Why Does My Dog Only Eat At Night?

By kropek2021. • Updated July 2, 2021

Dogs can be habitual creatures like some humans. This trait is particularly true when it comes to the matter of meals. Do you experience that munching sound from the kitchen in the early pre-morning hours or late at night? Cleaning up the mess they caused first thing in the morning can be annoying. We get that.

As a dog owner, your mind may be brimming with queries like “What time is ideal for feeding my dog?” or “Is it healthy for my dog to eat only at night?” We will address these aspects in this article.  

There is always the option to train your dog to have the required two-three meals at the correct times consistently. They will adapt to the routine you plan out for them. For instance, if you start feeding your dog late at night, they will expect food at the same time during the subsequent night.

So, let’s dig into the core topic at hand without any delays.

Why Dogs Prefer Meals At Night

Dog eating at night is primarily due to two reasons:

Digestive Habits

If your dogs prefer eating at night, never attempt to change their digestive clock drastically. Go for a gradual way by feeding them a couple of hours early, every other day. 

Some dogs prefer two or three meals a day, while others prefer a single meal at night. Their daily routine is the key influencing factor behind this habit.

Free Feeding

Apart from the habitual aspect, the constant access to food is another driving factor for dogs to eat at night. (Free feeding)

When your dog’s food bowl is continuously topped up, they lose the food schedule and eat whenever they feel like it. 

Free feeding is the most preferred form of giving food to dogs when owners work round the clock. But you are letting your dog be vulnerable to health conditions like excessive weight gain (obesity). Dogs will indulge in over-eating when they receive unlimited access to food, and they will consume to their heart’s content.

If you own two or more dogs, food distribution may not be uniform. Some dogs may over-eat while others would remain hungry. This issue can not be controlled using a free feeding technique.

In contrast to free-feeding, a scheduled mode of giving food has its benefits like:

  • Proper weight control by keeping a measure of the food intake.
  • House remains cleaner as dogs do not unwantedly poop when they overeat.
  • In the case of multiple dogs, each of them gets a uniform share of food.

The only dependency that comes with a scheduled feeding mode is that the dog owners are required during the doggy mealtime.

Now to answer the following question – “Is it healthy if I feed my dog only one meal a day?” let’s move ahead to the next section.

How Many Times Should I Feed My Dog In A Day?

There is no scientific proof that one meal or multiple meals are the only suitable dog option. It all depends on the preference of your dog. 

See what works for them. Try giving a small meal during the morning half and observe if your dog is comfortable having it.
My labrador, whose name is Timmy, is habituated to two meals a day. The first one at 8 AM and the next one at 7 PM. He has no problem licking his bowl clean on both occasions.

Dogs do not possess the sense of time as much as we do. Therefore, giving them periodic meals will help in channeling their digestive behavior to a reasonable extent.

Additionally, giving just a single meal means your dog’s stomach is empty for a considerable amount of time till the next meal. This situation can cause acid build-up in some cases, and that affects their sleep. In most cases, this issue is non-existent in dogs, as they love to sleep after a good meal.

In case you wish to change your dog’s food habits, you must ensure that the change is implemented gradually. We will discuss this point in the following section.

How To Make My Dog Eat At Different Times Of The Day

This section will explain some measures that will help your dog consume multiple meals during the day.

Food Quantity Control

Try to reduce the quantity per meal in a step-by-step manner. If you usually feed the dog one cup of dog food at night, reduce it to three-fourths for a few days and observe how they react.

Dogs have a cycle when it comes to eating. So, they know when they need to eat the next meal. But, they do not have a measure of how much to eat. You can control that aspect.

Now that you have reduced the meal size at night, they will be partially hungry during the first half of the day. So, you can feed the next half-meal portion around midday. 

Once you repeat this process for a few days, your dog will get habituated to two meals a day; the first one in the daytime and the other at nighttime.

Step-Wise Preponing Of The Meal Time

If the portion control method did not work as intended, you could continue to feed the dog one meal per day but prepone it by 30 minutes every two days.

For instance, if your dog prefers dinner at 9 PM, shift it to 8:30 PM for a couple of days. Then feed them at 8 PM for the next 2-3 days and so on. This method will help in gradually adjusting their digestive cycle without an abrupt change that could be troublesome.

Free-Feeding Mode During Day Time

You can try experimenting with a free-feeding mechanism during the daytime alone. Since your dog prefers meals at night, they may not bother to eat the freely available food during the day.

But seeing the tasty treats up for grabs, it is highly probable that your dog will start nibbling on food during the day, and that leaves them little room for additional meals at night.

You can try this idea if the others do not give the expected results.

Stimulate Your Dog’s Appetite

There are a few tried and proven means by which you can boost your dog’s appetite during the morning/daytime. 

  • If your canine happens to be a picky eater, try mixing their dry kibble with some warm water. Doing this makes the kibble smell more substantial, and the warm water also aids in better metabolism.
  • Take your dog out for a walk and outdoor activities during the morning. This activity will make them burn more calories and get them hungry during the day. Besides, they will also get to spend some quality time with you and strengthen the bond with the owner.
  • Make the dog meal more fibrous and vitamin-rich by adding some diced veggies like cabbage or lettuce to the food. This aspect will also help in a smooth digestion cycle.
  • Dog’s will also enjoy the daytime meal if you add a bit of bone marrow broth to the food.

Conclusion

As discussed in this article, there is no clear-cut scientific answer to whether dogs should or shouldn’t eat at night. They are creatures of habit and prefer to eat their daily meals when they are used to.

Being a dog owner, you can choose between free-feeding or scheduled feeding options. The choice is dependent on whether or not you are available at home to feed your canine pals. 

There are no hard and fast guidelines regarding how many meals your adult dog must eat in a day. To a great extent, this decision depends on the owner’s convenience and preference. Ensure to take your dog to your registered veterinarian for periodic checkups and follow the prescribed diet and frequency as suggested by the medical experts or professional dog trainers.

Suitable physical activities like walking, jogging, and outdoor games are equally important for the dog’s overall well-being. Too much eating (Especially in the case of free-feeding) throughout the day in the absence of physical activity can lead to your dog getting overweight and other health issues. Therefore, make sure to control the food intake. Lack of supervision can often lead to your dog hogging on anything edible excessively.

We hope we could answer your queries relating to your dog’s mealtimes and frequency in this article. Never shy away from seeking medical help if you observe something wrong with your dog’s eating habits. External factors like stomach infections can also play a role in the dog’s eating habits.