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The essentials

  • Breed and size — These factors play a major role in determining how much to feed your dog.
  • Think about the big picture, not just meal time — Snacks, activity level, age, and even climate are just some additional factors to be mindful of.
  • A poor diet can significantly impact your pup’s health — A poor diet can lead to nutritional deficiencies, causing obesity, emaciation, allergies, fur loss, and even rickets.

The type of food, your dog’s age, breed, metabolism, amount of exercise, weight, and how often you feed them all play a role in determining how much food they should eat. Whether your dog gets dry or wet food, or a combination of both, they have varying caloric densities, nutrient contents, and ingredients, impacting the amount they should get. 

Here’s what you need to know about how much you should feed your dog.

Dog feeding chart

Not all dog food is created equal. Some foods and brands will have varying caloric densities and ingredients. So, while reading the bag helps you get an idea, you’ll want to also look at a dog food feeding chart. Besides this, speak with your vet to make sure you’re in the right range of feeding. Every dog is unique, so consider their age, size, weight, medical needs, and activity level. 

Here’s a typical feeding guide for the amount of food per day based on your dog’s weight: 

Dog weight in pounds (lbs) Amount of food per day Examples of breeds
Less than 12 lbs ⅓ - 1 cup Chihuahua, Yorkshire terrier, pomeranian
13-20 lbs 1 - 1 ⅓ cups Rat terrier, Pekingnese, bichon frisé
21-35 lbs 1 ⅓ - 2 cups Cocker spaniel, border terrier, beagle
36-50 lbs 2 - 2 ⅔ cups Border collie, English springer spaniel, whippet
51-75 lbs 2 ⅔ - 3 ⅓ cups Greyhound, Weimaraner, German shorthaired pointer
76-100 lbs 3 ⅓ - 4 ¼ cups Doberman, Akita, bloodhound
100+ lbs 4 ¼ cups plus ¼ cup for each 10 lbs of body weight over 100 lbs Mastiff, Saint Bernard, Newfoundlands

👉 Have you recently adopted a puppy? Check out our vet-backed guide on how much to feed them. From knowing your puppy’s exact nutritional requirements to creating a feeding schedule, our in-depth guide gives you everything you need to know.

Factors that can impact how much you should feed your dog

There are a lot of other considerations than just how much food you feed your dog. Certain brands use better, higher-quality ingredients. Additionally, their age, metabolism, breed, activity level, weight, and frequency of feeding will all determine how much food they should get.

Even health status or disease factors, as kidney disease, diabetes, bowel problems, hypothyroidism, etc., factor on weight and metabolism control.

Dr. Bruce Armstrong

Type of food & ingredients

It’s not a one-size-fits-all approach when comparing the type of food and brand. Different brands and types of foods, like wet versus dry food, contain varying ingredients and amounts of calories per cup. 

When it comes to the ingredients in your dog’s food, you get what you pay for. A lot of low-cost foods contain “filler” ingredients that take up more volume but lack the substantive nutrition your dog needs. Review the label and look for proteins. They should be listed first. 

👉 Paying a little more for high-quality food over the long term can help you avoid costly vet bills.


Food quantity will change throughout your dog’s life stages, and changing their food as they age matters. For example, once your dog becomes an adult, you’ll want to change from a puppy to an adult formula. 

The growth-inducing, high-caloric ingredients will be replaced with weight-sustaining, lower-calorie ones as your dog’s energy levels subside. The age of your dog also influences its nutritional needs. Whereas a puppy will need puppy food to support its development, senior dogs may benefit from a senior formula.


As dogs get older, it’s easier for them to gain excess weight. Muscle mass is the key player in metabolism. So, as your dog grows older, naturally, their muscle mass diminishes. Muscle loss is further exacerbated by conditions that impact their mobility, reducing their exercise level. 

👉 Feeding charts don’t consider your dog’s exercise routines or overall health. Start with the provided range in the feeding chart. From there, you can determine how much you need to scale back or up, depending on your dog’s individual needs.


Selecting the right amount of food for your furry companion can also depend on their breed. Different breeds have various energy levels and metabolisms. For example, a high-energy breed, like huskies, Belgian malinois, and border collies, will require more caloric energy requirements than less active breeds, like bulldogs and Malteses. These variations require different caloric intakes for their lifestyle and to maintain healthy weights.

There are several choices for age-related, breed-related, disease-related specific diets to be considered. Also, for working or show dogs or family dogs, they have different feeding quantities.

Dr. Bruce Armstrong

Activity level

Your dog’s activity level is another important consideration in how much food to feed your dog. Dogs that like to lounge around the house, take leisurely sniffs, and stroll burn fewer calories than higher-energy dogs. They have a lower energy expenditure and will require less food to meet their nutritional requirements. 

The same is true for dogs with an active lifestyle or those that get a lot of natural exercise. Whether your dog runs with you, herds sheep (or family members), or moves quite a bit, they’re going to need a little more fuel to keep them going strong.

👉 Dogs in colder climates burn significantly more than those in warmer ones, so they often require more caloric intake (i.e., food portions).

Current weight

Every dog likes to snarf down food and probably would indefinitely if we weren’t there to stop them! But overfeeding can lead to bloat if they eat too much in one sitting, or obesity and other health-related problems down the road. 

A body condition score (BCS) chart is a great tool to help you make sure your pup is at an ideal weight. Depending on your dog’s weight, your vet may suggest tailoring the amount of food you feed, especially if they are overweight or underweight. There are also specifically formulated foods to help improve your dog’s weight.

Choosing the right feeding style

Choosing the right type of feeding style for your dog will largely depend on your dog’s personality and your schedule. You’ll also want to consider their age and breed. For example, puppies should not be free-fed, but adult dogs might be able to. 

There are different types of feeding styles, like once-a-day feeding, free feeding, and scheduled feeding, with various benefits and drawbacks.

Once-a-day feeding

Although once-a-day feeding is popular amongst some pet owners, it can lead to anxiety in overeating in dogs. One large feeding can also contribute to bloat in larger dogs, a fatal condition. This can lead to excessive drooling, stomach pain, vomiting, increased heart rate, and shock, among other things. 

Once-a-day feedings may improve cognitive function and decrease the likelihood of gastrointestinal, dental, and other organ disorders. However, the true benefits of this are unknown. Some dogs may also develop behavioral issues brought on by hunger, such as whining in anticipation of food or aggressiveness when food finally comes

Free feeding

Leaving food out throughout the day is called free feeding. While this may be the easiest method, it doesn’t work very well for most dogs. A lot of dogs will eat however much food is in front of them, even if it’s too much for their bellies to handle. 

Many free-fed dogs become obese, and if they’re used to this method, it makes it much harder to switch their feeding schedule if needed for medical conditions. Scheduled feedings established early on make future dietary transitions easier in the event of a medical condition.

Some dogs may not care about food much and may nibble at it throughout the day. In this case, this method might work well for those types of dogs.

Scheduled feeding

Veterinarians recommend feeding adult dogs twice a day, morning and evening. This will help keep them full and happy throughout the day. Like humans, dogs enjoy routines and predictability of regularly scheduled mealtimes. This type of feeding gives them structure and security, knowing what to expect and when, reducing anxiety and stress that can be associated with feeling hungry. 

An empty stomach for most of the day can lead to nausea and vomiting, or bilious vomiting syndrome (BVS). BVS results from dogs not being fed often enough, usually occurring late at night or early in the morning before they eat, usually throwing up frothy yellow bile.

Regular feedings also make it easier for your dog to adjust to changes in the home since they know to expect food at certain times. If you’re not sure what method will work best, speak with your veterinarian.

Tips for feeding dogs

The most important thing about feeding your dog is that they’re getting all of their nutritional requirements met. Not all dog foods are created equal. But you can do a few things to make sure you’re feeding the right amount. 

Using a calorie calculator, slowly increasing the amount of food, reading the dog food label, making sure it meets the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) standards , and limiting treats are all ways you can help decide how much to feed your dog.

Use a calorie calculator — A calorie calculator can be a great way to make sure that your dog is getting the right amount of nutrients. While you can use the food label as a guide for how much to feed, you may need to adjust it based on your dog and their specific needs.

Increase food amount slowly — If you’re unsure whether your dog is getting enough food or is getting too much, try starting on the lower end. If your dog is begging and showing signs of being hungry, add in ¼ cup of food, slowly increasing the amount you feed.

Read the dog food label — The dog food label can tell you lots of things about feeding your dog, like the amount of essential nutrients and ingredients and the nutritional adequacy statement proving the food provides a certain level of nutrients. It also usually includes feeding directions and a calorie statement.

Make sure it meets AAFCO — When deciding what and how much to feed your dog, it’s a good idea to make sure it meets AAFCO standards. Although they don’t regulate, approve, or certify pet foods, they establish guidelines that manufacturers should follow. It includes things like a guaranteed analysis, a complete and balanced statement, and feeding directions.

Limit treats — Treats should only make up 10% or less of your dog’s diet. Limit their treats to avoid them becoming overweight. Healthy treat alternatives and dog-safe human food, like vegetables and fruits, are good substitutes. You can also try using their dog food as a treat since it’s already complete and balanced.

Many variables come into play when determining how much to feed your canine companion. There is no one-size-fits-all approach. Your dog’s age, weight, activity level, frequency of feedings, and even the kind of food they eat all matter. If you’re unsure if you’re feeding your dog the right amount, speak with your vet for tailored advice to your unique dog, their needs, and specific situation.

Frequently asked questions

How do I calculate how much food my dog needs?

Aside from looking at the dog food bag label to calculate how much food your dog needs, you can also use a calorie calculator. You should also make sure to take into account your specific dog and their current weight. To get the best idea of what to feed your dog, speak with your vet. They will recommend how much food to feed your dog based on their individual characteristics and situation.

How much canned dog food should I feed my dog per day?

Wet food and dry food have different volumes and moisture levels, so it’s not an easy 1:1 ratio when comparing portion sizes. It’s much easier to measure out for a single type of food than to try to do the math for converting wet to dry food and vice versa. Your best bet is to ask your vet to determine the appropriate amount to feed.

How do I know if I’m feeding my dog enough?

Visible signs like seeing their ribs, hips, and spine can indicate that your dog needs more food. If they are begging constantly or seeming hungry immediately after eating, that could also mean they need more calories. Look for changes in skin and coat and bathroom habits. A dog’s ideal weight is when the ribs can be felt with minimal fat, and a clear upward tuck of the abdomen is evident. Your vet can give you a better idea of if your dog is a healthy weight.

Is it OK to feed a dog once per day?

While some dogs may benefit from being fed once per day, it’s recommended to feed most dogs at least twice per day.

Why does my dog act like he’s starving all the time?

Some pups are “live to eat” dogs. But aside from not getting enough food, if your dog is acting like they are starving all the time, it could be symptomatic of a more serious problem. Contact your vet, especially if it’s accompanied by symptoms like increased thirst, diarrhea, vomiting, changes in weight, and eating non-food items. These are cause for concern and may indicate other health issues.