A new pet is no different than a new baby in the family. You want to make sure your new pup has everything he needs, including enough proper nutrition to grow up big and healthy. So, you’ve probably been looking for a "how much food should I feed my dog" chart online for easy answers.
The problem is that not all dogs are alike, and different factors can’t affect how much food you need to provide. Just like human food, dog food differs from brand to brand. Age, activity, and even the season can mean your pup needs more or fewer calories.
Marketing Over Meaning.
You’ve probably seen plenty of charts for the caloric needs of people. But how often have you seen a "how much food should I feed my dog" chart that showed optimal calories? Not often enough! Dog food manufacturers don’t make it easy to find out.
Labels boast about “whole nutrition,” and high-quality ingredients. You may have even seen brands that offer nutritional supplements like omega 3 and 6 oils and even probiotics for gut health.
What’s worse is that manufacturer labels on dog food aren’t precise when it comes to feeding instructions. Your 50-pound dog, according to the label, may need 2 cups or 3 cups a day. But which is it?
“No matter how you’re feeling, a little dog gonna love you.” – Waka Flocka Flame
And how many calories are really in that cup of food, anyway?
Not long ago, you couldn't even find the calorie count on many bags of dog food. Thankfully, guidelines from the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) changed in 2015 to include calorie counts.
But it isn't easy to understand!
Unlike human food, dog food labels express calories differently. Instead, they use "Metabolizable Energy" or ME. Luckily "ME" means the same thing as "kcal" or calorie. But you'll also see the ME count per kilogram as well as per cup.
And that’s probably why you’re looking for a "how much food should I feed my dog" chart. So, you’ll know more exactly how much your dog needs.
Factors Affecting How Much Food Your Dog Needs
Like people, dogs come in a wide range of sizes, ages, and activity levels. So, you should remain aware of factors that affect how much to feed.
Dogs of different ages have varying caloric needs. Their age impacts their activity levels as well as their nutritional needs.
Puppies grow up fast and need more food per pound than adult dogs. But, not all dogs mature at the same rate.
You should feed your large-breed dog using a puppy formula until he’s 12 to 26 months old. However, you can introduce adult dog food to your small breed dog once he reaches 9 to 12 months; for medium-sized dogs, start at 12 to 14 months.
Older dogs often put on extra weight as they slow down. Just like people, they tend to move slower (and less) as they reach middle age.
But dog breeds age differently. Your dog may become a senior once he hits 5 to 7 years old. Small and medium dogs, on the other hand, are considered seniors at the age of 7.
Calculating How Much Food to Feed Your Puppy
Luckily, figuring out how much to feed your puppy is pretty straightforward. If your dog is still a pup, use the following "how much food should I feed my dog" chart to figure out how many calories he needs.
You'll need to know how big your puppy will get in adulthood, though. This easier if you have a purebred dog; you just need to look up the breed from the American Kennel Club.
Mixed breed dogs are more problematic, but if you have some idea of their lineage, it may help. You can also ask your veterinarian what to expect during your puppy’s next checkup.
Tips for puppy parents
For puppies under 4 months of age, feed your puppy frequently. Try splitting their daily total into four separate meals. Alternatively, you can let them feed at will.
From 4 to 6 months of age, feed them three times per day, and afterward, split their total food up in two daily feedings.
How Much Food to Feed Your Adult Dog
It may be impossible to find a "how much food should I feed my dog" chart that's perfect for your individual dog's needs.
Determine proper weight
The first step is assessing your dog to determine if he’s at the right weight. You may not be sure what your dog should weigh. If your dog is mixed, and the AKC chart isn’t helpful, try "BCS."
Your dog’s BCS – or Body Condition Score – will help you determine if you need to feed your dog up or cut back a little on their meals.
After watching the video, download this handy flyer from the World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA) for reference.
Determine calorie requirements
The formula for figuring out your dog’s daily caloric needs is to first calculate their baseline Resting Energy Requirements (RER).
The formula is: their weight (kilograms), raised to the three-quarters (0.75) power, times 70 (If you had as much trouble figuring out how to multiply the exponent as I did, us the meracalculator online.)
Once you know their baseline RER, then use the following chart to figure out how much to feed your dog.
Depending on your dog’s lifestyle and activity level, multiply the number on the right by their RER.
If your dog is overweight or underweight, multiply the number in the right column by the RER for their ideal weight.
It’s Not Just About Volume
Now that you’ve seen a "how much food should I feed my dog" chart for both puppies and adults, you may want to think about what type of food you’re feeding.
Sometimes, good nutrition is less about how much and more about quality
While dogs aren’t obligate carnivores like cats are, they still need plenty of protein. Dogs need 1 gram of protein per pound of weight. So, it’s easy to calculate. Inadequate protein can affect your pup’s hair, skin, and muscle condition.
So make sure that whatever their caloric intake, they’re getting adequate protein.
Time to Weigh In
Taking good care of your new best friend doesn’t have to be complicated. However, it does require that you consider your dog’s needs during meal times. Choose a good quality dog food and feed him enough to keep him healthy and active.
Depending on the brand, the food can vary anywhere between 200 to 500 calories per cup! So, make sure you check the label!
If your dog needs to lose weight, remember that exercise should be your first line of attack. And if your dog is underweight, remember that protein, not fat, is the best way for your dog to fill out.
Do you feed your dog dry or wet food? Or do you mix them up? Tell us your dog’s favorite food in the comments.
Featured image by Pexels