Calculating a Dog’s Daily Calorie Needs

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Determining how many calories a dog burns each day is crucial for knowing how much to feed the dog. Most people are not aware of how many calories their dog really needs, and the result is that many pet owners are over feeding, which can cause a multitude of health problems for the dog.


Today we will present the basic formulas that are used to estimate calorie requirements for a dog and provide some specific examples as reference points.  These formulas and calculations are used as good estimates and are based on the Waltham Center for Pet Nutrition (WCPN)  studies.


According to the Waltham Research, the daily calorie requirement for an inactive adult dog is equal to:

CR (kcal/day) = 90 x Bodyweight.75

Where CR = daily calorie requirement for a dog

Bodyweight = weight in kgs ~ weight in lbs/2.2

For example, if you had an inactive dog weighing 25 lbs., their CR would be equal to:

90 * (25/2.2).75 = 557 calories per day to maintain their 25 lbs.

In practice, this means that you should feed this dog 557 calories worth of food each day in order to maintain a 25 lb. weight because they will burn about 557 calories per day.


For dogs that are more active, you would use a higher multiplication factor than 90 which would then be applied to the formula. The factor will range between 110 – 175 depending on the type of activity (high or low intensity) and the average daily duration of exercise.


Calories for Canine Weight Loss

No matter how active your dog is, their weight has a major influence on their daily calorie requirement. The bigger they are, the more calories they require.  But what if you want to have your dog lose weight?   It’s actually pretty simple.  A safe way to figure out how many calories to feed your dog to get them to their desired weight is to use their desired weight in the calorie calculation and then use ¾ of this value until they reach their target weight.  An example will help.
dog calculating calories

Let’s say that in our prior example (25 lb. inactive dog), the dog was in fact, 5 lbs. overweight and that they really should be 20 lbs.  To get this dog safely to 20 lbs., we would calculate the CR for a 20 lb. dog which is equal to about 470 calories per day.  This will be the dog’s daily calorie requirement when they attain the target weight. While the dog is in weight loss mode, feed ¾ (75%) of this amount, or about 350 calories. The same approach applies if you are trying to increase your dog’s weight, in which case you would feed at 125% of their target weight calories until they attain their goal.


Quick Rules of Thumb for a Dog’s Daily Calorie Needs

For those who don’t want to break out the calculators, you are in luck. Below is a table that shows an estimate of the number of calories, per pound of body weight, dogs of different activity levels would need.


Approximate Calories Needed per Lb. of Body Weight
Small Dogs Medium Dogs Large Dogs
(< 20 lbs.) (20 – 50 lbs) (> 50 lbs.)
Inactive 25 20 17
Normal 32 24 21
Active 35 27 24


Other Considerations

There are many other factors that can also impact the number of calories that your dog will burn each day.  These include:

  • Dogs age (puppies burn a ton of calories!)
  • Pregnancy (so do soon-to-be-moms!)
  • Certain medical conditions


Once you have a good idea of how many calories your dog need at their ideal weight, the next step is formulate a feeding strategy. We will show you how to do this in the next installment of this series.

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  1. I’d add a “Penny” category above active. The girl burns through food like no other. She’s 2/3 of Eko’s size but eats more than him and is quite trim.

  2. Great post! Mom was never great at math so the chart is perfect!! 🙂
    Golden Daily Scoop recently posted…Birthday Surprise #MondayMischiefMy Profile

  3. Love love and love. I wish all dogs came with this for there owners!
    Jen recently posted…Sunflower MischiefMy Profile

  4. Great post. Extremely informative. So many dogs are overweight these days, partly because people are unaware of how much to feed their dogs vs exercise. This was a great read!
    Barkocity recently posted…5 Steps To Cure Dog BreathMy Profile

  5. Finally a formula that’s not crazy complicated.
    Jana Rade recently posted…My Love Is Still Sleeping At My Feet: An Unexpected UpdateMy Profile

  6. This is perfect, I printed out the cheat sheet. Happy National Dog Day!
    M. K. Clinton recently posted…Putting on Our Black Ties and Tails for #NationalDogDayMy Profile

  7. Oh I love that chart! Awesome!
    ღ husky hugz ღ frum our pack at Love is being owned by a husky!
    Jenna,Mark “HuskyCrazed” Drady recently posted…Recognizing Dogs Everywhere On #NationalDogDayMy Profile

  8. Awesome informative post. I think it will be quite helpful for pet parents.
    Emma recently posted…SleepyMy Profile

  9. HA! Awesome post ~ pinned it to my board “Say No To Dog Obesity”.
    Barbara Rivers recently posted…Myth Buster: Garlic IS good for dogs, after all!My Profile

  10. Thank goodness for your charts and widget, because math and science have never been my strong points! 🙂
    Jan K recently posted…#52Snapshots of Life – “Sleepy”My Profile

  11. What terrific info! As Sam gets older, I suspect his caloric needs will diminish (though at nearly 10, I’m still waiting for his metabolism to click downward). 😉

    • Yeah, Jack is still going pretty strong at 11…
      mkob recently posted…Why Do Dogs Chase Cars?My Profile

      • And gawd love him for it! #lovethoseseniors

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