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How much should a dog eat? – key principles


What should a healthy dog ​​diet be?

A dog’s diet should be well-balanced, rich in nutrients and meet its energy needs. Too large and too small meals and poor quality food will inevitably lead to various types of diseases, including obesity and diabetes. Therefore, every responsible guardian must know how much and how often his dog should eat.

How to calculate your dog’s needs?

In order to calculate the dog’s energy demand, we can use the DER converter developed by specialists (daily energy requirement), which is the daily energy requirement. It includes the resting energy demand RER (resting energy requirement) and an additional conversion factor k, the value of which depends on the individual needs of our dog.

Counting with a calculator

Resting Energy Requirement (RER)

This is the number of calories that the body needs for basic metabolic processes, i.e. breathing, digestion and heartbeat. RER can be calculated in two ways:

RER = 30 x dog’s body weight + 70


RER = 70 x dog’s body weight 0,75

the latter formula is more accurate and is used by specialists involved in developing diets and balancing animal food compositions.

For example, if our dog weighs 18 kg, its resting energy requirement is calculated as follows:

RER = 70 x 18 0,75 = 611,7 kcal

Daily Energy Requirement (DER)

Once we have calculated the RER, we can calculate the exact daily energy requirement of our pet. The calculation formula looks like this:

THE = k x RER

Where to get the mysterious k coefficient? Depending on the age of our dog, its activity and other factors, its value varies. With its help we can find out, among others: how much should a puppy and an adult dog eat? We must adjust it individually, taking into account the characteristics of our pet based on the developed values:

Puppies (growing dogs – note, in small breeds the k coefficient decreases earlier, in large breeds later)

  • from weaning to 50% of the adult dog’s body weight k = 3
  • 50 – 80% of the body weight of an adult dog k = 2.5
  • 80 – 100% of the body weight of an adult dog k = 2

Adult dogs

  • neutered k = 1.6
  • uncastrated k = 1.8
  • obese, not very active k = 1.4
  • on a slimming diet k = 1.0
  • nutrition in intensive care k = 1.0
  • convalescence k = 1.2 – 1.4

Working or training dogs

  • slightly k = 2
  • average k = 3
  • intensely k = 4 – 8


  • up to week 6 (increases over time) k = 1.8
  • last trimester k = 3

Lactation – depending on the number of puppies

  • 1 puppy k = 3
  • 2 puppies k = 3.5
  • 3 – 4 puppies k = 4
  • 5 – 6 puppies k = 5
  • 7 – 8 puppies k = 5.5
  • 9 puppies k = 6 <

As you can see, the k coefficient is not a value that is determined for a dog once and for all. We must adjust it depending on the stage of our pet’s life.

For example, if our dog weighs 18 kg, its RER (calculated above) is 611.7 kcal and it is an active, lightly training individual, its daily energy requirement will be:

DER = 2 x 611,7 kcal = 1223,4 kcal

However, if for some reason his lifestyle changes (e.g. by increasing the amount of training or, conversely, reducing activity to a minimum), the DER will have to be recalculated to avoid starvation or overfeeding.

The dog is running

How much food should you give your dog?

Commercial food packaging usually includes tables that help determine how many grams of food to give to a dog of a specific body weight. However, the data there is quite indicative, specifying the weight every 5 kg and not taking into account the activity of our pet. Therefore, it is best to calmly determine the daily energy requirement and then calculate how much of a given food your dog should eat in one day based on the proportions. For example, a dog needs 2,000 kcal a day, and 100 g of food contains 115 kcal. We calculate it this way:

100 g (karmy) – 115 kcal

x g (karmy) – 2000 kcal

x = 100g x 2000 kcal / 115 kcal = 1739 g (this is how much a given amount of food our dog needs throughout the day)

You can also use An essential dog guardianin which you can automatically calculate your dog’s energy needs and food dosage.

Visit to an animal dietitian

How many times a day should an adult dog be fed?

This is one of the most frequently asked questions at the veterinary office during the first visit with a new pet. For adult dogs, it is recommended to feed them 2-3 times a day – at regular times. Feeding should be done after a walk, especially in large breeds and deep-chested dogs, to reduce the risk of gastric torsion. It is best if feeding times do not shift by more than half an hour in both directions. A dog’s stomach, accustomed to starting digestion at a certain time, begins to produce acid even when it has not yet received food. Excess acid in an empty stomach can lead to vomiting due to hunger and feeling unwell. It is also worth remembering that small breed dogs, due to their faster metabolism, may need 3 or more meals to maintain energy throughout the day. However, lactating female dogs that need a lot of energy can eat up to 5 times a day so as not to burden their stomach with too large portions.

How many times a day should you feed your puppy?

Puppies have faster metabolisms than adult dogs and their digestive systems digest food faster. For this reason, puppies should be fed more meals depending on their age. During weaning, while still with the mother, there will be 6 to 8 of these meals. When released to a new home at the age of 3 months, the puppy should eat 4 meals, and around the 6th month they can be reduced to 3 times. It should be remembered that they should be spaced quite regularly during the day, at similar time distances.

Puppies eating a meal

How much should a dog eat – a practical approach

While on this topic, we also need to touch on the practical side of selecting the dose of food for our dog. Please remember that we always observe our dog, its figure, activity, well-being and appetite. It may be that in the case of our dog, the above conversion factors will not work, and in addition, the energy demand may change on an ongoing basis, for example due to the ambient temperature. Therefore, in my nutritional practice, I focus primarily on observing the dog and its figure scales BCS. Especially if we are talking about dogs being on BARF diet the cooked diet, where it may look completely different. It is important to remember that well-balanced home-made diets are much more digestible and highly digestible than most commercial foods. I have even had cases of dogs where a dog with moderate activity felt best on a dose that covered its resting energy requirement, i.e. the previously mentioned RER.

Therefore, we should treat the above patterns as a base from which we must start, but ultimately we focus on observing our pet.

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