Recommended Portions for Dogs

by Susan Paretts Google
Remember to count snacks as part of your dog's daily calories.

Remember to count snacks as part of your dog's daily calories.

John Howard/Lifesize/Getty Images

If Buster had a say, he'd probably want you to free-feed him from a giant bowl of food all day long. Unfortunately, this would likely result in a very portly Buster, so it's best to portion out his food for him instead. How much you'll feed your pup depends on his size, age and activity level, which can vary greatly from dog to dog.

Calorie Counting

The average adult pooch over 1 year old needs between 25 to 40 calories per pound of body weight each day, the National Research Council advises. Smaller dogs need more calories per pound than their larger counterparts because they have faster metabolisms, meaning that they burn through those calories at a faster rate. The same is true of puppies who have been weaned. Growing pups need double the daily amount of calories as adult dogs of the same breed. Conversely, senior canines need fewer calories because they aren't as active as they used to be and their metabolisms have slowed with age.

Serving Size

The package directions on Buster’s food list general feeding guidelines. If you remain unsure, ask your vet or call the customer service number of the company that made the food. If only calories per serving are listed, go by the general guidelines of the NRC when figuring out portion sizes, using a measuring cup to measure them out.

Dry Food Portions

The average dry dog food contains around 350 calories per cup, indicates an extensive survey of hundreds of brands by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention. Use this information to determine you pup's portions. For example, the NRC recommends that a 50-pound dog needs 1,353 calories per day, which roughly comes out to 4 cups of dry dog food each day, divided into two or three portions. Some foods contain higher amounts of fat and protein, meaning the food contains more calories per cup, up to 550 in some cases. So check your pup's particular food label to confirm its calorie count.
Food developed for seniors and obese pups contains higher amounts of fiber and lower amounts of fat and protein -- to keep your pooch feeling full while providing him with fewer calories per cup. These low-cal foods contain around 280 calories per cup, cutting your obese pup's calories by 20 percent without having to reduce his portions at all.

Wet Food Portions

Canned food tends to be less dense in calories than dry food because it contains much more water. The average 13-ounce can of dog food contains around 350 calories, the same as a cup of dry food, while 10-ounce cans contain around 250 calories, according to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention. Smaller, 3.5-ounce pouches and cans contain approximately 90 calories. Keep in mind that food designed for puppies contains more calories than food designed for adults and seniors.
A 50-pound dog needs approximately four 13-ounce cans of food each day or 15 of the 3.5-ounce packets. So obtain foods appropriate to your pooch's size to avoid stocking your pantry with tons of tiny packets more appropriate for a smaller dog.

Photo Credits

  • John Howard/Lifesize/Getty Images

About the Author

Based in Las Vegas, Susan Paretts has been writing since 1998. She writes about many subjects including pets, crafts, television, shopping and going green. Her articles, short stories and reviews have appeared in "The Southern California Anthology" and on Epinions. Paretts holds a Master of Professional Writing from the University of Southern California.

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