How much food should I feed my dog.

Artistic interpretation of two dogs sat on an unbalanced scale

Calorie Intake

Different food brands will recommend feeding weights based on their product. We recommend calculating your weights based on your animal and the food you intend to use.

For example, looking at the packaging from Lily’s Kitchen:

Photo of the box packaging for Lilys Kitchen puppy food showing a table of how much to feed your pet based on weight and age. The table misses out important information such as weights 5-6kg and 10-11kg.

If my puppy was 5.5kg @ 5 months I’d have no idea how much to feed them.

Luckily there’s been some great research into this area – I’m not sure why this isn’t shared wider by food producers.

To calculate the resting energy requirements (RER) times 70 by the dogs’ weight in kilos raised to 3/4. This sounds harder than it is – I like to use wolfram alpha (follow the link in the formula to see how its done) to help me with complicated calculations.

So for example Beans is around 1.7kg at 4 months and so his RER would be 70×1.73/4 = 104.216

To calculate his daily calorie requirements we can use the table below and see we need 3x his RER = 3×104.216

This gives us an estimated calorie requirement of 312.64

Neutered adult=1.6 x RER
Intact adult=1.8 x RER
Inactive/obese prone=1.2-1.4 x RER
Weight loss=1.0 x RER for ideal weight
Weight gain=1.2-1.8 x RER for ideal weight
Active, working dogs=2.0-5.0 x RER
Puppy 0-4 months=3.0 x RER
Puppy 4 months to adult= 2.0 x RER
How to calculate estimate daily energy needs for dogs from – Ohio State University

Looking at Lily’s Kitchen (95kcal per 100g) we can calculate we need to feed Beans 329g of Lily’s per day.

We can also see that from 5 months that will need to drop to around 208g (assuming he stayed at 1.7kg – realistically he will weigh more at this age)

Measuring Food

Measuring food intake is a critical part of getting the diet right for a dog of any age. It gets easier with time of course as we start to understand how a dog will react to a diet.

We do however as owners have the responsibility of making sure we’re giving them the best chances when it comes to diet.

The first consideration we need to make is how much to feed them. You need to weigh it to get an accurate measurement. Serving kibble by volume (1 cup etc) could be wildly wrong if you have low calorie food and a small dog.

A tip for an easy life here is to find out how many cups equal the correct weight and that can save some time in the mornings when things are busier.

With wet food, I find it easiest just to serve from the can into their bowl sat on top of the scales.

Let’s talk scales for a moment though.

Not all scales are created equal!

I used to measure Beans’ food using the kitchen scale we used for baking (a cheap ASDA brand scale) and got the suspicion it wasn’t correct after a couple of weeks of issues with Beans’ stool.

I decided to buy a new scale accurate to 0.01g to test my old scale and the results were shocking.

Pet food scales with the same amount of food showing two different measurements. The left larger kitchen scale showing 26 grams and the on the right a jewellery scale showing 30 grams.

As you can see my old scale was under measuring by 4g in 30g

This became quite a drastic part of overfeeding early in his life as across 4 meals this will be around 15g – all the headroom we gave ourselves for training!

This made training harder as he was less food motivated. Once he even threw up from overfeeding after a training session.

Life lesson learned – never buy cheap scales!

You can find the scales we bought here –

Be aware the model we bought can only measure up to 500g – while this is fine for food quantity, it might be annoying if you have a heavy feeding bowl.

Wet Food vs Dry Food

Both types of food are fine but there are a few things to consider that might make life a little better

  • Dry food is usually cheaper and can be easier to store
  • Dry kibble can be harder for dogs with oral abnormalities and teething puppies
  • Wet food contains more moisture which is great for dogs that dont drink enough
  • Both have different enrichment activities that are feasible

Snacks and Treats

Snacks are a great way to help keep your dog from going hungry during the day (it’s also a nice little reward for us as we LOVE seeing our dogs happy)

Don’t forget though snacks and treats are always an opportunity to reinforce training for all ages of dogs!

It is really important to remember that calories from snacks should be considered in our daily allowance. Personally, I like to use MyFitnessPal to help me keep track of feeding.

It’s designed for people but can be used for your dog too!

A real benefit to using an app like this is if you and other family members log into the same account you can keep track of what others have fed your dog too – great for keeping weight under control (although you’ll have to enter your food information mostly as it doesn’t have any doggy foods or portions listed)

Puppy (2 – 12 Months)

Puppies from 8 weeks can get off the shelf food designed for their specific requirements.

2 – 4 Months

From 2 months it’s recommended that they start initially on the food that the breeder was feeding them to prevent any issues when settling into their new home. If you want to change the food you feed to a different brand or type it’s recommended to slowly introduce the food to not upset their stomach. It might also be the first time you discover a protein allergy as this is something to keep an eye out for.

A softer stool is common as dogs can be nervous the first new nights in a new home. Make sure they have enough fibre to help with this transition as too many loose stools can lead to anal gland issues.

Start with more frequent smaller meals as they will fill up quickly – they also have a greater proportional energy requirement so make sure they’re getting enough by following the formula above to give you a ballpark idea of their required calories.

5 – 8 Months

From 5 months you’ll notice that your dog needs fewer calories as its growth starts to slow down. Make sure to consult your vet if you’re experiencing weight issues but at this stage, you will know what your dog does and doesn’t like, how many snacks they can have, and you can go down a step in feeding frequency for us this is going from 4 meals a day to 3.

9 – 12 Months

At this stage, most manufacturers recommend starting to decrease the calorie requirement again. Its also a good time to consider what adult food would be most suitable – the food will have a different composition and you may find as you make the swap they no longer like this food brand.

Adult (1 – 7 Years)

As an adult feeding should remain consistent and can be brought down to 2 meals a day. Make sure to include other sources of energy such as dental chews (and the treats at the vets!)

You will need to change their diet if they become pregnant, show signs of malnutrition or become less mobile.

Senior (8+ Years)

The AHAA define senior as the last 25% of a dogs life and they have different energy requirements.

Older dogs may develop mobility issues as well as being generally less active so it’s important that they have fewer calories to prevent obesity. It’s also recommended that they have high fibre to improve gastrointestinal health.

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