How to Estimate the Right Serving Size for Your Dog

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The verdict is in.  And the results confirm what you’d always thought… Overweight dogs don’t live as long as normal weight dogs.

According to a recent study published in a respected veterinary journal1 overweight dogs suffer from a higher incidence of these life-shortening diseases…

  • Hypothyroidism
  • Oral disease
  • Diabetes
  • Pancreatitis
  • Cancer
  • Arthritis

So, how much should you feed your dog to ensure his health?

Well, don’t just blindly follow the directions on a dog food package.  That’s because manufacturers like to “hedge” by suggesting an overly broad “range” of serving sizes.

For example, a bag of kibble might read… “for dogs from 5 to 15 pounds feed 1/2… to… 1-1/2 cups a day”.

Wow.  That’s a monstrously wide range… a 200% variation!  It’s simply not precise enough.

If you follow that advice you’ll be guessing.  You could be significantly overfeeding… or underfeeding your dog.

Misjudging a serving size by even a small amount… and then feeding that same amount day-in and day-out… multiplies the error.  And it could have a devastating effect on your dog’s health.

Don’t Guess… Follow These Three Easy Steps

When deciding how much to feed your dog… never guess.  Be scientific.  Always calculate and measure.

Use our Dog Food Calculator and follow these three simple steps…

  • Step 1 – Enter your dog’s ideal weight
  • Step 2 – Select your dog’s life stage and activity level
  • Step 3 – Insert your dog food’s “calories per serving”

Then, use a measuring cup or a scale… and feed the calculated amount.

Of course, keep in mind… results are approximate.  Certain breeds and conditions may require some adjustment.  And please remember… the calculator assumes your dog is at or near his ideal weight.

So, be flexible.  If your dog appears to be overweight… or underweight… substitute something closer to “ideal” for your weight entry.

By the way… the calculator is for adult dogs only.  Puppies require their own special feeding program.

Once again… never guess.  Always measure each serving.  And check your dog’s weight once a month or so.  Over time, you’ll be glad you did.

Learn how to determine your dog’s ideal weight.

Here’s an easy way to weigh your dog.

Use our Dog Food Calculator to reveal your pet’s recommended serving size.

  1. International Journal of Applied Research in Veterinary Medicine, Vol 4:2, Nov 2, 2006, pp 177-186
  • Gina

    thanks going to use the calculator https://youtu.be/Ecryd3RFw7A this helped me potty train my pup

  • http://www.lindsaypevny.com Lindsay Pevny

    Chop up some veggies, carrots and apples that your mom can give as healthy treats.

  • Corey Smith

    For me, measuring the amount of dog food to give to my dog is something that I rarely do. Mainly because I have been unaware that there has been a measuring label on the food bag that my dog eats from. It seems like there have been plenty of studies as to how much dogs get a recommended amount of dog food. http://www.geelongfarmsupplies.com.au/dog-food-promo

  • Crazy4dogs

    Except for using the scale I do the same thing. I just tend to buy the patties or cut the rolls into the meal size portion. Of course with big dogs, I have a little more room to play with portion size. :)
    The only other difference is in the winter I often choose a lower fat kibble when I know walks are going to be difficult.

  • Shawna

    You can either pick the foods that have similar nutrient profiles or you can check body condition. I like to feed a wide variety of foods and I’ve learned with trial and error how much each of my six (I had eight but lost two earlier this year) should get. I weigh each meal with a scale (I have toy breeds so I use a tea scale as it is more precise for the smaller amounts). When I’m feeding a really low fat diet (like OC goat) I might feed a little more or add some extra fats to the meal – coconut oil etc. When I’m feeding higher fat raw foods I may give them a tiny bit less.

    Feel your pups ribs and hips etc before starting the diet and if you notice a little weight coming on then decrease the amount feeding (or look for foods lower in fat). If getting a little ribby then add a little more. At least that’s how I do it.

  • Kiki

    I’ve got my 14lb dachshund mix on a rotational diet of Zignature Kibble & various canned brands. I’d eventually like to add in raw to her rotation, but with so many food types how do I make sure I’m not over or under feeding?

  • billmotley

    Hi – Did you find any good resources for calculating with non-labeled foods?

  • Lori Olin Thorn

    Is there a site where you can calculate a home made dog food? I’m using this recipe until it’s gone, then kibble, etc. : http://www.cockersinneed.com/puppystew.html

  • ave

    i have a dog

  • Bob K

    Shannie – Tell your Mom to read the bag and use a measuring cup for the dogs food. Obesity is a problem with humans and dogs. Is your mom overweight too? Remember ” Portion Control” and exercise. Why don’t you feed the dog.

  • Shannie

    My mom feeds my dog WAY too much food including treats. The treats we give our dog are huge. Our dog is over 80 pounds and she is a 5 year old Labrador. Please help. My mom just yells at me and say asks my dad. HELP!!!!

  • Pattyvaughn

    It’s not right on with my dogs but I think it’s a great starting point. I think some people are unrealistic about their dogs activity level and some have no concept of a fast metabolism. Other don’t realize you have to use it differently for a puppy.

  • Crazy4cats

    Really? I think this calculator worked great for a starting point on how much to feed my dogs. The tricky part is finding out how many calories per cup the food has. And to make sure that you subract any treats or toppers you put with their food. Good luck!

  • kim

    Not right at all

  • helenna

    do not do it ok

  • helenna

    do not it ok

  • helenna

    stop it ok

  • helenna

    do not do it ok it is bad for a dog

  • Pattyvaughn

    Every dog food is different. They range from 200+ to 800kcals. I didn’t know TOTW had one called Salmon, would that be Pacific Stream?

  • InkedMarie

    The information will be on the website for totw.

  • Crazy4cats

    You can go directly to their website to find that information.

  • Patricia Folsom

    How many calories in a cup of dog food…..say Taste of the Wild Salmon.

  • http://www.dfwpugs.com/ sandy

    Go to homemadedogfood.com and look at the cooked chicken and rice recipe. You really need to give a vitamin and some oil because plain chicken and rice is nutritionally deficient for a dog. Judge the amount he eats by monitoring his body condition, not necessarily his stool since there a couple factors that affect stool. Keep track of his body condition score, body measurements and weight and amount of food you’re feeding in a food diary and adjust his food if needed before he starts looking like #4 and #5 in the body condition score chart. Supplemental probiotics might help his digestive system.

    http://www.petobesityprevention.com/pet-weight-check/

    http://homemadedogfood.com/chicken-and-rice-dog-food-recipe/

    http://probiotics.mercola.com/probiotics-for-pets.html

  • Kay T.

    I have a one year old Shorkie that weighs 8 pounds. I feed him boiled chicken and rice because hard dog food gives him the runs and canned gives him greasy black stools. How much should I feed him? He was thin but has really filled out. He looks about the right weight now- a little on the heavy side. I don’t know how much I should feed him I’ve only been guessing. I’ve been judging by his bowel movements. How many (heaping) tablespoons should I feed him?

  • DAmom054

    Thank you.

  • Pattyvaughn

    My 14lbs JRT get about a half cup a day, but it depends on the calorie count and the individual dog, so no one can really answer your question, except to say keep a close eye on her weight and body condition and adjust as needed.

  • DAmom054

    How much homemade dog food should I feed my 14 y.o. 7 lb., toy poodle per day. She’s been eating about three heaping tablespoon full twice a day. I don’t know if this is too much or too little. She’s is old, blind and deaf but still seems healthy, happy and gets around the house just fine.
    Hope to hear from you

  • Pattyvaughn

    Oh DUH!! ITA about the digital kitchen scale. You should see me dividing a pouch of Darwins between 3 dogs. I’m vacationing in your neck of the woods in July and I’m having a hard time seeing my husband measuring the food right if I can’t tell him a precise weight and give him a way to weigh it.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1140685339 Betsy Greer

    LOL! I Totally Agree!

    I was even looking at digital kitchen scales on Amazon thinking that might not be an unreasonable route to go: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B007TCFE0I/ref=ox_sc_sfl_title_6?ie=UTF8&psc=1&smid=A3S18O2QUU3XP2

  • Pattyvaughn

    Angel can gain 2 lbs in no time at all from just 5-10 pieces a meal too much. I had to look and look for a scoop that was exactly the right size for her. An old fabric softner cap was perfect. I pray I never loose it. BTW, what is ITA?

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1140685339 Betsy Greer

    ITA, Patty! I am quite certain that Bella’s weight gain had a lot to do with my eyeballing her portions. I’ve since started measuring her food out and can see the difference. When portions are so small, a tiny bit too much makes a huge difference. Good advice, my friend. : )

  • Pattyvaughn

    I have an 11 year old female JRT that gains weight at the drop of a hat. She is in good weight at 14 lbs and maintains that on 1/2 to 2/3 cups of foods like Brothers Complete, Orijen, Earthborn, and Natures Variety Instinct. She keeps very good muscle mass. Feed yours a good quality food for the weight she should be, talk to your vet before you start exercising her, and then slowly increase her exercise. If she is anything like mine, you will be surprised by how fast she gets back in shape. Just one more thing, make sure you are measuring her food every time. These little guys need such a small amount of food that if you just eyeball it and are off by a small amount, she will regain the weight.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1140685339 Betsy Greer

    Aww, what a bittersweet story. I’m so sorry for the passing of your friend. It sounds as though Jack was probably a very good companion during a difficult time when your friend’s mom was probably feeling alone.

    What are you planning to feed her for starters? Feed her the ration for what she should weigh rather than that for her current weight. I know you know that as you mentioned cutting her portion size by 60%. I’m a crazy dog food nut and have a 1-1/2 year old Cavalier that needed to lose a couple of pounds…, although it can certainly be done with “regular” foods, I just had to trying Orijen Senior and it worked great; so now, I have no hesitation recommending it to you as well.

    Also, I’d check with the vet on exercise before I started doing much more than taking her for a walk. Take it easy and start her out slowly. Your friend was likely unable to exercise your pup late in her illness.

  • TubbyMAG

    Just got my Jack back from a friend who’s mom who had cancer. And she passed away. While I left the girly figured girl
    3 years ago I thought I was helping her out to help my friends mom through a ruff time in life, which it did.
    The issue that I have now I have a very overweight jack, who was loved too well with treats and wrong dog food. I need to get her back on track and lose some dog pounds. She is a short legged dog and about 11 years old now. Three years ago she was around 12-15 lbs. She’s over 30-32 lbs. now. Can I be safe to say I can cut her intake 60% and slow start the walking and running. And a total change in diet dog food with no treats.

  • melissa

    Marie-

    I would contact the vet who’s regime you are following. Porto-systemic liver shunts can kill a dog, and I would be leary of changing anything since the dog is otherwise doing fine. While he needs to gain weight, there is probably a preferred way of doing it for a dog with this medical condition. Good luck-

  • http://DogFoodAdvisor.com Mike Sagman

    Hi Marie… Liver disease can require measured dietary protein regulation. Unfortunately, since I’m not a veterinarian and due to the biological uniqueness of each pet (especially for dogs being treated for a liver condition), it would be inappropriate for me to provide specific health advice or customized serving size recommendations.

    Your vet should be able to provide you with more precise feeding instructions. In any case, you may wish to check back for a possible response from one of our other readers. Wish I could be more help.

  • Marie Pressman

    Hello, I hope you can provide insight to confusing and conflicting info on protein. I have two mini dacshunds. One was diagnosed with a liver shunt which we are treating medically with homemade low protein recipies and holistic remedies which have significantly improved his health in a matter of days on this new regime. Our vet prescribed no more than 25% protein per serving for my dog with the liver shunt and 50% protein per serving for my healthy dog. However, I have read so many conflicting data on protein including comments from another vet we were going to who said that was way too much protein for either dog.

    Also, right now the liver shunt needs to gain weight. A calorie counter suggested approx 300 calories per day or 1.7 cup of food. Right now I am feeding him 4oz of cooked food two times a day for a total of 200 calories/day. It seems like alot food for him. Should I try to up the quantity and see if he will eat it.

    My healthy dog is over weight at 14 lobs and in an attempt to help her lose some weight I am feeding her 2oz of cooked food two times a day for a total of 230 calories/day. She does not seem to be significantly hungry for more but does that sound like too little food if the calorie requirement for a dog her size is approx 300 per day.

    Thanks for your help.

  • http://DogFoodAdvisor.com Mike Sagman

    Hi Sheila… You would be correct to assume the calorie function of any calculator does not need to be adjusted for whether a food is dry or canned. But please do not put so much faith in these calculators (or a manufactuer’s feeding instructions. They are both only estimates. The best way is to periodically titrate every food to adjust serving size and adapt to your dog’s weight.

  • Sheila

    Hi Mike or anyone that wants to comment.
    I have an ongoing battle with my Norwich as far as weight control. I was rotating HK foods, but it became too expensive as I have NRG (also rated 4*) accessible more readily and less expensive. My dog did lose about 3 lbs. on a kibble diet (used Acana L&F) and was at her 12lb mark. We have had some hot weather and walks are shorter. Long and short of this is, using the calculator based on overweight as opposed to typical can I use the same read out (.50cups per day) based on 12lb ideal (she is back to 14lbs), overweight and 500 calories per cup, which works out to .50 cups per day without compromising nutrition. She presently eats 2/3 cup per day (330 calories). Would it be correct to assume the figures given by the calculator don’t necessarily apply to kibble only?
    Thanks, SZ

  • melissa

    Bryna-

    Not enough info-how many kcals per cup or kilogram and how much does your dog weigh?

  • Bryna Crews

    Hello, my name is Bryna and I have a Border Collie x Springer Spaniel. I have just weighed how much he has a day and it’s 100g twice a day. He is also old and neutered. I walk him as much as I can everyday. Please let me know if this is too much or too little. Unless it is ideal, how much should he have twice a day?

    Many Thanks,
    Bryna

  • http://DogFoodAdvisor.com Mike Sagman

    Hi Martha… Uh-oh. That sounds like a vitamin supplement. Sorry I can’t be more help as I only review dog foods.

  • http://Fido-vite.com Martha Brown

    Do you think Fido-vite are good for dogs?

    Thank you,

    Martha Brown

  • http://DogFoodAdvisor.com Mike Sagman

    Hi Jacqueline… That’s a very good question. But unfortunately, unless you know the exact number of calories per serving for the recipe you are preparing (a huge “variable”), it’s impossible to compute a suggested serving size. It’s a “trial and error” process.

  • Jacqueline

    I have a 18 month female Terrier/Catahoula that weighs about 70 pounds. I feed her dry dog food twice a day 1 3/4 cup per serving. I would like to switch to homemade recipes, e.g. brown rice, chicken/turkey and potatoes. How much per serving is sufficient. Thank you.