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Food guide: how much to feed a dog

Jack Russell waiting for its food

Feeding your dog the right amount he needs is important to avoid your dog becoming overweight.

© eva_blanco - Shutterstock

A cup full? A bowl full? The truth is, no matter how much you feed your dogs, they’ll probably eat it all up. But obesity can lead to serious health problems, so it’s important to feed them the right amount. Let’s talk about how much to feed a dog.

By Alice Lang

Updated on the 08/06/2021, 09:45

It seems easy to just give your pup food when they want it. It's only when the weight and health problems start creeping in that people begin asking their vet “how much food should I feed my dog?”.

And the truth is, that when talking about how much to feed a dog, there’s not just one answer. It depends on life stage, body condition, activity levels and even if they’re pregnant or lactating. But hopefully, we can help you figure out the right amount of food for your pooch - let’s get started!

Why is it important to feed a dog the right amount?

Overweight dogs don’t live as long as normal weight dogs. Multiple studies have proved this - it’s a simple yet sad fact. On top of this, overweight dogs are more at risk of:

But on the plus side, knowing all that should make you want to feed your pooch the right amount. Overfeeding will ultimately lead to weight gain, especially if your dog isn’t the most active of creatures. On the contrary, feeding them the right amount of dog food is one of the best ways to keep your pup healthy. It’s a win all around!

A complete dog feeding guide: 10 Dog nutrition tips reviewed by a vet

How much to feed a dog?

As we mentioned earlier, this isn’t a one-answer-fits-all scenario. Individual dogs will need a different amount of food, depending on their activity level, size and weight.

And we’ll be honest - when it comes down to how much to feed a dog, most of it comes down to common sense. No matter what you read online or what the instructions on a food packet say, it’s not necessarily right for every single dog. If your pooch is overweight, you’ll need to feed them less. If they’re underweight, you’ll need to feed them more. And once they reach a healthy weight, you’ll need to maintain it by feeding them the same amount each and every day. It really can be that simple!

How do I know my dog is a healthy weight?

Your veterinarian is your best resource to determine whether your dog is a healthy weight. Your vet is likely to give your dog a ‘body condition score’ (BCS). Body condition scores are given on a scale of one to nine, with a BCS of five being ideal. Every point up or down is a change in 10% bodyweight. Therefore, if your dog is 20kg, and your veterinarian said he is a BCS of seven, that means he is 20% overweight. As a result, he needs to lose 4kg to be an ideal weight.

How much to feed a dog according to a chart on the packet?

When determining how much to feed a dog, you can check the amount required by looking at the back of the packet. This is important because not all food has the same number of calories and amount of protein as others. Therefore, 250g of one food (for example), might not be enough, whereas 250g of another food might be too much. As a result, you need to know specifically how much of that specific food you’ll need to feed.

The feeding guide on the packet will tell you how many grams of food your dog needs based on their ideal bodyweight. If your dog is over or underweight, ask your vet what their ideal weight should be.

The same advice applies for canned food. There will be a feeding guide on the can which will tell you how many cans your dog might need in a day, based on their bodyweight.

Tips for feeding puppies

For puppies, it’s a little different. The feeding guide on puppy food is usually provided in the form of a table, where you have to select how big your puppy is likely to be as an adult, and how many months old your puppy is. This can be tricky if your puppy is a crossbreed and you don’t know how big they might grow, but your vet will happily help you.

Remember to check the amount you need to feed every month, as your puppy will need more food as he grows, then less as he’s reaching his adult weight.
Feeding puppies accurately is important, as if they are given too many calories or protein, they are more likely to grow too quickly rather than become overweight. This can put extra strain on the developing joints, especially for giant breed puppies.

Dog nutrition for homemade feeding

If you’re keen to feed a homemade diet, whether that be raw food or cooked, you should firstly seek the advice of your veterinarian or veterinary nutritionist. It is easy to create an imbalanced diet when making your own food, which can lead to bone, muscle and growth abnormalities. As a result, it is important that only adult dogs should be fed a homemade diet.

So how much should you feed your dog in kg? Homemade food can be fed according to bodyweight. You should be feeding between 2-3% of your dog’s ideal bodyweight. If your dog is very active or working, they might need a little more. This diet should be comprised of meat (raw or cooked), vegetables, oils, healthy grains and organs, however the exact quantities of each should be determined by a professional.

Feed pregnant and nursing dogs using the free-choice method

If your pooch is pregnant or nursing, firstly, congratulations! Secondly, you’ll need to adjust how much you’re feeding her. We’d recommend using the free-choice feeding method. Your pup will need a much higher calorie intake to match both their own and their puppies needs. Free-choice feeding essentially means having food available at all times - just keep topping it up. This should be continued until the puppies are weaned at around 6-8 weeks old.

How much does it cost to feed a dog for a year?

Dog food prices vary dramatically according to quality. Also, the amount you’ll need to feed your dog will also vary depending on the size and age of your dog. As a result, the price range for a year’s worth of dog food can be anywhere from £250 to £750 per year.

It’s a good idea to consider spending a bit more money and purchase a good quality food for your dog. The money you put into buying a high-quality food will be earned back over time, through keeping your dog healthy. Nutrition is closely linked to strong immunity, shiny coat, healthy skin and effective growth.

So, now you're in the know about how much to feed a dog. Now you can get that dog diet started and achieve your pup's ideal weight - good luck!

Reviewed by Dr Jo de Klerk, BVetMed (Hons) MScTAH MRCVS