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Should You Feed A Dog Before Or After A Walk

Introduction

As you’re pouring kibble into your pup’s bowl, you may wonder whether you should feed your dog before or after going for a walk. It’s a pretty straightforward question to ask, but reaching the answer isn’t quite so easy. For those who are short on time, know that folks tend to recommend that you should try and feed your dog at least 30 minutes after going for a walk.

Though, in this article the pros and cons of feeding before and after will be covered, as well as the ideal times of feeding before and after.

Feeding Before Walks

While most people tend to recommend feeding after walks, it's worth mentioning that there are benefits to feeding beforehand.

Positives

Fuelled with a meal before walks, glucose levels tend to rise, which is to say that energy-levels tend to rise, warding off fatigue. With that boost of energy, your pup will have the fuel to last a long walk, free from lethargy and light-headedness. 

With that being said, you won't find a clear answer about feeding before or after walks, since there are positives and negatives to either option. Instead, it's probably best to arm yourself with the knowledge of these pros and cons to make your own decisions for your dog. What follows will now be some of the negatives of feeding prior to going on dog walks.

Negatives

There do seem to be more negatives than positives when it comes to feeding your dog before walks, which is probably why most recommend feeding after walks.

For example, there’s the chance of stomach aches, or worse yet the chance of bloat, which is also called gastric dilation volvulus (GDV). Since this is primary issue when it comes to dog walking after eating, it’s worth diving deeper into GDV; namely, what it is, its symptoms, risk factors, and how to prevent it from happening.

Gastric Dilation Volvulus (GDV)

GDV (or bloat) is not uncommon among dogs, especially larger dogs; it’s a health problem in which gas and food in the stomach build-up, combined with the stomach pretzeling and twisting so that blood circulation is gets cut off. 

Symptoms

Usually, the symptoms of GDV include a swollen or hard belly, retching (an inability to vomit, excessive drooling, pain in the abdomen when touched), and other signs of distress such as restlessness or panting. GDV is quite a serious condition, since it can actually incapacitate dogs within hours of happening, and can be fatal if left untreated for a few days. First and foremost, it’s certainly best to consult your vet in case you suspect any symptoms of bloat in your dog.

Risk Factors

Although GDV can affect dogs of all ages, breeds, and sizes, there are certain risk factors that can indicate higher chances of getting GDV, including the size, temperament, and diet of a dog. 

Large Dogs

Typically, dogs with deep chests such as Great Danes, St. Bernards, Weimaraners, German Shepherds, and Labradors are extra susceptible to GDV, according to the Blue Cross animal charity in the United Kingdom. In fact, the risk of bloat increases 20% year-over-year for large dogs, starting from the age of 5. For giant dogs, that increasing year-over-year risk begins at age 3. Just being aware of this fact, as a large dog owner, can be helpful when assessing risks of bloat on a day-to-day basis.

Temperament

Next, temperament is thought to affect a dog’s ability to get GDV. For instance, dogs with higher aggression, fear, nerves, or stress seem to have a higher risk of GDV. Perhaps this makes sense since the excessive emotions might lead a dog to eat more or over-exert themselves physically, both of which could add to the chances of a pup’s stomach being afflicted by bloat. For this factor, being a strong and confident leader for your dog, as a source of calm and patience, can possibly go a long way in helping your dog’s health.

Diet

Another risk factor of bloat can actually be the type of food which a dog eats, and how the food gets eaten. Apparently, dry kibble foods, especially those which are high in fats, can add more risk to GDV; on the other hand, even mixing some wet foods into a dog’s diet can reportedly reduce the risks of GDV markedly. Also, the speed of eating seems to make a difference; eating just once per day, or eating quickly (and thus perhaps ingesting more air as well), dogs heighten their risk of bloat. To counter these issues, it could be worth testing some wet foods in your dog’s diet, and trying different types of food and water bowls that help to slow the speed of your dog’s eating.

Summarizing Feeding Before Walks

As you can see, the risks of feeding your dog before walks is somewhat higher.

At best, your dog gets a shot of glucose to fuel the upcoming dog walk, but at worst there’s the risk of bloat, which can severely hamper your dog’s health. If you've got to feed your dog before walks, aim to minimize the amount of food or the intensity of the walk.

Feeding After Walks

That leads to the alternative of feeding your dog after walks, which is usually preferred. The evidence indicates that health risks are lower than feeding before, and the rewards are actually better.

Negatives

There aren't really any risks of waiting to feed your dog until after a walk, assuming of course your dog is well hydrated and not extremely hungry. Dogs can actually go for long stretches of time without having to eat, similar to humans – not that you’d want to tread near that edge, but it's to say that there’s little if any risk of your dog waiting to eat until the walk is finished. 

Positives

One benefit of eating after going for dog walks is that your dog could possibly burn more fat. Without a big glucose injection of food, your dog’s body could enter into more of a state of ketosis, burning long-term fat energy, rather than glucose. Walking at a pace of 4 miles per hour and burning about 1 calorie per pound per mile, a 20 lb dog only burns about 65 calories per 1 hour walk. Therefore, any energy burning is precious, so waiting to feed until after walks are completed will take advantage of better fat burning.

Another factor is psychological for your dog. Nearly all dog trainers agree that going for dog walks simulates going on hunts with your pack, helping to cement your pack relationship with your dog. Since adventures with the pack were usually for hunting for dinner, by saving the “reward” of food until after the dog walk, not only will you prevent the risks of bloat and help your pup burn more calories, but you can simulate that primal feeling of proudly working for your food!

Ideal Times to Feed Your Dog

Let’s face it, even though it’s better to feed your dog after a walk, you might not always be able to do that. Therefore, it's worth having a rough idea of when you ought to feed your dog, whether it's before or after a walk.

Here are some rules of thumb: waiting 30 minutes before or after is best for a snack; waiting 1 hour before or after is best for a small meal; and waiting 2 to 3 hours is best after a large meal.

As another reminder, if you must feed your dog before the walk, then just remember to move slowly to help your dog properly digest the food.

Overview

You've nibbled on some fresh kibble-bits of info here, learning how it's better to feed your dog after walks rather than before walks. By eating meals before walks, your dog has a greater chance of an upset stomach or even "bloat", which is also called GDV. Generally speaking, whether you feed your dog before or after walks, ideally you should wait at least 30 minutes before or after the physical activity.

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