How Much Should I Feed My Dog?

I’m sure you have seen many calculators or guides online or on pet food packages that tell you how much you should feed your dog. I can assure you that 99% of them will tell you to feed too much food. I’m allowing 1% because I know there are some good companies out there trying their best and have truly put a lot of effort into getting this right. Why would they tell you to feed too much? I’m sure you have already figured out that they sell pet food, therefore if you feed more than you need, then you will need to buy more, sooner. More sales, more profits!

We’ve even seen laboratory analyses of popular brands that indicate that the calories in the product may be as much as 20% higher than the package indicates.  In addition to that, they suggest that you feed an average of 25% more than your pet needs.  That means you could potentially be feeding as much as 45% more food than is healthy for your pet! No wonder we have such an obesity problem in pets.

So how do you figure out how much you should feed your pet? We are here to help you with just that. If you use the tips below, you should be feeding your pet an appropriate amount of food.

All dogs, in general will start with this range:

0-50lbs200 calories per 10 pounds of body weight (= (dogs weight) x 20 ….…. e.g. 38lbs x 20 = 760kcals/day)
51-75lbs175 calories per 10 pounds of body weight (= (dogs weight) x 17.5 … e.g. 69lbs x 17.5 = 1,207.5kcals/day)
76-110lbs150 calories per 10 pounds of body weight (= (dogs weight) x 15 …… e.g. 94lbs x 15 = 1,410kcals/day)
111lbs+100 calories per 10 pounds of body weight (= (dogs weight) x 10 ……e.g. 124lbs x 10 = 1,240kcals/day)

(You will find the calories on your pet food packaging or website. Most of the time it is directly on the package. It will be listed as “kcals” which is the same as calories.)

You may be thinking, “why would my big dog need fewer calories than a small dog? I’m not feeding less!” Pets and other animals tend to need fewer calories per pound as they get bigger. For example, if a hummingbird were 150lbs it would need about 155,000kcals/day. If an elephant were 150lbs it would need only 700kcals/day. Similarly, larger breed dogs have slower metabolisms and need fewer calories per pound of body weight than smaller breed dogs.  

There are also additional factors to consider when calculating calories for your pet. Some of the questions we like to ask are:

How old is your pet?

  • Puppies under 14 months of age need about 25% more calories per 10lbs of body weight than an adult. 
  • A senior (any pet that is over 75% of their expected lifespan) needs about 15% fewer calories per 10lbs of body weight than an adult.

Is your pet spayed or neutered?

  • Pets that are fixed have lower metabolisms.
  • A pet that is not spayed or neutered usually need about 15% more calories than a pet that is fixed.

Does your pet need to gain or lose weight?

 Just like with humans, increased or decreased caloric intake will alter body composition.

  • Increasing or decreasing caloric intake by 10% can help your pet gain or lose weight.

Is your pet active?

The more exercise your pet gets, the more calories they need, and visa versa.

  • An inactive pet (<30 minutes of activity/day) should have their caloric intake decreased 10% from the average dog (30-90 minutes of activity/day).
  • An active dog (>90 minutes of activity/day) needs a 10% increase in calories.
  • An extremely active dog (>2 hours of activity/day) needs an increase in 25% in calories per day.

Of course, there are exceptions to every rule and not everyone fits into an “average.” If your pets’ caloric needs seem vastly different than the average it may indicate a medical problem.  Feel free to reach out to us or your local vet (if your vet understands caloric intake math. If they don’t you may just ask them about your pets thyroid health, PLE or EPI).

Here is an example for you.

Harley is a 22lb terrier. This is a good weight for Harley.

22 (lbs) x 200 kcals/10lbs/day = 440kcals/day base

She is 9 years old (small dogs live up to 20 years old, so she’s not a senior yet).

No caloric adjustment necessary

She is not particularly active. She goes to the dog park once a week to chase her frisbee.

 Reduce the caloric base by 10% because she classifies as sedentary. 440 x 0.9 (90% of the total) = 396kcals/day

She is spayed.

No caloric adjustment necessary because this is the standard.

Harley needs 396kcals/day. 

We hope this helps you with calculating the right amount of calories for your pet. Please also note that feeding too many calories can cause your pet to have soft stool or diarrhea. Be sure to monitor this.

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