals a day to reduce the risk. In addition, they should not exercise for an hour after eating.
Small puppies and kittens can develop a life–threatening low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) if they don’t eat regularly. Youngsters should be fed at least three or four meals per day. Closely monitor how much they’re eating.