Know how much to feed your dog?
Do the math and see if you are right!
Over 50% of dogs in the U.S. were overweight or obese according to a study done in 2018. Many dogs are being overfed throughout their lives, which is why it’s so very important to know how much food to feed your canine family member. Too many calories, coupled with low quality, biologically inappropriate, high-carb diets and lack of exercise are the reasons behind not only the epidemic of fat pets, but also the rapidly rising rates of degenerative diseases in companion animals.
Ignore Pet Food Package Feeding Guidelines – it’s too vague!
Most dog parents follow the suggested feeding guidelines printed on pet food packages, which often isn’t the best approach. These recommendations often use overly broad weight ranges for dogs such as “under 20 pounds” (a 15-pound dog requires significantly more calories than a 5-pound dog), “20 to 50 pounds,” and “over 50 pounds” (some breeds tip the scales at well over 100 pounds and may need twice the calories a 50-pound dog requires).
Package feeding instructions also use wide serving ranges, such as “feed ½ to 1 ½ cups.” These suggestions obviously don’t consider, for example, a dog’s activity level, and they tend to be short on other important details, such as whether “feed ½ to 1 ½ cups” is a daily or per-meal guideline, there is no standard.
Overcome Fat Blindness
To understand the quantity of food your dog should eat each day, you first must determine her ideal weight. Unfortunately, these days many pet parents don’t realize their dog is too heavy because being overweight has become the “new normal.” Many people can no longer tell the difference between a fat pet and a normal-sized pet, and dogs who are naturally lean like most of the sighthound breeds look underfed.
If you’re not sure about your own dog, look down at her from above. You should be able to see a tapered-in waist. If she’s oval-shaped, she’s probably too heavy. You should also be able to feel (but not see) her ribs as well as feel the bones near the base of her tail. There are exceptions to this rule, so consider your dogs breed specifications. If she’s obese, you’ll see noticeable amounts of excess fat on her abdomen, hips, and neck. Also compare your pet to the body score chart provided.
body score chart: The goal is a body condition score of 3. If you’re still not sure whether your dog is overweight, check with your veterinarian.
Calculate Your Dog’s Daily Calorie Requirements
Once you’ve settled on an ideal weight for your dog, you can use the following general formula to calculate how many baseline calories she requires each day:
Daily calories = Body weight (kg) x 30 + 70
First, convert your dog’s weight from pounds to kilograms. One kilogram = 2.2 pounds, so divide his ideal weight in pounds by 2.2. For example, if he’s 20 pounds with a body condition score of 3 (meaning he’s not overweight), divide 20 by 2.2. Your dog’s ideal weight in kilograms is 9.1. Now the formula looks like this:
Daily calories = 9.1 (kg) x 30 + 70 = 343
If your dog eats 343 calories a day, she’ll maintain her current ideal weight of 20 pounds if her daily activity level remains the same. If she starts getting more aerobic exercise each day (which benefits almost any dog, by the way), you may need to increase her calorie intake a bit.
But if for some reason she’s suddenly not getting the workout she’s accustomed to, it may be a good idea to reduce her daily calories a bit until she’s back to exercising at her former level.
If you’re calculating daily calories for an overweight dog, you must use her ideal weight (not her current weight) in the above formula to arrive at the right number of calories to feed for weight loss and maintenance at the new, ideal weight.
It’s important to routinely monitor your dog’s body for signs of weight gain, and weigh her regularly as well, either at home or at a veterinary clinic if she’s too large to weigh on a bathroom scale. If her weight starts to creep up, adjust those daily calories down.
If your dog drops below her ideal weight due to increased physical activity, you may need to increase her daily calorie intake as well. The above formula does not consider dogs burning lots of calories if they’re working hard for many hours a day (because most dogs simply aren’t). Older animals often lose muscle mass and require more calories to maintain their ideal body weight.
If your dog loses weight for no apparent reason, it’s important to make an appointment with your veterinarian for a wellness checkup.
Once you know exactly how many calories to feed your dog each day, measure his food using an actual measuring cup and practice portion control typically a morning and evening meal.
To keep your dog in peak metabolic health you might also want to consider intermittent fasting (feeding all your pet’s calories in a set number of hours a day, allowing the digestive system to rest the remaining part of the day).
This strategy has proven to be a very successful way for many species of mammals to maintain an ideal body weight throughout life. Another great alternative is to offer some of your pet’s daily calories in food puzzles or a snuffle mat to make mealtime mentally stimulating.
A high-protein, low-carb, nutritionally balanced, fresh food diet with the right number of calories, controlled through the portions you feed, and adjusted up or down according to his exercise level and body condition, will help your dog reach and/or remain at an ideal weight.
It’s also important to drastically limit treats (be sure to include any treats you feed in the total daily calorie count. Options for natural treats are a few raw pumpkin or sunflower seeds, berries, frozen peas, small amounts melons and blueberries, as well as tiny cubes of low-fat cheese all make good treats. Just be sure to feed quantities that are no more than a one eighth-inch square and all treats for the day fit into a tablespoon for every 30 pounds of dog, especially if they’re trying to lose weight. Bone broth ice cubes are an excellent treat for overweight dogs, as well.