How Much Should I Be Feeding My Dog?
Among the many questions new pet parents face, one of the most common questions is “Am I feeding my dog the right amount of food?” And rightly so as it turns out that one of the easiest ways to keep your dog healthy is by feeding them the right amount of food at each stage of their life. Unfortunately, this isn’t an easy question to answer as the amount of food an individual dog requires will depend on a number of factors that are unique to your dog including their age, ideal weight, breed and amount of exercise.
Additionally, the amount of food you feed will vary depending on both the type of dog food you feed (dry vs wet vs raw vs lightly cooked) and can also be impacted by the brand of dog food that you feed as the type & quality of ingredients used can vary greatly. While there is no simple equation that you can plug your dog’s details into, we provide some helpful guidelines and tips below that should ensure you’re feeding your dog the right amount to help them live their healthiest and happiest life!
Start with the recommended feeding guidelines
No matter what type of food you choose to feed, a great starting point on how much to feed your dog is by following the feeding guidelines recommended by the specific brand that you are feeding – these can typically found on the dog food packaging or on the dog food brand’s website. Each type & brand of dog food has a different Metabolizable Energy (ME) which refers to the amount of energy available to your dog per gram (g) of dog food. The ME of dog foods can vary greatly and is impacted by the type and quality of ingredients used. For example, a high-quality dog food with a high proportion of real animal protein will have a much higher ME than a low-quality commercial dog food that is largely made from grain-based fillers. As a result, you would need to feed a smaller amount of the higher quality dog food with the higher ME.
As the ME between dog foods can vary widely, it is best to refer to the feeding guidelines for the specific dog food you want to feed. However as the title suggests – these recommendations should act as a guideline only and you need to also taking into consideration your dog’s unique characteristics to get to the right answer.
Age is not just a number
When it comes to determining how much to feed your dog, one of the most important factors to take into consideration is your dog’s age. When dogs are puppies (typically under twelve months for small breed dogs and between twelve to eighteen months for large breed dogs) they are growing rapidly and need a greater amount of calories, protein, fat and vitamins & minerals to aid this growth. As a result, a puppy will need to be fed 2 to 3 times the amount of food an adult dog of the same size would need with this multiple will taper off over time as the puppy reaches its adult size and weight. While your dog is still a puppy, it is important to consult your dog food brand’s feeding guidelines every 2 to 3 weeks given your dog’s weight is constantly changing at this age. It is particularly important that a dog is fed the right amount of food and also a high quality age-appropriate dog food during their first 1 to 2 years as this ensures that they grow properly and will help avoid a number of health issues later in life.
Similar to puppies, age is also a key factor when it comes to determining how to much to feed a senior dog. Most dogs enter their senior years from about 6 to 7 years of age and tend to start slowing down, requiring a lower amount of calories. So as your dog approaches its senior years, keep an eye out for any changes to their body shape to make sure they aren’t gaining any extra weight and pare back the amount of food as required to ensure they maintain a healthy weight. As dogs reach their senior years, even a small amount of extra weight can make a big difference to their health and lifespan.
Exercise is also a key factor
Most dog food brands provide feeding guidelines assume that your dog undertakes an average amount of exercise – typically around 15 to 30 minutes of moderate exercise per day. If your dog usually gets exercised more than this (for example, running around the dog park for 20 minutes can equate to a lot more than the average) then be sure to increase the amount you feed by a small amount to account for the extra energy your dog needs. Similarly, if your dog is relatively inactive (for example, if your dog spends most of its time indoors with only a few walks per week), consider paring back the amount you feed by a small amount so that your dog doesn’t gain any extra calories.
Leave some room for treats
Treats are a great way to reward and reinforce good behavior in your dog however they should be accounted for in your dog’s daily calorie intake. As a rule of thumb, treats should never make up more than 10% of your dog’s daily calorie requirements and where possible, this is a great way to incorporate some real food into your dog’s diet – from carrots to broccoli to blueberries – there are some great real fresh food treat options available for dogs which also tend to be low in calories.
Check your dog’s weight regularly
As there are many factors that can impact how much you should feed your dog a great way to know if you’re on the right track is by checking your dog’s body visually and physically to ensure they are the right weight. While this is check is not appropriate for puppies who are growing rapidly, use the handy guide below to check if your dog is the ideal weight every few months and adjust the amount you feed accordingly.
- Rib check – Place your thumbs together on your dog’s backbone and spread your fingers across their ribs. At a healthy weight, you should be able to feel the ribs but they should not be protruding. If you’re unable to feel your dog’s ribs, your dog may be carrying some extra weight. This physical check is particularly great for puppies with a lot of fur!
- Overhead check – Stand over your dog and check to see whether their waist is tucked in behind their ribs. At a healthy weight, most dogs will have an hourglass figure. If you’re able to see an outline of some of your dog’s ribs this could be an indication that your dog is too thin. If your dog’s waistline bulges out past your dog’s ribs, this suggests that your dog may be too heavy.
- Profile check – Get down to your dog’s level and look at your dog from the side. For most breeds, if your dog’s tummy is slightly tucked up behind its ribcage this is a good sign that they are a healthy weight. A steep slant may indicate that your dog is underweight while a protruding belly can indicate that your dog may be overweight.
With dogs being natural opportunistic eaters and doting dog parents wanting to show their love through an abundance treats, it’s not always easy to make sure that your dog is being fed the right amount of food. We hope the above tips and guides help you determine the right amount of food to feed your best friend so they can live their healthiest and longest lives.