What Is the Right Amount of Food for a Small Dog?

Small dogs need equally small meals to accommodate their little tummies.
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You might be tempted to give your little pup heaping bowls of food, but that's definitely not what's best for him. Our small canine companions need to be fed according to their weight, size, age and activity level. To avoid creating a portly pooch, feed your small dog only as many calories as he needs to maintain his health and weight at a level recommended by your vet.

Caloric Intake

Not all dogs are created equal, especially when it comes to size and the amount of calories they need each day. The American Kennel Club classifies small dogs as those weighing less than 20 pounds. According to the feeding recommendations of the National Research Council of the National Academies, the average adult small dog needs between 35 and 40 calories per pound of his weight each day. Typically, dry dog food runs about 400 calories per cup, according to Petfinder. This means that a 10-pound dog needs about a cup of food each day, while a 20-pound one needs about 2 cups. This is more than the amount of calories per pound required by larger dog breeds because small dogs have a higher metabolism. Don't feed all those calories at once though; instead divide your pup's recommended portion of food each day into two or three meals to account for your pooch's tiny tummy.

The Age Factor

How much food you feed a small dog is influenced by his age. Young puppies, under a year old, need about twice as many calories per pound than adults of the same or a similar size breed, according to 2ndchance.info. Pregnant or nursing dogs also need around twice as many calories as an adult pup. This means that small breed puppies and mothers need between 70 and 80 calories per pound of weight per day. Older or inactive small pooches need fewer calories than their feisty younger counterparts, anywhere between 25 to 30 calories per pound of weight per day, according to the NRC. Keep in mind that little puppies of large- to medium-breed parents aren't actually small dogs at all, but rather just young pups that need to be fed according to the recommendations for their parents calorie-wise.

Ways to Feed

It won't take long for your small pooch to burn through the small amount of food he can fit in his tummy during one meal. Because small and toy breeds of dogs have a high metabolism, they need frequent, small meals throughout the day to prevent a dangerous drop in their blood sugar level known as hypoglycemia, according to petMD. This doesn't mean giving your pup a huge bowl of food that you refill throughout the day, but rather that you divide his recommended daily portion of food into smaller amounts that you feed to him every morning, noon and night. Alternately, you can leave out his entire portion of a dry dog food for him to munch on throughout the day if he doesn't wolf it all down at once in the morning. Some dogs can self-regulate the amount of food that they eat while others can't and need you to portion out the food accordingly.


Small dogs that are active on the professional show circuit need more calories than those that aren't, around 20 percent more, recommends the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Monitor your pooch's weight using a pet or baby scale. If Fido is getting a bit rounder and heavier than he should, visit the vet to determine the correct amount of food to feed him or to determine if a change to a lower-calorie food might be in order. It's easier to over feed a small or toy breed of dog than a larger one, simply because their caloric requirements are very low. Avoid this by following the manufacturer's recommended feeding amounts listed on your pup's food and consulting with your vet.