How Much Should I Feed My Dog

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apopAccording to Dr. Ernie Ward, the Founder of the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP), “The most important decision that you make each day regarding your pet’s health is what you feed them. What you pour into that bowl each morning has the greatest influence of anything else you will do to keep them healthy and living long”.


It sounds simple, but far too many people are not aware of the amount of food their dogs really require each day to achieve and maintain a healthy weight.   According to APOP, a majority of dogs in the U.S. are overweight. Just like with people, an overweight dog will have a shorter life span— up to 2 years shorter— and a lower quality of life.


Besides the health problems related to canine obesity, having an overweight dog can be a costly proposition to the pet owner. Extra food and medical bills can easily surpass $1,000 per year or more – expenses that you would not incur if you had a leaner, healthier pet. Here are 5 steps you can follow to help you determine proper portions for your pet.


  1. Start with a Vet checkup and agree on an ideal target weight.

Consult with your veterinarian so that they can assess the overall health of your dog. Make sure to inform your vet of any previous orthopedic issues or other health issues if they do not have your dog’s full history.


Use the canine body condition guide for a visual of how a dog’s body should look.


  1. Determine how many calories your dog burns per day at their target weight.

Once you have your ideal target weight, you will use this number to determine your dog’s average calorie burn each day. There are several key factors which will determine the number including your dog’s age, weight, and activity level. You can use the Slimdoggy App or the SlimDoggy Calculator  to calculate the right number for your dog.


Most normal dogs will burn 85-90% of their daily calories just to support their bodies’ basal metabolic processes (e.g. respiration, cardiovascular function) and about 10-15% from exercise. More active dogs, working dogs or those that participate in hunting, agility, dock diving, or other sports, will burn more from exercise.


The table below shows approximate daily calorie requirements for different sized dogs who exercise lightly (e.g. walking, slow jogging) for 30 minutes each day.


Table 1: Daily Calories Burned

Weight(lbs) Daily Calories Burned
60 1,150
70 1,300
80 1,425



    1. Determine daily feeding calorie amounts.


Now that you know how many calories your dog burns each day at their target weight, you can set up a daily feeding schedule. As shown in the Table below, if your dog is at their ideal weight, you should feed them the same number of calories as they burn each day. If your dog is overweight, you should feed about 75% of this amount until they reach their target weight and then you can increase their feeding to 100% of their daily calorie burn thereafter. Similarly, if your dog is underweight, you should feed them 125% of their required calories until they reach their target weight and then decrease their feeding to 100% of their daily calorie burn thereafter.


Dog Condition % of Target Calories Daily Feeding Calorie Amount (assuming daily burn = 1,000)
Ideal Weight 100 1,000
Overweight .75 750
Underweight 1.25 1,250



  1. Determine a daily feeding plan of foods and treats.


sdapp_multi1The next step requires that you know the calorie amounts of your dog’s food and treats. Here again, you can use the SlimDoggy App or Dog Food Database to find the caloric values for most commercially available dog foods.


Once you have that number, you simply divide your dog’s target calorie amount by the calories in a cup of their food and you will know the proper amount to serve each day. For instance, if your dog should be fed 750 calories per day and your dog food has 250 calories per cup, you would feed them 3 (750/250) cups per day.


If you plan on serving treats, or if you serve your dog more than one food (e.g. if you mix dry and canned), make sure to account for these as well and reduce your food portions accordingly. For example, if you feed your dog five, 50 calorie biscuits per day, you would need to subtract 250 (5 x 50) calories from the regular food servings. In our example, you would then feed your dog 2 cups instead of 3 per day to keep them on their plan.


Obviously, a key aspect of the feeding plan is to accurately measure your servings. Don’t guess—get a measuring scoop. Or think about ordering a SmartFeeder from Petnetio, which will dole out correct portions even if you are still at the office! For treats, we recommend that you dole out the day’s allotment into a plastic bag. Once the bag is empty, no more treats. Be precise!


  1. Stick to the program for 4 weeks and adjust if necessary.

As you know, life is not predictable. Maybe your dog is exercising more (or less) than you planned, or maybe you are not really measuring accurately, or maybe the climate where you live is such that your dog’s metabolism is a little different than normal. In any case, we recommend that you create a plan, stick with it for 4 weeks, and observe the results. If your dog’s weight is not reacting the way that you had hoped, take stock and reassess. As always, be honest, and make adjustments as necessary.


To repeat a widely used expression, it is “not rocket science” to determine proper serving portions for your dog. It is, however, extremely important for dog owners to keep their dogs are fit and trim so they can live a long and active life.

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  1. To be precise is not easy, I always forgot to add the treats and the dental chews etc. My old ballet teacher always said: nothing works without discipline. She was a super mean woman, but she was right, think it counts for nutrition too :o)
    easy rider recently posted…easyblog BACON’S SHOW AN TELLMy Profile

    • It absolutely counts for nutrition as well…she may have been mean, but she was right.
      mkob recently posted…How Much Should I Feed My DogMy Profile

  2. I do give treats, although normally only one a day.
    If it give more, it is during a training session, in which I do use more, however they are just small pea sized treats. Everything counts though and your right, it is impawtant not to forget about those things.
    ღ husky hugz ღ frum our pack at Love is being owned by a husky!

    • We give treats frequently – due to Jack’s IBD it’s good for him to always have something in his stomach – but we just look at the entirety of what we feed him, not just mealtime.
      mkob recently posted…How Much Should I Feed My DogMy Profile

  3. This is a great post! It’s the question that we always revisit when it comes to all three of the dogs. They are much more active in our warm season months so they can get away with eating a little bit more. But in the winter months, we definitely cut back a little bit since their activity level isn’t as intense as in the summer.
    Miley’s Daily Scoop recently posted…Sojos: Raw Dog Food Mix ReviewMy Profile

  4. Like you say, I think being aware and cognizant is the most important step. I like to do a quick look/feel weight check on the pups once a week. Doesn’t take much time, but it’s a good way to make sure they’re both at healthy weight.

  5. You always have the best food posts. I’m so glad that overfeeding isn’t an issue with my dogs, but I expect it will be someday. Thank you!
    Flea recently posted…Dancing Dogs and Boo BucketsMy Profile

    • As they get older…and sleep more than run around, you just decrease the food a bit.
      mkob recently posted…How Much Should I Feed My DogMy Profile

  6. Great post! One problem people still seem to have is they look at the recommended feeding amount on the bag, and it’s almost always too much food.

    I’ve never had a problem with an overweight dog. I always just cut back on the food a bit if the dog seems too heavy, making sure to measure each meal. I’ve helped a few pudgy foster dogs lose weight this way. I guess I’ve never really understood how someone can have an overweight dog unless there is some sort of medical problem causing the weight gain.
    Lindsay recently posted…How to choose which dog to adopt from a kill shelterMy Profile

    • We’re with you – I think people are just kind of blind to it in their dogs, just like they are in themselves.
      mkob recently posted…How Much Should I Feed My DogMy Profile

  7. My sisters and I have been trying to convince Mom to free feed us for years, but she insists on proper portions. Grrr…Somewhere she got an idea as to how much we need to eat, and she just tweaks it depending on our activity level, but so far it must be spot on because Katie and I have been at the same weight within a pound or two for the past seven years. We just know the bags always want humans to feed more which leads us to believed dogs are involved in determining portion size on bags.
    Emma recently posted…Possessed By KangarooMy Profile

  8. it is a constant cycle of measure and writing down what both Bentley & I eat. BOL!
    M. K. Clinton recently posted…BFTB Channel 7 NETWoof NewsMy Profile

  9. What a great post! I always harassed our doodle doc about the boys weight. I used to think they needed more food, but she held me to her plan and as they grew, I learned the difference between eating to live vs. living to eat.

  10. Great hints. I find that once my dog starts losing weight, it sometimes goes too fast. It’s a tough balance especially when you can’t weight them at home.

    Do you know of any reasonably priced home dog scales? I’d buy one if I could.
    KB recently posted…Running headlong toward winterMy Profile

  11. Great advice. It is always hard for us getting the amount right. I guess we should figure calories. 🙂
    2 brown dawgs recently posted…Thursday Barks And Bytes–The Most Wonderful Day Of The YearMy Profile

  12. This is a great guideline…so often people are overfeeding their pets simply because “they’re still hungry”. Sharing this helpful info. 🙂
    Sarah at recently posted…Pumpkin Spice PuppuccinosMy Profile

  13. I have to adjust at amount depending on the time of year it is.
    Sand Spring Chesapeakes recently posted…Wordless Wednesday~Some Privacy Please!My Profile

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