Dog Feeding Guidelines

It's not just about what you feed. Knowing how to feed is just as important to your pet's overall health!


Keeping your dog at it's proper weight is very important but is not often easy to establish. Many weight tables show ideal ranges for purebred dogs only and those ranges can be considerable. We hope this article will help you establish an eating plan for your dog that will keep him or her healthy and active for many years. Feeding your dog the best diet, the proper amount and also keeping a consistent activity and exercise schedule will help you keep your dog at it's optimum weight.

Canine Feeding Tips

Proper Weight

 As with humans, obesity can lead to other diseases in dogs including:

  • Osteoarthritis
  • Insulin Resistance and Type 2 Diabetes
  • Ligament Injury
  • Heart Disease
  • Respiratory Disease
  • Kidney Disease
  • Cancer

Dog Food BowlsDiet

A healthy diet should consist of natural ingredients including healthy, lean proteins and few if any grains. Human-grade ingredients are best as they would not contain toxins and molds when grains are present. Fruit and vegetables should also be included and the food should never be chemically preserved. The use of tocopherols is best; Vitamin A, C and E. Sprayed on flavorings and by-products should always be avoided.

How Much to Feed ~ The Almighty Measuring Cup

Not all dog food are created equally. A cup from one brand might have more or fewer calories than the next. The quality of ingredients determines the quality of the calories. Choosing the best food for your dog is extremely important so that when you determine the caloric needs of your dog you can be sure you are measuring our his or her food properly.

Every Dog Deserves a WaistlinePurina’s Body Condition Chart shows dogs in a range of weight conditions. [Credit: Courtesy o

The chart to the right can help you gain a visual idea of what your dog size might indicate about its overall weight condition. View your dog from the top and both sides to start your evaluation. The next step is to feel your dog’s ribcage and hips. Because many dogs have heavy coats, the touch test will help finalize your assessment.

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Nestle Purina PetCare Co.

Dog Food Labels

The number of calories in a given amount of dog food is known as its metabolizable energy or ME. It’s usually indicated somewhere on a dog food package:

Most dog food labels assume you will feed your dog once daily.

I recommend you feed your adult dog twice per day. Puppies, and smaller or toy breeds may need to be fed three times per day. If you prefer to feed your dog twice a day, be sure to divide their daily amount in half so that both meals add up to the daily suggested calories.

Most important; use a dry measuring cup. Guessing your old coffee cup is 8 oz is not good enough.

Many dogs’ exhibit rapid feeding tendencies. This behavior may be an adaptation to scavenging during the early stages of domestication. This behavior can lead to obesity if not kept in check. Many dogs eat so quickly that they do not sense a feeling of fullness.


(To covert your dogs weight to kg, divide your dog's weight in lbs by 2.2. Example: 50lb / 2.2 = 23 kg (rounded)

RER or Resting Energy Requirements can be calculated by multiplying the animal’s body weight in kilograms (30 x body weight in kilograms) + 70.

So for example: the RER of a 20 pound (9 kg) dog would be (30x9) + 70 or 340 (RER or Calories per day).

The RER is then multiplied by factors to estimate the pet’s total daily energy needs. Each dog’s requirements can vary by as much as 50% from calculated values. So this is only a start for estimating the amount of calories needed daily. The amount can be adjusted up or down depending on factors such as:

Using the RER, determine your dog's daily caloric needs based on the following calculations:

Using the example above, if a 20 lb dog is a spayed female with a normal activity level, her daily caloric requirement will be approx. 1.6 X 340 RER or 544 calories per day.

If she needs to lose weight, you'll want to feed 1 x 340 RER or 340 calories per day (minimum).

Remember this is just a guideline. Owners will always need to adjust caloric intake by taking into account all factors involving their dog’s age, growth, health and activity levels on a daily, weekly and monthly basis. It will become a matter of habit as you become more in tune with your dog’s daily health requirements.

Treats Can Be Good

Treats can be healthy and can be doled out in such a way as to make both owner and dog happy.

I prefer protein-based treats only. Chicken, fish, deer, lamb; dried or fresh in small quantities. These types of treats will be a great supplement to your dog’s diet rather than interfere with it. And, treats should be considered a dietary supplement rather than a snack. One of the treats we give our dogs fresh frozen smelt which are highly nutritious – they love them! Chicken liver (in small quantities) are also excellent. Etta Says! Freeze-dried Treats are excellent!

Never reward your dog for begging though. A healthy treat is best given out on a schedule once or twice a day. Be sure to include those calories as part of your dog’s daily requirement – especially if your dog is prone to weight gain or is already overweight.

Changing your dog to a fresh, raw diet can be a solution for some. For others adding a digestive enzyme supplement might work very well. See your vet if you have any concerns about your dog’s health.