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Food guide: how much to feed a dog

Golden labrador eating advice
© 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

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 age, weight, activity levels and even if they’re pregnant. 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?

how much to feed a dog
Obesity in dogs has dangerous consequences  © Pixabay
 

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:

  • Hypothyroidism
  • Oral disease
  • Diabetes
  • Cancers
  • Heart failure
  • Arthritis

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!

How much to feed a dog

how much to feed a dog
Yum yum!  © Pixabay
 

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!

Feed adult dogs 2%-3% of their ideal body weight

To give you more of an indication of how much to feed a dog, we’ll use the weight method. The first thing you need to find out is what your dog’s ideal weight is - this will depend on their size and breed. The best thing to do is ask your vet.

The recommended amount of food per adult dog per day is 2%-3% of their ideal body weight. Dogs who only have short walks every day or a short play in the garden are considered inactive and will only require 2% of their body weight per day in food.

However, dogs who have over an hour of exercise per day may need up to 2.5%. For particularly active dogs who have hours of exercise each day, you may need to edge up to 3% of their ideal body weight in food in order to maintain a healthy weight. For working dogs, this will need to be increased to 4%-6% on working days, to prevent them from losing weight.

We’d recommend in beginning with the stated percentage, and adjust as necessary - as we said, every dog is different. For example, if you use this method and your pooch drops under their ideal weight, up the percentage slightly. You’ll eventually find the perfect amount.

You can split this amount up into two meals per day to keep their metabolism stable - once in the morning and once in the early evening. However, some pups may prefer eating smaller meals, more often. If you can fit it into your schedule, that’s totally fine too.

Feed puppies 10% of their body weight

how much to feed a dog
Once you know how much to feed your dog, it's plain sailing! © Pixabay
 

“Puppies need even more food for their size than adult dogs. This is because we are fuelling the puppy’s growth. Therefore, we normally aim to feed around 10% of the puppy’s weight per day, to begin with. However, this is a very rough guide. Feed according to how your puppy looks and feels, not by the scales.” explains Pippa Mattinson in The Happy Puppy Handbook.

It’s true. Puppies need a lot of fuel to aid their growth - so they’ll need way more food than an adult dog. We’d recommend feeding a puppy regular, small meals throughout the day to help them regular their blood sugar. 3-4 small meals per day is ideal, but you can start to reduce this once they reach 6 months.

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.

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!

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