If you’re a first-time dog owner or concerned about your dog’s weight, you’re probably wondering how much and how often you should be feeding your little best friend. There really isn’t a one size fits all approach, but this guide will help you consider the key factors related to getting your dog’s calorie intake right.

When it comes to your dog’s diet, you’ll want to make sure that both the portions, nutrition and schedule are right for your specific dog. Answer these quick questions and keep them handy while you read on:

  • How much does your dog weigh?

  • What breed is your dog?

  • What type of food are you feeding your dog?

  • What is your dog’s activity level?

  • How old is your dog?

Great, now let’s see where your pup fits in…

It’s important to have an accurate estimate of your dog’s lean weight to avoid overfeeding.

Feeding your Dog Based on Weight

Most dog food serving suggestions are defined by weight or size. Ideally, you’ll want to define your dog’s daily calorie intake by what their lean weight should be.

Vets recommend feeding an adult dog twice per day. Find your dog’s weight below and split their recommended daily serving into two delicious meals.

Toy dogs (10 pounds or less)

These tiny teacups consume less than a cup of food per day.

  • 3 pounds should eat 1/3 cup per day
  • 6 pounds should eat 1/2 cup per day

Small dogs (10 to 20 pounds)

Small breeds commonly eat around a cup of food daily.

  • 10 pounds should eat 3/4 cup per day
  • 15 pounds should eat 1 cup per day
  • 20 pounds should eat 1 2/3 cups per day

Medium dogs (30 – 50 pounds)

Mediums, being one of the most common breeds, eat around 2 cups of food daily.

  • 30 pounds should eat 1 3/4 cups per day
  • 40 pounds should eat 2 1/4 cups per day
  • 50 pounds should eat 2 2/3 cups per day

Large dogs (60 – 100+ pounds)

Worth their weight in gold and food, large breeds eat around 3 to 4 cups of food daily.

  • 60 pounds should eat 3 cups per day
  • 70 pounds should eat 3 1/2 cups per day
  • 80 pounds should eat 3 3/4  cups per day
  • 90 pounds should eat 4 1/4 cups per day
  • 100 pounds should eat 4 1/2 cups per day (add 1/3 cup for every 10 pounds over)

Remember that your dog’s calorie intake includes treats so balance those out too. Treats and supplements should make up less than 10% of your dog’s daily diet.

In addition to weight and size, breed can also be factored in as an integral consideration for nutritional health.

Feeding your Dog Based on Breed

As a general rule; the larger the breed, the more they need to eat. Here are a few examples of common breeds and where they fall comparatively size wise:  

Toy breeds – pomeranian, havanese, yorkies

Small breeds – terriers, dachshunds, shih tzus, pugs

Medium breeds – bull terriers, collies

Large breeds – shepherds, retrievers, rottweilers

While size is a good guide of how much to feed, your best friend is still unique in every way so you’ll have to consider their unique metabolism too. Oddly enough, some smaller breeds are high in energy so they burn calories fast! Anxious pups also lose weight from restlessness and stress, so it’s important that you’re tuning into your dog’s behavior.

Calorie content, portions and metabolizing activity play a huge part in either obesity or malnutrition, so opt for high nutrition to optimize the value of each meal.

Depending on your dog’s breed, you may also want to address underlying health conditions through a breed specific diet. Certain health conditions can actually be treated or reduced by feeding your dog the appropriate type and portion of food. If you’ve got a little yorkie or schnauzer; choose lower fat food in small portions to help control blood fat levels. Labradors, shepherds and pugs are notorious for becoming overweight easily so be conscious about the calorie content of each portion and treat.

If you’re concerned about your dog being underweight, consider enriching the calorie intake of each serving as opposed to just bulking up the portion. You could also try introducing a reputable nutritional supplement to seamlessly support your dog’s regular diet.  

Ideally, you should consult with a vet to accurately understand your dog’s overall body condition score and potential underlying conditions – being proactive by optimizing nutrition within the correct portions will impact the quality of your pup’s life.

Feeding your Dog Based on Food Type

Gone are the days of simple choices between wet or dry dog food – today’s pups can choose from fresh, raw or dehydrated to freeze-dried or premium kibble! Don’t let the dog food section overwhelm you; the key is to settle on an option that suits your budget, your dog’s palate, and contains high quality ingredients. Look for balanced diets that have whole-food ingredients i.e. food sources that are recognizable and made from real stuff. Most dogs do well on kibble, but if your fur child needs extra hydration, canned food may be a better option.

Whatever you choose will come with a recommended serving guideline, usually in relation to your dog’s size. For portioning from bulk, you’ll measure wet food by weight and dry food in cups. Unless recommended differently by a vet, follow the manufacturer’s serving suggestions as a base while you observe your dog’s eating habits.

Feeding your Dog Based on Lifestyle

When you consider weight, breed and behavior; you can start to make your own tweaks to the serving suggestions of your dog’s food. If your pup is super active and lean, a touch more in their bowl helps to consciously replace calories. If your dog has lower energy and is perhaps on the pudgy side, reducing their recommended portion slightly might help.

If you have a gobble and go kind of pup, try to schedule energetic activity after a large meal is properly digested. Also, always keep a fresh bowl of water available to pair with meals – this will assist digestion.

Feeding your Dog Based on Age

Just like with humans, a dog’s nutritional needs change with age, so you may want to consider the life-stage of your dog and adjust their food intake accordingly.

Pups and nursing mothers need more nutrition than can be found in an all-purpose feeding schedule. Puppies need to eat often to support growth spurts and tiny tummies, so vets recommend a small feed 4 times a day. When they reach 6 months old, they’ll be about 3/4 of their adult size – this is the right time to start being more strict with meal times moving to only 2 or 3 times per day.

Senior dogs that have become less active would benefit from a lower calorie diet. If your dog is older than 7, you should try reducing their intake of carbohydrates and sodium – they don’t need as much fuel anymore. Compensate for this shift by increasing their intake of protein and you’ll be the old boy’s hero!

There are many factors to consider when figuring out how to best care for your fluffy loved one, but remember that you are both simply doing life together. Your companion will dote over you whether you make a few unintentional feeding mistakes or not. Be present, and enjoy growing old together.