How much to feed a dog: a science-based guide

As a veterinarian, the most frequently asked question during checkups is “how much food for a dog”, some owners think the answer is simple but it is actually difficult to answer accurately.

In this article, I will explain why the answer is not so simple and I hope to help homeowners better calculate their dog’s food portions.

Precise portion estimation

Obesity in dogs is the most commonly diagnosed nutritional disorder, with estimates ranging from 25% to 40% of affected dogs (1, 2, 3, 4). Since obesity is directly related to the calories consumed, it is of fundamental importance to know how much to feed a dog.

Preventing obesity by avoiding overeating is the best way to keep dogs healthy by promoting longevity. A study by the British Journal of Nutrition found that lean dogs lived an average of two years longer and suffered significantly less from obesity-related diseases than those who were overweight (5, 3, 6, 7).

It is extremely difficult to generalize the energy needs of dogs because of the wide variety of sizes, sizes and activity levels observed in different breeds. The necessary calories can vary even in dogs of the same size and age due to their age, sterilization, castration, muscle mass and various other factors (8, 9).

Guidelines for Dog Food Labels

The guidelines dictated by the American Association of Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) in 2013 require dog food manufacturers to indicate their calorie content, which allows owners to calculate their portions more consciously, without further complicating the following dilemma. Feeding a dog is the fact that the calories of dog foods vary significantly for each cup of kibble.

Some foods only contain 226 calories per cup, while other brands contain up to 537 calories per cup, which means that a cup of one type of food can have as much energy as 2 cups of a cup. other. It is therefore important to carefully evaluate energy intake. food so you can control the amount of calories.
The declaration of caloric content on the dog food label is generated by complex calculations or digestibility tests.

Do not use dog food labels alone

When calculating caloric content using an equation, it is natural to underestimate the calories in highly digestible and high quality foods and to overestimate the calories of poor quality, low digestible foods. dogs. That’s why digestibility studies help determine the caloric content of foods, as also described in the AAFCO’s “The Business of Pet Food” publication.

In addition to the calories per cup, other dietary indications on dog food labels are required and are usually calculated in grams of recommended kibble for body weight; These feeding guidelines are based on research conducted by the National Research Council (NRC) on the energy requirements of dogs.

Many studies suggest that the amounts on dog food labels are overestimated (11, 12, 13), which may be related to the fact that many dogs are more sedentary than the dogs used in research and some even suggest that NRC is unable to explain the enormous variation in requirements between different breeds (14).

Feeding guidelines also assume that dog food is the only source of food, but this is not really the case because they are often given raw hides, dental sticks or a few table bites. then decrease the serving of kibble and you do not realize how fast you add extra calories.

Formula for good nutrition

Since caloric requirements, caloric content, and even caloric content vary enormously, one begins to understand how difficult the answer to the “easy question” is: how much food to feed a dog?

Scientifically, the equation of energy needs in dogs is defined as follows:

Resting energy requirements measured in Kcal per day = 70 (body weight in kg) ^ 0.75. This equation should provide the minimum amount of calories needed for rest.

Lean diet

As a veterinarian, when they ask me how much to feed the dog, my answer to this complicated question is: feed enough; let me explain to you.

Following your dog’s lean diet is the best way to determine the exact amount to administer using the envelope label as a starting point and keeping in mind that this amount is often overestimated.

It is also important to indicate the amount shown for a healthy weight of your dog, and NOT the current weight, if you have an overweight dog. Give him the appropriate amount and check his condition very carefully.
A dog with a normal and healthy physical condition must have a defined waist circumference, seen from above, the abdomen must bend upwards from the rib edge to the hips if viewed from the side and the ribs should be easily palpable but not protruding.

An overweight dog has a layer of fat that covers the ribs, making it difficult to palpate, the waistline extends directly from the edge of the chest through the hips without returning backwards seen from the side, but seen from above, it is not possible to notice the classical form. Hourglass.

If it seems to you that the dog grows by administering a certain quantity, it is generally advised to reduce it by 20%, whereas if after a few weeks, the ribs seem more prominent, it is advisable to increase it by 20%. do not worry if the dog needs very different amounts from those on the label.