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What food should dogs eat daily?

Your dog’s diet

Feeding your dog the correct diet is really important for their health. Just like us, your dog needs to eat a balanced diet each day to give them all the nutrients they need to keep them fit and active.

Diet also plays a big part when it comes to your dog’s weight, and with the right exercise, diet can go a long way towards helping your dog stay in perfect shape. Being overweight or obese is harmful to your dog’s wellbeing, as it can stop them from being as active as they need to be and put them at risk of certain, serious health conditions.

To find out whether your dog is an ideal weight, take a look at our weigh-up campaign.

What should I feed my dog?

Our vets recommend feeding a high-quality, complete diet suitable for your dog’s life stage. Here are our top tips of things to look for when selecting the right food for your dog:

  • Complete: Always look for a food that is labelled ‘complete’ because this means it contains all the nutrients that your dog needs, in the correct amounts.
  • Commercially available: It’s really difficult to give your dog everything they need in a homemade diet, so we recommend always buying a commercial dog food rather than making your own at home. You can buy these from pet shops, vets or the read our advice.
  • Ingredients: While it’s nice to know what’s in your dog’s food, the ingredients list can be baffling! Rest assured that all ingredients need to legally pass a vet inspection, so it doesn’t matter which you choose, as long as your dog is happy eating it.

If you are worried about which diet to choose, speak to your vet or vet nurse and they will be happy to provide advice on which food is right for your dog’s individual needs.​

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Raw diets

Some owners may decide they wish to feed their dog a raw diet, rather than the cooked variety. If you choose to do so, we recommend choosing one that is complete and commercially prepared, to ensure that your dog is getting the nutrients they need – you can find these available in pet shops and supermarkets. Don’t attempt to make your own raw diet at home, as it’s very difficult to ensure that your dog is getting the correct balance of nutrients in a homemade diet.

If you’re thinking of feeding a raw diet, always consult your vet first so they can advise what’s best for your dog. For more information, read our full advice on raw diets.

Vegetarian diets for dogs

If you’re not a meat eater yourself, it can be a moral dilemma as to what to feed your dog. Dogs are omnivores, which means they can eat both meat and plant-based foods. As long as you buy a complete commercial food appropriate for your dog’s age and lifestyle, your dog will be getting all the nutrients they need whether you’re feeding meat or not. As with any feeding, however, we don’t recommend a homemade diet as it’s harder to make sure your dog is getting all the goodness they need.

If your dog has special dietary requirements, a vegetarian or vegan diet may not be right for them – in this case, speak to vet or vet nurse for advice.

Life stage feeding

Your dog will grow and change throughout their life, and as they do so, their nutritional requirements will change too. Many commercial dog food companies research and design diets for specific ages, to make sure your dog gets the right balance of nutrients, including energy, protein, fats, vitamins and minerals. These are often known as ‘life stage’ diets, as they help to keep your dog healthy throughout the different stages of their life. Don’t forget to change your dog’s diet slowly between each life stage to avoid tummy upsets.

Choosing the right diet for your dog's age

Feeding your puppy

Most dogs will need to be fed a puppy diet while they are growing towards their adult shape and size. Many puppy foods are designed to suit a particular size or breed, as these factors will impact on your puppy’s rate of growth and the nutrients they will need. If your puppy is on a high quality, complete puppy diet that’s designed for their size/breed, they shouldn’t need any additional supplements even if they’re a fast growing or giant breed. Over-supplementation of minerals (such as calcium or phosphorous) can cause bone development problems.

Your puppy will start on puppy food with their breeder, and they should be fully weaned by the time they come home with you at 8 weeks old. It’s a good idea to continue feeding the same food as your breeder to begin with, and try stick to the same feeding routine for the first few weeks. Initially, puppies often benefit from around 3 meals spread throughout the day to help maintain their energy levels – possibly more if they are a small or toy breed. Once they are a bit older, this can be decreased to two meals a day.

As your puppy grows and ages, the amount of food they will need will change. It’s very important to check the packaging for instructions to make sure your dog is getting the correct balance of nutrients. It’s also a good idea to weigh your puppy regularly to check they’re growing at the correct rate. You vet will be able to provide you with lots of advice on which diet will suit your growing puppy, and help if you have any concerns.

Want to know more about feeding your puppy? Read our puppy FAQs.

Feeding your adult dog

Adult dog diets are designed to keep your dog at a healthy size and weight once they have grown up. There are many adult dog diets available, so look for one that will suit your dog’s individual needs and lifestyle. For example, there are diets designed for working dogs, or dogs that have been neutered. You may also need to feed your dog a specific diet if they have certain medical conditions or need to lose weight. If you’re not sure which diet is best for your adult dog, ask your vet for help.

Feeding your older dog

As your dog ages, they need a diet to meet their more mature needs. Dogs are generally considered to be older or mature when they reach about half their life expectancy. This is around 7 years for small dogs and 5 years for larger dogs. There are also diets available for senior or aging dogs, which are often designed to be fed in their last few years of life.

Diets for older dogs are more easily digestible and contain a balance of nutrients that can help to compensate for some of the aging changes dogs can experience. This can include helping to support their joints, and reducing levels of nutrients that your dog’s body might struggle to process when they’re older.

When your dog is aging, it’s even more important to monitor them closely to check how much they’re eating and drinking each day. Eating less, eating or drinking more, having less energy or losing weight can be a symptom of problems such as arthritis or dental problems. If you’re worried, it’s important to speak to your vet for advice.

Dogs with medical conditions

There are certain conditions that can be treated or managed by feeding your dog a prescription diet, including diseases such as kidney disease or diabetes. Some dogs can also develop allergies or intolerances to certain ingredients in their food, with symptoms such as itchy skin or diarrhoea. To help reduce your dog’s symptoms, there may be certain types of food that you’ll need to avoid. Always speak to your vet if you’re not sure what your dog should be eating, and always follow your vet’s advice. They may recommend a diet trial to help with your dog’s diagnosis and management.

Jack Russell waiting by bowl

How much food should I feed my dog?

Feeding your dog the right amount of food is really important, as it will keep them healthy and prevent obesity. Just like us, no two dogs are the same so the type and amount of food your dog will need will vary depending on their breed, type, age, health and lifestyle. A working sheepdog needs much more energy than a smaller dog who spends most of the day indoors, for example!

When figuring out how much to feed your dog, use the guidelines on the packet as a starting point. You’ll need to feed them for their target weight, which might not be their current weight – especially if they need to lose or gain weight to reach their ideal size. It’s a good idea to weigh out their food each day to make sure they’re getting exactly the right amount, and to check that they’re not getting extra food from different members of the household. If you’re not sure how much food you should be feeding, speak to a vet or vet nurse who will be able to help tailor your dog’s feeding plan, and work out whether your dog needs to lose or gain weight based on their body condition.

Watch our video for rough guidance on how much you should feed your dog:

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Our vets also recommend feeding your adult dog twice a day, splitting your dog’s daily food intake into two equal-sized meals. This can be beneficial, as it can help your dog feel less hungry between meals. If you struggle with your dog eating their food too quickly, puzzle feeders or slow feeder bowls are a great way to slow them down!

Dogs who have difficulty absorbing nutrients or maintaining weight may, however, benefit from several small meals a day – always speak to your vet if you’re unsure.

If your dog changes their eating habits or they start to gain or lose weight, call your vet for advice as it could be a sign that your pet may be unwell.

Free feeding

Free feeding is when owners leave food available throughout the day so their dog can eat whenever they like and as much as they like. While this may be suitable for dogs who have very active lifestyles, or those who struggle to maintain a healthy weight, it is not recommended for puppies or other dogs, as they are likely to eat more than they need and therefore develop obesity. There is also a risk that the food might go off if it’s left out too long, especially if your dog is fed a wet food diet.

Changing your dog’s diet

If you need to change your dog’s diet for any reason, remember to do this slowly and carefully wherever possible. Sudden changes in food can cause stomach upsets, so you need to gradually introduce the new food to them and phase the old food out.


It can be tempting to think you need to show your dog how much you love them by feeding them tasty treats, but remember – what might seem like just a couple of biscuits to us, could actually be like you eating a whole chocolate cake on top of your normal meals!

Just like us, giving your dog the odd healthy treat is fine, but feeding too many could cause them to become overweight. Not only that, but as treats are a ‘complementary’ and not a ‘complete’ food, they won’t contain the correct balance of nutrients for your dog in the same way that their routine diet does. Remember that there are lots of other ways to show your love to your dog or to reward them, such as spending quality time with them, playing, a new toy, walkies, or grooming – after all, this is what they will enjoy the most!

If you do decide to give your dog the occasional treat, make sure that their treat allowance doesn’t take up any more than 10% of their daily food, and factor this in by reducing their daily food by 10%, saving it for treats.

Can I feed my dogs bones and other food scraps?

Our vets don’t recommend feeding dogs bones or human food scraps, such as leftovers and bits of meat, as it can cause your dog to put on weight and it can make them unwell.

How Much Food Does Your Dog Really Need?

Surprise! The right amount of food to feed your dog isn’t necessarily what it says on the dog-food bag.


Medically Reviewed by Jenna Stregowski, RVT Updated January 11, 2022


Every pet parent wants to know if they’re feeding their dog the right amount of food. But how do you know when his diet is just right? Here’s a simple test: Take a critical look at him while he’s standing still. Does he have an hourglass figure that tapers in at the waist? (That’s a good thing!) Or has his waist disappeared? (Hint: He’s overweight.) And conversely, can you see—not just feel—his ribs? (He’s underweight.)

If you said «yes» to either of the last two questions, you may need to make some adjustments to your dog’s diet to make sure he reaps the health benefits of consuming just the right amount of high-quality food. Read on for more on figuring out just how much to feed your dog.

dog eating out of overflowing bowl
Credit: FatCamera / Getty

What Happens if I Feed My Dog Too Much?

Simply put: Your dog gets overweight. You may think to yourself, «Well, there’s just more of him to love.» And that may be true, but those extra pounds are not good for his health. If your dog eats too many calories every day, he may end up obese—which means he could suffer from the related health issues that come with that condition, such as osteoarthritis, congestive heart failure, labored breathing, Cushing’s disease, skin disorders, some cancers, a shortened life span, and a reduced quality of life.

Shockingly, more than 50 percent of dogs in the U.S. are overweight, according to the Cummings Veterinary Medical Center at Tufts University. So relying on the dog food bag’s feeding directions or letting your pup eat as much as he wants are probably not good approaches if you want to keep your dog healthy and active for as long as possible.

What Happens if My Dog is Underfed?

He’ll suffer from nutritional deficiencies, lose weight, and develop a dull coat, according to Jessica Romine, DVM, DACVIN, a veterinarian at BluePearl Veterinary Partners in Southfield, Mich. «Plus, without enough calories, he’ll be hungry all the time and may go searching for food in the trash,» says Romine, who is board-certified in veterinary internal medicine. «Even worse, if he’s drastically underfed for a long time he could end up with heart damage.»

How Do Age, Lifestyle, and Health Factor Into the Mix?

Let’s start with age. Growing dogs need more food than adult dogs. And it takes dogs about two years to be considered full-grown, although toy breeds may be done growing by six to nine months, Romine says.

Older dogs, on the other hand, may require 20 percent fewer calories to maintain their ideal weight due to metabolic changes. So they may benefit from eating a food that’s lower in fat and calories. Sometimes, though, dogs lose weight as they transition from old to very old. That’s often because their appetite decreases, maybe due to a diminished sense of smell or taste or difficulty chewing or swallowing. Such dogs may benefit from a higher-fat diet that’s more palatable and includes more calories.

Lifestyle—or how active a dog is on a regular basis—can vary greatly from dog to dog. Compare the energy level of a border collie, who wants to stay busy, with a canine couch potato who is the same age and weight. The border collie absolutely needs more calories than his inactive friend. Other dogs, like hunting dogs, don’t live the same lifestyle all year long, Romine says. «A dog who is out in the fields all day hunting with his owner will burn 25 to 35 percent more calories than during the days of the year when he’s just a family pet. Calculate his feeding amounts accordingly.»

Regarding health, dogs with medical issues or dietary needs may require specialized feeding schedules or restrictions on what they eat. Plus, «Spaying or neutering your dog changes his hormone balance and reduces his metabolic requirements by 25 percent on average,» Romine says.

Wouldn’t It Be Easier to Let my Dog Free Feed?

It would be easier, but it wouldn’t be accurate. Your dog may end up overweight from overeating. «Some breeds, like Labrador retrievers, will eat anything,» Romine says. «Their hunger does not turn off, even if they’ve had more than enough calories for the day.» Households with multiple dogs run into trouble with free-feeding because it’s hard to track each dog’s intake.

How Do I Figure Out How Much I Should Feed My Dog?

Figuring out how much to feed your dog is a little tricky, because breed, age, size, energy level, and health all factor into how often dogs should eat and how much. As you might suspect, larger breeds—like Great Danes and mastiffs—weigh more and therefore require more calories per day than medium and small breed dogs.

Veterinarians and board-certified veterinary nutritionists are expert sources of information about what and how much your dog should eat. A vet will decide how many calories your dog needs by looking at his current weight, his body condition (overweight? underweight? just right?), and the type of food he’s eating. You can do that, too, by using an online calculator.

How Do Online Calculators Tell Me How Much I Should Feed My Dog?

Online calculators provide a good baseline for how many calories your dog should get a day. If you’re wondering which one to use—and your dog is healthy and active—the Cummings Veterinary Medical Center recommends the Pet Nutrition Alliance Calorie Calculator. Although designed for pet industry professionals, this calculator can help you get a handle on how much food your dog should eat every day. You need to key in your dog’s weight, indicate whether your dog is spayed, neutered, or intact, and estimate his body condition by using a sliding scale that ranges from 1–9, with 5 being ideal. You’ll also identify the brand of dog food you use and how many calories per cup, gram, or can it contains. You can find the calorie information on the back of the dog food bag or on the can; you can also do an online search for this information.

Keep in mind that unlike a veterinarian, this calculator is not able to take into account every aspect of your dog’s health and lifestyle. So you may need to tinker with the number of calories and food you give him. Your goal is to feed him to maintain his ideal weight, not his current weight if it’s too much or too little. And take into account his needs may change over time, so keep calculating!

What Counts Toward My Dog’s Daily Calorie Intake?

Good question! A dog’s diet includes everything he eats: pet food, table scraps, treats, rawhide chews, foods used to administer medications, and any other food item that goes in his mouth. Make sure you share all of this information with your vet if you’re working together to determine how much you should feed your dog.

If you like to feed treats to your best friend, reserve 10 percent of his daily calories for them. Stay strong—those puppy dog eyes are mighty powerful—and make sure the main source of calories for your pooch comes from a complete and balanced pet food. That way you know he’ll get the right amount of essential nutrients in the right proportions.

How Often Should I Feed My Dog?

Generally, two or three times a day is the right feeding frequency for adult dogs, depending on the rhythms of your household. If you’re feeding your pooch twice a day, divide his daily total for calories/dog food by half for each feeding. If you prefer to feed him three times a day, divide his daily total by three.

How Do I Know I’m Feeding My Dog Correctly?

Is he healthy, active, and alert? Does he eat what you give him? Is he maintaining his ideal weight? Then you’re doing it right. «If he’s eating the same amount as usual but losing weight, up his calorie level by 25 percent,» Romine says. «If that doesn’t stop the weight loss, something is happening internally and you should get him to a vet.»

Are You Feeding Your Dog the Right Amount?

Are You Feeding Your Dog the Right Amount?

One of the best ways to keep dogs healthy is to feed them the right amount of a high-quality dog food. Feeding your dog too much or not enough can have certain health consequences.

Here’s why it matters and what you can do to determine how much to feed your dog.

Why the Right Dog Food Amount Matters

If you feed your dog too little, they can suffer from nutritional deficiencies.

However, If you feed your dog too much, it will eventually result in obesity and its related health issues, like:

  • Musculoskeletal problems like osteoarthritis, cruciate ligament ruptures, and intervertebral disk disease
  • Congestive heart failure
  • Labored breathing
  • Cushing’s disease
  • Skin disorders
  • Some types of cancer
  • Shortened life span
  • Reduced quality of life

Giving your dog the right amount of quality dog food can help support your pet’s overall health and keep them feeling their best.

How to Find the Right Amount of Dog Food for Your Dog

You need to account for several factors when determining exactly how much your dog should be eating.

Consider the Important Factors

The correct meal size depends on factors like:

  • Type of food
  • Number of meals
  • Body weight
  • Metabolic rate
  • Amount of exercise

Look at the Feeding Guide on the Bag

To start the process, take a look at the feeding guide on your dog food’s label. They are usually presented as a table that looks something like this:

Feeding chart for dogs

Unless stated otherwise, these amounts give you the total that is recommended for your dog over a 24-hour period.

Most adult dogs should eat two meals a day, and puppies often require three or more feedings, so you’ll need to divide the amount in the table by the number of meals you are offering.

Take Your Dog’s Lifestyle Into Account

Combine this information with your knowledge of your dog’s lifestyle to come up with the initial amount of food to offer your dog.

For example, if I had a relatively inactive 35-pound Corgi who had a tendency to gain weight, I might start with a little less food than the table recommends. On the other hand, if my dog was a 35-pound Border Collie who never sits still, I would feed a little more.

Consider Using a Calorie Calculator

Another option is to try using a calorie calculator for dogs, but keep in mind that while these often spit out a precise number, your dog’s actual needs may be as much as 25% more or less.

Determine Your Dog’s Body Condition Score

Whichever method you pick, you’ll have to use a scale or body condition scoring system to fine-tune the amount of food you offer.

Your veterinarian can help you decipher your dog’s body condition score (BCS) and determine an appropriate calorie amount.

In general, dogs who are at a healthy weight:

  • Have an “hourglass” figure when you look down on them from above. The abdomen should be narrower than the chest and hips.
  • Are “tucked up” when you look at them from the side. This means that their chest is closer to the ground than their belly when standing.
  • Have ribs that are not readily visible but are easily felt with only light pressure.

Keep a Record of Your Dog’s Weight Change

Check your dog’s weight every 2-4 weeks and keep a diary of your results. If your dog is inappropriately gaining or losing weight, adjust your portion sizes appropriately. Make sure to discuss these changes with your veterinarian so they can ensure that there are no underlying conditions.

Reassess the Portion Size if You Switch Foods

Every time you change dog food formulas, you will have to go through this entire process again, because the number of calories in the food will be different.

Always Talk With Your Veterinarian

Talk to your veterinarian if you have any questions about your dog’s health or diet. They can help you determine exactly how much food to offer based on the specifics of your dog’s case.

Dr. Jennifer Coates

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