Updated: Feb 26
The amount of food your dog needs each day depends on a variety of factors, including the size, age and activity level of your dog.
There are a few ways to determine how much food your dog needs. One is to look at your dog's weight and calculate how many calories your dog needs per day based on its weight and activity level.
It is also important to make sure your dog is getting the right balance of nutrients. Dogs need protein, carbohydrates, fats, minerals and vitamins. You can find some commercial dog food that meets all of these needs, but there are so many alternatives these days, which we will have a look into in more detail later on.
To determine how much food your dog needs, you should understand a few key terms that are used about pet health and nutrition:
Calorie - a unit that measures energy produced from foods
Kilocalorie (kcal) - the number of calories in a food
Macronutrients - nutrients that the body needs in large quantities, such as protein, carbohydrates and fat
Micronutrients - nutrients that the body needs in small quantities, such as vitamins and minerals
Note: This blog post is the opinion of the author and not professional nutritional advice. You should seek the advice of your Vet or a canine nutritionist if you are worried about your dog's health.
How to calculate your dog's caloric needs
Calculating your dog's caloric needs is the best way to determine how much food they need each day. As mentioned, this depends on a variety of factors, including weight. However, it can be really difficult to get your dog to step on your bathroom scales and stand still. Visits to the Vet usually start with your dog stepping on the scales, so you can use the weight from their last weigh-in.
If you have an average-sized adult dog, for a rough idea, you can start by taking your dog's weight and multiplying it by 50. This will give you the approximate amount of calories your dog needs per day, assuming that your dog is of normal activity level.
For a more accurate calculation of your dog's calorie requirements, and to take into account their activity levels and any health concerns, you should use a calorie calculator like this one by allaboutdogfood.co.uk
If your dog is a large breed or has health problems, you should discuss your dog's dietary needs with your vet.
Which macronutrients are important
Dogs need protein, carbohydrates, fats, minerals and vitamins. These are called macronutrients because the body needs them in large quantities, (Macro = large).
Protein is essential for dogs
Protein is found in meat, poultry, fish, eggs, legumes and grains. Protein provides energy and helps build muscle mass.
Carbohydrates are your dog's primary energy source
They are found in many foods, including root vegetables, fruits and grains. Carbohydrates are a great energy source for your dog.
Fats are essential for the health of your dog's heart and brain. Fats also help maintain fur and regulate body temperature.
Macronutrients may be tiny but are just as important
Minerals are necessary for proper organ function
Your dog needs Calcium to build strong bones and teeth. Phosphorus helps your dog's body turn food into energy, while Potassium is important for muscle strength.
Vitamins are organic compounds
They help the body complete a variety of tasks such as producing hormones and strengthening blood vessels. Dogs need Vitamin A to encourage healthy skin and eyesight.
Your dog needs a balanced diet
A diet that is high in protein, low in carbohydrates and moderate in fats is the ideal balance for your dog. This mimics the diet of a wild animal and most closely meets your dog's nutritional needs.
Choosing the right food for your dog
There are so many types of food on the market these days, it can be hard to decide which one is best for your dog. Here are a few tips to help you choose the right food for your pet:
1. Make sure the food is nutritionally balanced
It's important that the food you give your dog has everything it needs to be as healthy as possible. This means you should choose a food that contains all of the macronutrients and micronutrients your dog requires.
2. Restrict processed meats
While some meat is essential for your dog's health, there can be too much of a good thing. Processed meats contain large amounts of sodium and other unhealthy additives.
3. Avoid foods with artificial colours or flavours
These are often used to make cheaper foods look more appealing to dog owners. However, they are not good for your dog's health and can even be dangerous in large quantities.
4. Choose a food that is appropriate for your dog's age and activity level
A food that is designed for a senior dog or a working dog is not going to be appropriate for a young pup. Make sure you are choosing the right food for your pet's life stage.
5. Try to avoid foods with grains
While some dogs do well on grain-based diets, others can have allergies or digestive problems. If your dog suffers from allergies or sensitivities, try grain-free food. You can read more about discovering your dog's sensitivities later in this article.
What is best for my dog? Shop bought, Home-cooked, or Raw Diet?
There are pros and cons to feeding your dog each of these diets. Here's a look at each one:
Shop-bought food is the most convenient option, as it is ready to feed your dog straight from the bag. It is also nutritionally balanced and contains all of the necessary vitamins and minerals. However, many commercial dog foods are high in carbohydrates and low in protein, which is not ideal for your dog's health.
If you want to cook your dog's food yourself, there are several recipes online that can help you create a balanced diet. Home-cooked food is cheaper than commercial food, and you can control the ingredients that go into it. However, it can be time-consuming to prepare and may not meet all of your dog's nutritional needs.
It doesn't take long to find companies willing to do the work for you, with freshly prepared dog food on a subscription basis. One of the most well-known brands Butternut Box offers "fresh tasty meals, delivered to your door". We have tried them, and let me tell you, Max, our in-house taste tester (a Frenchie, who is a notoriously fussy eater) loves their food!
A raw diet for dogs is made up of uncooked meat, poultry, fish, bone, eggs, vegetables and fruits. It is the most natural way to feed your dog and can be a good choice for dogs with sensitive stomachs and food sensitivities. However, it can be difficult to prepare and there is some concern about the risk of bacterial contamination from raw meat. Embarking on a raw diet for your dog is not an easy task, there is a slow transition period and sourcing and preparing the ingredients can be time-consuming.
We have not tested any raw diets, but there are a few brands of readily prepared and packaged raw food for dogs that keep popping up in the comments on Facebook pages that we follow. If a raw diet is something you are considering for your dog, Facebook groups are a great place to start looking for guidance and to chat with other dog owners who have switched their dog's to a raw diet.
This handy raw food calculator by Bella&Duke can help you work out how much raw food you need for your dog.
What to do if your dog is overweight
Obesity is a common problem in dogs and can lead to a variety of health problems. If your dog is overweight, you should discuss with your vet the best way to help him lose weight.
Some tips for helping your dog lose weight include:
Cutting back on the amount of food you are feeding them.
it might sound simple, but just taking out a spoonful or two of what you normally feed your dog could be enough to help them lose some weight.
Make sure he gets plenty of exercise
You can read more about how much exercise is right for your dog in our blog post here.
Avoiding fatty or sugary foods
It's so easy to give in to their puppy dog eyes when you are eating some delicious human food. But all those little tidbits and treats could be adding on a lot of extra calories to their daily intake.
Give them healthy treats
All dogs love treats! That's an undeniable fact. There are so many healthy options when it comes to dog treats, which makes avoiding store-bought & heavily processed treats easy. You can see our range of natural and healthy dog treats here.
There are so many different considerations to think about when it comes to providing your dog with food, but hopefully, this article has given you an idea of how much food your dog needs. The most important thing is to use your judgement wisely and figure out what your dog loves the most. If you are struggling with finding the perfect food then you should speak with your Vet or a canine nutritionist.
Every dog is different and it could be as simple as cutting back on the amount of food you feed them or as complicated as preparing a raw diet yourself. No matter what kind of food you choose, make sure to read the nutritional information on the packaging so you know exactly what your dog is getting. It can be easy to get wrapped up in commercial pet food marketing, but as we have shown in this article, there are many healthy and affordable alternatives to processed pet food.
What kind of diet do you feed your dog? Let us know in the comments!