The home of Shooting Times and Sporting Gun

Feeding dogs: before or after exercise?

When's the best and healthiest time for feeding dogs? Our vet advises

working dog diet

Feed the dog according to the weight it should be

Feeding dogs – before or after exercise?

So should you feed your dog before or after a walk?

There is no scientifically established “safe” time for feeding dogs, but in general I tend to advise the longer before exercise the better. I would suggest allowing at least one and a half to two hours before any strenuous exercise.

diet for working dogs

Feed your dogs after exercise

What happens if you feed your dog just before a walk?

The problem with feeding your dog before strenuous exercise is the risk of a condition called “bloat”. Bloat is also known as gastric dilatation and volvulus syndrome, whereby the stomach swells and then twists upon itself, causing a painful, life-threatening blockage. The blood supply to the stomach is severely compromised and a dog can die of the ensuing state of shock within a matter of hours unless the condition is treated. This is one of only a relatively small number of real emergency situations where a dog requires urgent veterinary attention. (Read more on when to take the dog to the vet.)

Training a gundog to hold a line

Don’t feed your dog before a walk

Dogs most at risk of bloat

Large, deep-chested breeds of dogs, such as setters and curly-coated, golden and Labrador retrievers, are known to be more at risk of developing this condition. Though vets tend to warn owners that the dog may not survive their attempts to rectify the problem and/or that it may recur, recent studies indicate the success rate is higher than was previously thought. But evidence shows that after correcting the displacement and stabilising the stomach, about 20 per cent of cases recur.

Q: I was told that feeding dogs before a day’s shooting is a bad idea. I typically feed my gundog around 6.30am and we do not start the first drive until around 9.30am. Do you think that is long enough? 
I have never had any problems.

A: Dogs need sufficient energy to last them throughout the period of any intense activity, but at the same time an active dog needs to have time to digest its meal well before that activity starts. This applies not only to working dogs, but to any dog that might be subjected to any form of enforced exercise, such as dogs that go for a long walk or a morning jog with their owner. Rough play should also be avoided shortly after eating. Let your dog settle down in his bed for a good sleep. (Read our list of the best dog beds here.)

Labradors in pickup

Is it best to feed gundogs once or twice a day?

Frequency of feeding dogs is all about personal preference and your dog’s actual food requirements. (Read expert advice what to feed your dog here.)

I feed dried food mixed with tripe twice a day to all my working dogs because they have a busy schedule and this feeding regime ensures they stay in tip top condition as well as maintaining their energy and nutrition levels.

However, a dog that does little work and gets a minimum amount of exercise will probably only need feeding once daily.

If your dog falls into this category I suggest you have it weighed by a vet and get his recommendation on how much to feed.

All my dogs are walked twice a day to ensure they have regular exercise and given plenty of opportunity to open their bowels.

My puppies, spaniels and Labradors – are all fed three times a day but any adult dog that’s resting after a bout of hard work will only be fed once.

The same goes for those dogs in kennels for light training duties.

Why can’t I feed my dog before a blood test?

A: Recently, I had to take my dog to the vets to have a blood sample taken for thyroid testing. My vet told me not to feed my dog beforehand. Any good reason for this?

Q: Quite simply, feeding immediately before blood is taken can result in a lipaemic sample. When the blood is centrifuged to separate the serum from the cells, the liquid layer ends up thick and white with fat, making it impossible to test. To be honest, it would put you off ever eating a fish supper if you saw how gloopy your blood became afterwards.