“How much should I feed my dog?” is a commonly asked question at the CCSPCA. Our dogs come in all shapes and sizes, so it can be tough to decide just how much your dog should be eating. Feed him too much and you’ll have an overweight couch potato that could be detrimental to his health. Too little and he’ll be starving, and nobody wants that! When you take into account all of the other variables that can change the amount of food your dog should be consuming every day, it’s no wonder you’ve been looking for help.
Think about your dog’s breed, age, size, current weight, activity level, and the environment he lives in.
You’ll use this information to identify just how much you should feed your dog.
Types of Dog Food
One of the most important variables to consider when determining how much you should feed your dog is the type of food you’ll be serving. You can buy dry food and/or wet food that is formulated for the life stage of your dog. You can also find specialty diet foods like the raw food diet, or even cook food for your dog.
No matter what you choose, be sure your dog is eating a high-quality food with the appropriate nutrient profile for their age, size, and activity level.
Feeding Guidelines from the Manufacturer
If you asked the dog food company the recommended amount of food for your dog, they’ll likely provide an amount that is more than your dog really needs. The more you feed your dog at each meal, the sooner you’ll be back at the pet store buying another one of their bags. We recommend that feeding guidelines on the back of your dog food bag be taken very lightly. You need to be responsible for factoring in the variables to determine just how much you should feed your dog.
How Much to Feed Your Puppy
If you are the proud new parent of a puppy you probably don’t have to be told that puppies have lots of energy. Puppies need a high-energy food and because they are growing so fast they’ll require a food with more protein and calcium to help build a healthy adult dog, and more calorie-heavy fats to load them up with fuel.
Puppies will start eating solid food between 3-4 weeks old and need to eat more often until they are around 6 months old. For more on how to feed your pup see our recent post, How to Take Care of a Puppy.
Be sure to talk to your vet about when it’s time to switch over to an adult dog food (around the one year mark). If you keep feeding your adult dog his puppy food, you could have a heavy pooch on your hands in no time.
How Much to Feed Your Adult Dog
Your dog is in the prime of his life, so let’s keep him that way. It’s rare to see an overweight puppy and most of us understand our dog needs to eat less after they enter their senior years. However, the adult stage of life can be the hardest time to know how much to feed your dog.
Consider your breed’s size and body composition. Your bullmastiff may have an easier time putting on weight than your neighbor’s whippet.
How active is your dog? If you and your dog are patrolling the neighborhood every morning and socializing at the dog park after work, you’ll likely have to feed him much more than your neighbor’s pooch that rarely leaves the back yard. Make sure his food is high energy and high quality, as he’ll need the nutrients to recover from his activities.
Is your dog already heavy? Most of us like to ignore that our dog is getting fat. You see him every day and the difference in appearance may not be as noticeable. Feel for his ribs, and if you can’t easily discern where each one begins and ends he could probably stand to lose a few pounds. For more on diagnosing an overweight dog, check out our post How Do I Know If My Dog is Overweight?
For additional help determining food portion size, you can use this dog food calculator for adult dogs, which was developed based upon a study by a well-respected veterinary institute.
How Much to Feed Your Senior Dog
Senior dogs usually require lower caloric intake and may get heavy eating the same food they were eating in their younger years. Your senior dog may still be as sharp as a tack but it’s doubtful that he’s keeping up with the puppies at the dog park. It’s time to make sure you’re feeding your dog accordingly.
High-quality senior dog foods are often fortified with additional supplements like glucosamine and chondroitin to help maintain joint health and alleviate arthritis pain. The right food can help your old friend feel his best in his later years, and keep him going longer and stronger.
If Your Dog is Overweight
So Fido has packed on the pounds and it’s time to return him to his slim and trim former self. A typical doggy diet consists of some strict portion control and the elimination or limitation of any additional treats.
If your dog is really heavy, or isn’t adapting to the idea of less food, there are specially formulated foods for overweight dogs. They are high in fiber and low in calories so your dog feels full while he sheds the excess weight. Your vet can help you decide on the right course of action to help your husky pooch.
Feeding Advice from Our Experts
Because there are so many variables involved in portion control when feeding your dog, we’ll give you some helpful feeding advice from our experts at the CCSPCA.
Feed your dog based on how they look, not how they act.
Many dogs will eat a full dinner and act like they are still starving if they think it will earn them a bit more food. If your dog is still giving you that guilty stare but starting to look more like a fuzzy hippo than your graceful canine companion, it’s time to cut back.
Feed the dog you want, not the dog you have.
If your 80-pound dog needs to lose 10 pounds, use the dog food manufacturer’s feeding chart—located on the label—for a 70-pound dog. (And if, at any time, you are concerned about overfeeding or underfeeding your pet, consult your vet.)
All dogs are different.
Even your dog’s littermate will likely require a different amount, so don’t follow someone else’s feeding plan. You know your dog’s individual requirements best, so you make the final call.
Small dogs need special food
They have little tummies, which means they need small, nutrient-rich food. Small dog formulas are more than just smaller kibbles.
Eliminate free feeding
While always having a bowl of food out for your dog seems appealing, it’s actually harder on their body. It’s also much easier for them to overeat, as you aren’t regulating how much food they are consuming each day. Stick to a two-feedings-a-day regimen.
In the End…
In the end it all comes down to your diligence as a dog parent. There are too many variables to be able to create a one-size-fits-all guideline that covers every dog. However you now know what to look for to help determine what’s right for your pet’s individual needs. Take what you’ve learned from this article and apply it to your original question, “How much should I feed my dog?”