How do I know how much to feed my dog?

When you first got your dog, how did you figure out how much food to feed them? Was it a good guess? Maybe your friend told you how much they feed their dog and you do the same?

Well, there really is more to determining the right amount of food for your dog than just guessing. You don’t want them to get fat or be too thin. Both can be dangerous to their long-term health.

Factors that affect the amount of food

There are lots of factors that play into the calculation but in general, how much your dog needs is based on their size and energy output.

Your dog’s energy (calorie) needs are determined by age, reproductive status, activity level, health, and weather–believe it or not. If a dog lives outside in a cold climate, they’ll use more energy to stay warm and will need to eat more food than if they lived inside a heated home.

A dog that is sick or recovering from surgery will also have higher energy needs to heal and will need more food.

Senior dogs are typically less active and require less food, or a lower calorie food.

Pregnant and nursing dogs have higher energy needs and will need to eat more.

Working dogs and dogs that participate in sports with their owners will have higher energy needs than the average couch potato and will need to eat more.

Calculating your dog’s needs

To figure out how much your dog needs, take a look at this formula. Calculating your dog’s resting energy requirement (RER) is a good starting point. RER is the amount of energy (calories) your dog would need each day if all they did was rest.

Resting Energy Requirements (kcals/day) = 30(weight in kg) + 70

Weight in kg = lbs/2.205

If your dog weighs 60 pounds, their RER would be 886 kcals/day, using this formula.

Of course, your dog doesn’t just rest. They’re hopefully involved in lots of activities from fetch to swimming to nice long walks. The table below tells you what your dog’s daily energy requirements are over and above their RER based on their activity level or life stage.

Daily Energy Requirements
Weight loss 1.0 x RER
Neutered adult normal activity 1.6 x RER
Intact adult normal activity 1.8 x RER
Light work 2.0 x RER
Moderate work 3.0 x RER
Heavy work 4-8 x RER
Pregnant dog (first 42 days) 1.8 x RER
Pregnant dog (last 21 days) 3.0 x RER
Lactating female 4-8 x RER
Puppy – weaning to 4 months 3.0 x RER
Puppy – 4 months to adult size 2.0 x RER

Converting your dog’s energy needs into cups of food

Once you’ve done this calculation for your dog, read the guidelines on your dog’s food. The suggested amounts are based on the energy (calories) in the food and your dog’s energy needs based strictly on their weight–but not on their actual activity level.

The guidelines on the food will be in cups but somewhere on the bag will be the calorie content. You’ll have to do a little middle school math to convert the calories per kilogram to cups. The dry measure conversion is approximately 7 cups of food to 1 kilogram.

Let’s look at our 60-pound dog again who would require 886 calories a day. We’ll assume that dog is a neutered adult with a normal activity level. From the chart above that dog requires:

1.6 X 886 = 1,417.60 calories per day

If this dog needs 1,417.60 calories a day and the food has a calorie content of 4,200 calories per kilogram, here’s how many cups a day the dog needs:

1,417.60 calories needed/4,200 calories in the food = .3375

.3375 X 7 cups = 2.36 cups a day

How close is your calculation to the recommended amount on the bag of food? Probably not too close. Start by feeding an amount that falls somewhere between your calculation and the number on the bag of food.

The calculation you did and the guidelines on the food are daily so if you are going to feed twice a day, divide the amount in 2…or 3 if you feed 3 meals a day.

Does the amount you feed vary from food to food?

How much you feed your dog will vary from one food to the next because the energy in the food will vary. Of all the nutrients in your dog’s food, only fat, carbohydrates and protein provide energy. The energy density of these three elements in the food you choose will determine how much of that food you need to feed them.

A higher quality food generally provides more energy, so you’ll be able to feed less than you would with a lower quality food.

How do you know if the amount you’re feeding is correct?

Check your dogs weight once a month to be sure the amount of food you are feeding them isn’t making them fat–or causing them to lose weight.

You can put them on the scale—good luck with that—or you can look at your dog to see if they have a “waist”. You should be able to feel their ribs with your fingertips beneath a thin layer of fat. But you really don’t want to be able to see their ribs–unless they’re a greyhound, or similar breed, in which case their ribs are almost always visible.

Adjust the amount of food up or down slightly until they consistently maintain a good weight.

If you’re not sure what a good weight is for your dog, talk to your vet.

But remember that showing your couch potato how much you love them by feeding them too much is a bad idea.

Instead, try indulging your dog with affection and attention—like a nice long walk—not food.

If you feed your dog Husse, your pet food professional will be able to help you determine the right amount of food for your dog. They’ll ask you more specific questions about your dog’s lifestyle.  And by looking at your dog, they’ll be able to tell you if you need to adjust your dog’s food up or down.

Husse is a super premium dog food. It contains more energy and has a higher digestibility than the average dog food. This means you can feed your dog between 10 and 15% less than you would other foods.

And here’s another bonus–higher quality food like Husse produces less dog waste than lower quality food does. And who doesn’t like having less poop to scoop?

How did you calculate the right amount of food for your dog?  Let us know in the comment section above.

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