Food For Thought – How much to feed your dog

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Do you find that your dog isn’t eating all the food in its bowl or that people are always commenting on how overweight your dog is?   Well there might be a simple solution.  You might just be over or under feeding your pet. How much to feed your dog is influenced by everything from the breed, age and sex─ to the exercise level and the general health and weight of your dog.

The suggested feeding chart on the back of pet food bags is really only a suggestion and is based on the average caloric need of a dog by weight. You can have two dogs from the same litter and one may need almost twice as much food as the other. Pet Food companies need to keep in mind dogs that need more calories (hard keepers), when they make the feeding chart. Most dogs won’t eat as much as listed on the bag; this is especially true for breeds that tend to be easy keepers like Labrador Retrievers or Greyhounds.

Most dogs, unlike humans, tend to be self-regulators in regard to caloric intake.  Once they meet their caloric needs they will often stop eating. Don’t mistake this for not liking the taste of the food. One of the first things you learn in canine nutrition is that a normal, healthy dog will not starve himself because he doesn’t like the taste of the food. This is a concern when you switch from a poor quality food to a super premium pet food.  Your dog may need 3 cups or more of a poor quality food to meet your pet’s daily caloric needs. Many poor quality diets have a digestibility of around 65%. If you switch them to a better quality food with a higher digestibility (80%) 3 cups will probably be too much food and after a few days your dog will stop eating.  Not because they don’t like the taste of the food but because they don’t need that many calories. In fact one of the major causes of loose stools in dogs is simply over feeding.

It is suggested that puppies be fed multiple times a day─ since they have small stomachs and can’t eat a large amount of food in one sitting—this also works for hard keepers.  It is suggested to give your dog two smaller meals a day rather than one large meal; your dog will digest it better.

Exercise is also critically important to your pet’s health and to the owner’s health too!  A dog that gets proper exercise will be calmer at home and less stressed when left alone.  Exercise can improve both joint and bone health as well as heart and lung function.  Who wouldn’t want to take a nice healthy stroll with man’s best friend?


  • Be careful exercising your dog in the heat.
  • Females are more prone to heat stress.
  • It is not recommended that you feed your dog prior to exercise (dogs will run hotter because blood that could be sent to the extremities to aid in heat dissipation will be channeled to the stomach to aid in digestion)
  • Dogs are part of your family, treat them like one.

Rob Downey, President of Annamaet Petfoods
His work has been published in journals such as Journal American Animal Hospital Association in the book Nutrition of the Dog and Cat and his work was cited in the 2006 NRC Nutrient Requirements of Dogs and Cats.

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This is a featured article from Fall 2009 Cutter’s Mill Newsletter. Click Here to download this PDF

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