Should I Feed My Dog Before or After a Walk?

should you walk dog before or after walk

We all know that eating and exercise are essential for our canine friends. However, feeding your dog at a certain time can make or break their exercise and digestion.

If you’ve ever owned a dog, or are thinking about adding one to the family, you may have never thought about mixing food and activity. While every dog has its own individual physical and nutritional needs, feeding time does matter. Specifically, you may be wondering if it’s better to feed your dog before or after a walk.

It’s usually best to feed your dog 45 to 60 minutes after a walk. Then you can follow up with a quick potty break 30 minutes after eating. This allows your dog to get the benefits of exercise before eating and reduces the risk of digestive complications that come with exercising too soon after eating. 

While you can feed your dog before or after a walk, it is advised to feed them two to three hours beforehand. Although you can feed your dog before a walk, it’s generally recommended to feed them after. Here’s why feeding time matters.

Reasons Why You Should Feed Your Dog After Their Walk

Let’s think about it for a moment. Would you want to go to the gym with a full stomach? Probably not. Chances are, your dog doesn’t either. Here are the reasons you should feed your dog after their walk.

Your Dog Avoids Health Risks Associated With Eating Before Their Walk

Yes, your dog can develop potentially fatal digestive complications if they eat too soon before a walk.

Gastric Dilation Volvulus (GDV) is an acute life-threatening condition common in larger breeds. GDV occurs when the stomach fills with gas or becomes bloated. In severe cases, this bloating or ‘dilation’ can cause a dog’s stomach to twist itself, resulting in life-threatening blockages. When severe, it requires immediate corrective surgery.

Exercise after consuming large amounts of food or water can increase the risk of a dog developing GDV.

The condition is most common in larger breeds with deep chests. These breeds include but aren’t limited to:

  • Akitas
  • Bernese Mountain Dogs
  • Bloodhounds
  • Boxers
  • Collies
  • Doberman Pinschers
  • German Shepherd Dogs
  • Great Danes
  • Labrador Retrievers
  • Mastiffs
  • Rhodesian Ridgebacks
  • Saint Bernards
  • Standard Poodles
  • Weimaraners

It’s important to note that while GDV is common in bigger breeds, it’s not exclusive to them. There have been cases of GDV in smaller, toy breeds as well (although they’re typically older).

While GDV can happen, it doesn’t have to. Waiting to feed your dog until after their walk greatly reduces the risk of them developing the condition. A couple of treats are generally fine before a walk, but you should wait for at least an hour to feed your dog their regular meal after they take a walk- especially if your dog is a fast eater.

Waiting to feed your dog for 45 minutes to an hour after their walk greatly diminishes their risk of developing GDV.

Your Dog Won’t Get Sick On Their Walk

Too much physical activity after eating can cause your dog to get sick, much like it can cause us humans to get sick. When your dog’s belly is full or distended from eating, the food jostling around on a walk can cause them to vomit or regurgitate their food.

It’s entirely possible your dog may overheat from the physical activity after eating and their meal comes right back up. Not only is this incredibly uncomfortable and unpleasant for your pup, but it’s much harder to clean up vomit on a walk. Avoid feeding your dog until after their walk to ensure they don’t get sick.

Your Dog Might Want to Nap Instead of Walk

Ever had a big meal that made you want to rest? You’re not alone! Dogs experience this too. In fact, your dog may not want to go on a walk after they eat breakfast or dinner.

If a dog eats before their walk, they might become tired and lazy, resulting in not enough energy expenditure needed for their health and well-being. After all, walking your dog provides many benefits beyond exercise, including bonding time, opportunities for training, and a chance to see their natural behavior.

While it may seem like your dog is more relaxed on their walk after eating, they’re probably just tired. Instead, feed your dog after their walk, so they can get quality sleep. After all, adult dogs can spend up to 20 hours a day sleeping. The better quality sleep, the better their health and well-being is.

Reasons Why People Feed Their Dogs Before a Walk

Now that we know the reasons why you should wait to feed your dog until 45 minutes to an hour after their walk, let’s discuss why some people choose to feed their dogs beforehand. While you can safely feed a dog before their walk, it’s best to do so about two to three hours before physical activity. This reduces the risk of them developing GDV.

It’s important to note that since larger, deep-chested breeds are prone to developing GDV, it’s best to solely feed them until after their walk, as previously mentioned.

Owners Believe There’s a Better Chance Their Dog Will Go Potty On a Walk

If you live in an apartment complex or don’t have access to a backyard, taking your dog out can be a hassle. This is one of the main reasons people might choose to feed their dog before their walk, since they believe they’re more likely to go potty. While this is usually true when potty training puppies, it’s not always true for potty-trained adult dogs.

As a rule of thumb, it’s best to take puppies out to go potty within five to 30 minutes of them eating or drinking, especially if you’re trying to get them acclimated to an apartment setting. Adult dogs can usually wait between 30 minutes to two hours after eating to go to the bathroom.

It’s best not to get it confused though, there’s a big difference between taking your dog out to go potty after eating versus taking them on a walk, run, or to the dog park. Make sure to keep the walk short and light if your dog just ate.

It’s recommended that adult dogs go potty every six to eight hours. However, some adult dogs won’t go potty unless they’re taken on a long walk.

At the end of the day, you know your pup’s potty habits better than others. If you know your dog will quickly go potty after eating without physical exercise, then it’s perfectly fine to do so. If you know that your dog won’t go potty unless taken on a long walk, then wait to feed them until after their walk.

As Long As Food is Properly Digested, Eating Before a Walk Can Have Benefits

It’s no secret that walking your dog is essential to their health and well-being. However, your dog must have adequate time to process their meal before they go on a walk. It’s best to wait two to three hours, as previously mentioned, for your dog to reap the benefits (as long as they’re not at high-risk for developing the condition).

Much like our blood sugar rises after eating, a dog’s does as well. Walking after eating can help stabilize blood sugar levels. This can be very beneficial to diabetic or overweight dogs. Always consult your veterinarian about eating before exercising if your dog is diabetic or overweight.

If your dog has consumed a treat or a snack, they don’t need to wait two to three hours before a walk. Thirty minutes for a treat and an hour for a snack should suffice to avoid GDV.

However, if your dog has a large meal (like breakfast or dinner), wait at least two to three hours before exercising them to avoid digestive complications.

How to Walk Your Dog to Reduce the Risk of GDV

Now that we’ve established why you should wait for 45 minutes to an hour after walking your dog to feed them, let’s discuss how to correctly walk them for best results. Diet and exercise are essential for many living beings, but especially your pup! Choosing the correct food and walking them at the ideal time lowers their risk for developing GDV and other health complications.

Set Up a Feeding and Walking Schedule

Deciding what time is best to feed and walk your pup is dependent upon your schedule. If you work from home, you might have more flexibility. If you work a nine-to-five, your schedule might be more rigid. However, getting your dog into a habit of feeding and walking them at the same time every day can aid their digestion.

On average, it’s best to feed your dog twice a day, with eight to twelve hours in between meals. Begin by setting up a time to walk your pup and feed them accordingly. If you walk your dog once a day, try to structure their meals around your walk. If you walk your dog twice a day, set up ample time for them to eat after the fact.

Dogs are very good at picking up on routines and schedules. Chances are, if you set a solid feeding and walking schedule, your dog will understand it just as well as you do.

Make Sure Your Dog is Eating the Best Food For Their Needs

Much like nutritional needs vary from human to human, the same can be said for dogs. Certain breeds, ages, and abilities all factor into a dog’s optimal diet. For example, if a dog has arthritis, it’s probably a good idea to invest in kibble rich in nutrients that support bone and joint health. If you have a young puppy that’s still growing, be sure to feed them quality puppy food so they can grow big and strong.

Since some dogs have rather sensitive stomachs and are prone to things like GDV and vomiting, the right kibble is integral. If you’re wondering what the best dog food is for your pup, consult your veterinarian.

Invest in the Proper Walking Equipment

If you’re concerned about your pup getting sick or developing GDV on a walk, the proper walking equipment can help prevent them from choking, gagging, or even vomiting. Collars and harnesses have been hotly debated topics within the dog community for years, but if you’re worried about gastrointestinal issues on your walk, it’s best to invest in harness.

Harnesses work by wrapping around the dog’s body and securing it. They take the strain and pressure of your dog’s neck while walking. This reduces coughing, gagging, and vomiting. If you own a breed prone to GDV, a harness can help them walk comfortably but you won’t want to let them wear it all the time.

While genetic factors play a role in the development of GDV, recent evidence suggests that anxious, stressed, or nervous dogs are much more likely to experience an episode of GDV. If your dog is reactive or nervous on walks, then the right equipment can help provide security and comfort for both you and your dog.

Additionally, if your dog is prone to stress or anxiety when seeing other dogs or people on a walk, try to walk them during more quiet hours. Early in the morning or late at night can help your dog enjoy the great outdoors without being triggered.

On its own, stress, anxiety, and nervousness are issues that require thorough training, socialization, and possibly medical attention. If you’re concerned about your dog’s reactivity or anxiety when out and about in the world, consult your veterinarian and try to source a behaviorist as soon as possible. It’s important to feed your dog after their walk to avoid GDV, but it’s also important for them to feel comfortable and safe on their walks as well.

Closing Thoughts

All in all, GDV can be a very scary thing. However, by feeding your dog 45 minutes to an hour after their walk, you greatly reduce the risk of them developing GDV.

Diet and exercise are integral when it comes to your dog’s health and happiness. By feeding and walking them at specific times, you help them reap the benefits of quality diet and physical activity!

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