How Much to Feed
This page is regarding how much to feed an ADULT dog (completed their growth). Please go to the How Much To Feed a Puppy page for information on calculating amounts for puppies and growing young dogs.
While every dog is different there is a simple way to figure the starting point for how much to feed your dog. You will need the following information about your dog before you can start:
- Their Current Weight
- Their GOAL Weight
- Their Activity Level
Getting the dog’s current weight is simple. For big dogs take a trip to the vet and use their scale. For little dogs you can use your scale at home. Start by weighing yourself, then pick up the dog and weigh both of you and then subtract your weight to find the dog’s weight.
Please do NOT estimate your dog’s weight. Getting an accurate current weight is crucial to calculating the right amount of food your dog will eat each day.
Let’s use Fido and Glenda as examples. I took them to my vets and used their scale to weigh them. Fido weighs in at 59.5 pounds and Glenda weighs 10 pounds.
Figuring the dog’s GOAL weight is a little trickier. Many people talk about looking at the dog to tell if they are over or under weight but I prefer the FEEL method.
Run your hand lightly over your dog’s side (along their ribcage). If you can EASILY feel each and every rib; if you hand can feel the dip between each rib easily and can feel the tops of the hip bones at the dog’s rear – they are currently too THIN and needs to gain weight (unless you own a sighthound).
If you have to press your hand down on the dogs side rather hard to even FEEL the ribs – your dog is currently too FAT and needs to lose weight.
If you run your hand along the dog’s side and you can feel the ribs without having to press too hard but they are not extremely pronounced – then your dog is currently at their goal weight.
When I run my hands over Fido’s side I have to press pretty darn hard to feel his ribs. Fido is a Fatso and needs to lose weight. Glenda, on the other hand, could use a little more weight on her.
When a dog needs to lose or gain weight I suggest going with no more than a 10% weight change at once. To do a crash diet or intense gain all at once is NOT good for the dog’s system.
So, Fido the Fatso is going to have his goal weight calculated at 10% LESS than his current weight. 59.5 pounds times 10% = 5.95 pounds. I will round that to 6 pounds and feed Fido based on a weight of 53.5 (his current weight of 59.5 minus his 10% weight loss amount of 6 pounds).
If Fido was too thin I would be calculating his goal weight based on a weight of 65.5 pounds (his current weight of 59.5 PLUS a 6 pound weight gain).
That is how I calculate Fido’s GOAL weight.
Glenda is 10 pounds and could use a little more weight so I put her goal weight at 11 pounds – 10 pounds plus 10% (1 pound).
I will keep weighing them both (once a week) until they reach their goal weights. Then I will do the FEEL test again to see if they need to gain or lose more. If they do I recalculate their goal weights and adjust their food amounts accordingly.
Once a dog reaches their goal weight you still need to keep weighing and checking them. You may continue to see a weight loss/gain and so will need to adjust their food amounts.
Judging a dog’s activity level is simple. I set a scale from 1 to 10. A dog that lays around all day, does not get regular long (mile or more) walks and doesn’t run and play in their yard or at a park – that’s a 1 on the scale. Think of an elderly retired racing Greyhound.
A 10 on the scale is a dog that rarely stops moving, going or doing something. Think of a Border Collie that lives and WORKS on a farm. The dog is out moving sheep all day, from sun up to sun down (and maybe even later) and rarely has time (or the desire) to lie around.
Our example dogs, Fido, is a 3 on the scale. He spends more than half his day NOT being active and when he is active it at a lower intensity. He goes for regular 2 mile walks twice a day (I walk slowly so he walks slowly) and plays a bit out in his small yard (chasing his toy for about 10 minutes twice a day).
Glenda is a 6. She’s always busy doing something. Even in the house she’s chasing the cat and throwing her toys around and fetching them. Outside she runs as fast as she can around and around the yard. When I take her for a walk it’s a much faster pace than my walks with Fido and we usually go twice as far.
I use this scale to decide what percentage I should use when calculating their daily food intake:
1 – 2 = 2.00%
3 – 4 = 2.25%
5 – 6 = 2.50%
7 – 8 = 3.00%
9 – 10 = 3.50%
These are just STARTING points for calculating the amount of food your dog will get each day. As I said back at the beginning, each dog is different. My boy Remi ate 4% of his weight in food each day but was not very active. He just had a very active metabolism.
Smaller breed dogs tend to burn more calories than larger breed dogs – even at the same activity level.
The key here is to find a starting point, feed that amount for a couple weeks and check your dog to see how they are doing. If your dog is gaining weight they don’t need – lower their amounts. If they are losing weight they shouldn’t – increase their amounts.
Sometimes you will change their amounts based on the seasons. During the winter I tend to be a homebody so my dogs aren’t as active as they are during the summer. I lower their daily amounts when the weather turns cold and then bring them back up as the weather warms back up.
Watch your dog. Physically check and weigh them at least once a week when you first switch. Once you have them at their ideal weight and their ideal amount of food you can back off the checking.
I still take my dogs in at least once every 2-3 months to get accurate weights on them. A slow weight gain or loss can be the first signs of health problems and if it’s slow enough you might not notice it yourself.
Ok, back to the calculations. Fido, with his 3 on the Activity Level scale, will be getting 2.25% of his goal weight in food each day:
Fido’s goal weight = 53.5
Fido’s percentage = 2.25%
Fido’s Daily Intake = 53.5 * 2.25% = 1.2 pounds of food per day (that’s roughly 19 ounces)
Now that we know Fido will be getting 19 ounces of food per day, let’s calculate how much of each TYPE of food he will get.
I follow this formula:
45% Raw Meaty Bones
50% Muscle Meat
5% Organ Meat
If you are planning to feed fruits and/or vegetables I would make them no more than 5% of the dog’s daily intake and adjust the Muscle Meat percentage by that amount.
That means Fido would get the following:
8.5 ounces of Raw Meaty Bones (rounded 19 * 45%)
9.5 ounces of Muscle Meat (19 * 50%)
1 ounce of Organ Meat (rounded 19 * 5%)
Now I have a starting point for the amount of food Fido would get each day. Let’s look at Glenda:
Glenda’s goal weight = 11
Glenda’s percentage = 2.75%
I know the chart says 2.50% but Glenda is a small dog and she’s at the higher end of that section of the chart and she needs to gain weight so I decided to start her at a slightly higher percentage than the chart says.
Glenda’s Daily Intake = 11 * 2.75% = roughly .3 pounds (actually 4.8 ounces)
I use the same formula to calculate how much of each food type Glenda would get:
2.2 ounces of Raw Meaty Bones
2.4 ounces of Muscle Meat
0.2 ounces of Organ Meat
Now that I have their daily amounts I can move on to the next step – figuring out how to feed them.
If you don’t want to work the math yourself you can use our easy calculator page (coming soon)!