How Many Cups of Food Should I Feed My Dog?
Last week, I provided some benchmark values that can be used to estimate how many calories a dog needs each day to maintain a certain weight. The next step in determining how much food to feed a dog is to use this calorie estimate in conjunction with the caloric values of their foods and treats, to create a feeding plan.
Determining a Daily Feeding Plan for a Dog
Determining daily dog food portions for a dog requires that you know the calorie amounts of your dog’s food and treats. These are usually available on the package labels. It is important to know both the reported calorie amount and the units of measurement for the food and treats that you give your dog. In most cases, the units of measurement are per 8 fluid oz. cup (i.e. volume measure), for foods, and per each treat, in the case of treats.
Because food, and not treats, should be a dog’s primary source of daily calories, start by using the food calorie value to determine how many cups per day of the specific food is appropriate. Simply divide the dog’s target calorie amount by the calories in a cup of their food and you will know how many cups to serve each day. For instance, if your dog should be fed 1000 calories per day and your dog food has 400 calories per cup, you would feed them 2 1/2 (1000/400) cups per day. Now divide this number by the number of times the dog is fed each day to calculate portions for each feed. For example, feeding a dog twice per day would mean that in our example, the dog would get 1 ¼ cups each feeding.
Many dog owners use treats to augment a dog’s diet and as a reward for training and good behavior. This is perfectly fine, but the treats need to be accounted for otherwise the dog will be consuming too many calories and, over time, become overweight. If a dog’s treats contain 10 calories each and the dog is ‘treated’ 10 times per day, that means that their food servings need to be reduced by 100 calories each day, or 50 calories per meal. In the example above, this means 1/8 (50/400) of a cup less food per feeding. I know that many pet parents don’t count how many treats they give out, so one way to control this is to place the desired amount of treats for the day into a plastic bag. This will let you know exactly how many calories will be fed through treating. When the bag is empty for the day, do NOT give out any more treats!
Obviously, a key aspect of the feeding plan is to accurately measure your servings. Don’t guess—get a measuring scoop or a SmartFeeder.
With all of this math behind us, there is still one more step in determining a proper feeding plan for a dog. I will reveal the final step in next week’s post.