Calorie Requirements For Your Dog

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Calorie Burning 101

In our last post, we discussed the kcal and the difference between basal/resting calories burned and activity fueled calorie burns. Today we will present the basic formulas that are used to estimate calorie requirements for your dog and provide some specific examples as reference points.  These formulas and calculations are used as ‘generic’ estimates of required calories and are based on the Waltham Center for Pet Nutrition (WCPN)  ( studies.  In the SlimDoggy app, we actually use more precise estimates through time calibration and activity specific estimates (we will discuss these refinements in a future post).

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 50 lbs., their CR would be equal to:

90 * (50/2.2).75 = 937 calories per day to maintain their 50 lbs.

In practice, this means that you should feed this dog 937 calories worth of food each day in order to maintain a 50 lb. weight because they will burn about 937 calories per day.

For the adventurous types, the table below from WCPN shows the CR formulas for other categories. Note that the more active is the dog, the higher the multiplication factor is and the higher the CR is accordingly.


Type of Activity

Daily Calorie Requirement (CR)
Duration Intensity
Inactive/Senior <3 hr/day Low  90 * Wtkg .75
Typical <3 hr /day Mainly Low 110 * Wtkg .75
Active 1-3 hr/ day Mainly High 125 * Wtkg .75
Highly Active 3-6 hr/day High 175 * Wtkg .75



You may notice from the table that there are some fairly wide ranges for activity duration for a given category of pet and wonder how the CR would be the same.  I did.  Does a “typical” 50 lb. dog who  exercises for 1 hour per day burn the same amount of calories a another typical dog of the same weight who exercises for 10 minutes per day?  I think not.  The SlimDoggy app makes appropriate adjustments!


Wait!  What Weight?

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.  An example will help.

Let’s say that in our prior example (50 lb. inactive dog), the dog was in fact, 10 lbs. overweight and that they really should be 40 lbs.  To get this dog safely to 40 lbs, we would calculate the CR for a 40 lb. dog which is equal to about 790 calories per day.   This dog’s owner should strive to feed the dog less than 790 calories per day and/or embark on an exercise schedule to increase the daily calorie burn. Notice that this is almost 150 calories per day less than our prior calculation.  Feeding this dog 790 calories per day would gradually lower its weight at a rate of about 1 lb. per 3 weeks. Note-most vets recommend that weight loss is no faster than 2-3% per week maximum.

The same approach applies if you are trying to increase your dog’s weight.  We used the App to help our Rescue Maggie gain weight.  She was a skinny, undernourished 59 lb. pity when we adopted her and using the Slimdoggy app, we safely built her weight up to 66 lbs and yes, it is all muscle!


Other Considerations

There are many other factors that can also impact the number of calories that your dog will burn each day.  Below is a partial list (the App uses these to refine the calculations)

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


Sorry for all of the math today, but there was really no way around it.  Let us know if you have any questions about it by posting in the comments or using our contact us form.  We have a lot more to say about calories including the relative calorie burns for different types of activities.


Reference: Waltham Centre for Pet Nutrition. (1999). Canine life stages/lifestyles. Waltham Course on Dog and Cat Nutrition [On-line]. You can find this paper here:

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  1. How do I figure out the caloric needs of a 200 pound female Mastiff that needs to loose 30 pounds? I am fostering her and she is really obese. I am terrible at math.

    • Hi Sandy-

      We can help but we need more information. How old is the dog? Male or female? How much exercise does the dog do on average each day? What is the food, brand and formula, that you currently feed him/her?

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