How Much Should You Feed Your Dog? Basic Steps to Estimate Energy Needs

How much should you feed your dog?

It depends on your dog’s age, breed, weight, activity level, and health status.  It also depends on the type and brand of food you are feeding.  Dog nutrition is complex, and that’s why you should always consult your veterinarian before starting any diet or exercise program with your pet.  Online feeding calculators and formulae for estimating your dog’s energy needs provide only a rough guide.  Only your veterinarian is qualified to make sound recommendations for your dog’s nutritional needs.

How much energy does your dog need each day?

There are many tools to help pet parents estimate how much energy their dog should get each day.  Whether you calculate by hand or use an online tool, there are two terms that you will need to understand.

Resting Energy Requirement (RER)

The resting energy requirement is the energy that your dog needs, at rest, to maintain current body weight.  The RER is calculated with the formula

70 x (body weight in kilograms)0.75

Where body weight in pounds/2.2 = body weight in kilograms (kg).

An easier way to estimate this is to convert your dogs weight in pounds  to kg (divide by 2.2). Multiply the weight in kilograms by 30 and then add 70.

Subscribe to get the latest updates in pet health.

We'll keep you informed when there is new research on this and other pet health topics.

We won't send you spam. Unsubscribe at any time. Powered by ConvertKit

Maintenance Energy Requirement (MER)

The maintenance energy requirement is the energy that your dog requires daily based on health status, neuter status, activity level, and other factors that influence metabolism.  Veterinary nutritionists have established several multipliers to the RER.  You may find a good list at the Ohio State College of Veterinary Medicine .  Note that this list includes multipliers for weight gain and weight loss as well as maintenance.

For pets, it’s customary to refer to energy as kilocalories.  That’s equivalent to the Calories (with a capital C) that are listed on the labels for human food.

Online calculators

You may find online calculators that will help you make these estimates.  The most comprehensive calculator tool out there is provided by the Pet Nutrition Alliance.   To use this tool, you will need to provide basic information about your dog.   This tool is for adult dogs only.

How much food does your dog need each day

It can be hard to know how much energy is in your favorite brand of dog food. That’s because dog food companies do not have to provide on the label the energy content of the food.  However, your dog food company should provide this information if you request it.  Many premium brands, like Pet Wants, now voluntarily list the amount of energy per cup on their label.  You may also find information about the number of calories in your dog food online. Kurgo.com is one place to find the energy content of many brands and types of dog food.

Most veterinarians recommend feeding twice daily.  To estimate the amount you should give at each feeding, in cups, divide half your dog’s MER by the number of kilocalories per cup of your dog’s food.

Always use a standard measuring cup, rather than a roughly cup-sized household object, to measure the amount of food you are giving your dog.  Even a few extra kibbles can add up to a lot of extra kilocalories when they are given at every meal.  You need a consistent measure to help you keep your dog’s diet on track.

Don’t forget treats!

If you give treats (and who doesn’t?), don’t forget to include treats in your dog’s kilocalorie count.  Don’t be fooled.  Even treats like rawhide chews may have up to 80 kilocalories per ounce!  Don’t feed over 10% of your dog’s recommended MER in treats each day. Tiny training chews make excellent low-energy treats.  Give them as a reward in place of a larger biscuit.

Feeling overwhelmed? Don’t be!

Still feeling confused about how much to feed your dog? There’s an easy way to get started that doesn’t require any calculations, web searches, or complicated math.  Measure the amount that you are feeding your dog each day in cups.  Look on your dog food label and find the recommended feeding amounts.  If your dog is overweight and you are feeding more than the recommended amount, gradually cut back over a couple of weeks to the lowest recommended amount.  If you feed this amount and your dog does not begin to lose weight, you may consider trying a weight loss (high fiber) diet.

It’s important to remember that dog foods are formulated to be nutritionally complete when fed as recommended.  This means that you should never decrease the amount of a dog food below the recommended amount on the label, unless instructed to do so when your dog is under veterinary supervision.

If your dog is underweight, make sure you are feeding at least the recommended amount.  Increase the amount gradually until your dog begins to fill out.  If your dog continues to be underweight, this could indicate an underlying health condition.  You should consult your veterinarian to rule out other problems.

PetWants Olathe is a sponsor of the Fit2BPawsome Challenge.  KC Pet Collective is not affiliated with Pet Wants and does not receive a commission on sales.

Make your next trip with your pet smooth traveling. Get our Free Pet Travel Cheat Sheet!

Subscribe to get our free cheat sheet for successful travel with a pet!

We won't send you spam. Unsubscribe at any time. Powered by ConvertKit

What do you think? Join the conversation!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.