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How Many Calories Does My Dog Need?

Is your dog eating enough? Or (more likely) are they eating too much? How many calories does my dog need? Let’s break down the basics of how to calculate your dog’s caloric needs, complete with a simple calculator and handy dog calorie charts!

Dog standing next to a bowl of kibble food

What are calories?

First off, what even ARE calories? Calories are simply a measurement of energy. Your dog needs more or less calories depending on how much energy they use in a day.

How many calories does a dog need?

There are many variables that can change the amount of energy your dog needs in a day. These include:

  • Size: How big is your dog? Bigger dogs (like mastiffs) will require more calories than smaller dogs (like yorkies).
  • Activity Level: How active is your dog throughout the day? An indoor dog who spends most of their time chillaxing will need less calories than, say, a working farm dog.
  • Age: How old is your dog? Puppies will proportionally need more calories than older dogs because they need energy to grow.
  • Spayed/Neutered: Was your dog spayed or neutered, or are they intact? Dog’s need about 30% fewer calories after spaying/neutering.

These are all important factors that will determine how many calories your pup needs in a day!

Dog eating from a bowl of kibble food

Calculating Your Dog’s Calorie Needs

There are two steps to calculationing your dog’s daily calorie needs.

  1. Calculate their resting energy requirement based on weight
  2. Factor in other variables, like age and activity

1. Calculating Your Dog’s Resting Energy Requirement

The amount of calories your dog needs in a day is called their resting energy requirement, or RER. RER is a baseline amount of calories they need just to live. As the name alludes to, resting energy requirement is the calories your dog would need it they were to rest all day. If your dog exercises, you’ll need to add more calories into their diet. You can calculate your dog’s RER easily with this formula.

RER = (body weight in kg)3/4 x 70

So for example, let’s say your dog is 20 pounds. First you need to convert that to kilograms.

20 pounds / 2.2 = 9.07 kg

We can then plug that body weight in kilograms into our equation.

RER = (9.07)3/4 x 70

Okay, so how do I plug THAT into my phone’s calculator? If you have an iPhone, open the calculator app and turn it sideways. Enter 9.07, then press the xy button, then enter 0.75, then press =. This will give you (9.07)3/4 = 5.23

RER = 5.23 x 70

Then finish the equation!

RER = 365

This means a 20 pound dog will need a minimum of 365 calories per day, not taking into account their energy level.

2. Estimating Your Dog’s Daily Energy Requirement

So how do you factor in their actual energy requirements for the day? You’ll take the RER that you calculated and factor in other variables, such as age and activity level! The chart below will help you estimate your dog’s daily energy requirements.

VariableCalculation
Neutered Adult= 1.6 x RER
Intact Adult= 1.8 x RER
Puppy (0 to 4 mo)= 3.0 x RER
Puppy (4 to 12 mo)= 2.0 x RER
Weight Loss*= 1.0 x RER
Weight Gain*= 1.2-1.8 x RER
*For weight loss or gain, calculate your dog’s RER using their ideal weight, rather than their current weight. These are crude estimates that will give you an idea of what your dog needs. Breed can also have an effect.
Dog standing next to a bowl of kibble food looking at it suspiciously

Dog Calorie Need Charts

While you can calculate your dog’s calorie needs with the equations above, for quick reference we’ve included some handy tables below! Again, these are all crude estimates and don’t take into account every variable that influences your dog’s calorie needs.

Puppy Calorie Chart (ages 0 to 4 months)

Newborn puppies need a lot of calories! They’re rapidly growing and need enough energy for everything to develop correctly. The first month of puppyhood, puppies will be drinking their mothers milk. When they ween, usually around 3 to 4 weeks, they should be transferred to an appropriate puppy food. Consult the package for feeding amount.

Weight (pounds)Calories (per day)
10600
201200
301500
401800
502100

Puppy Calorie Chart (ages 4 to 12 months)

As puppies continue to grow, they need slightly less calories per day. Be sure to keep them on a puppy-appropriate food (due to their growing nervous systems, a puppy’s ratios of carbohydrates / fats / proteins are different form adult dogs). This table gives suggested caloric requirements based on weight, not taking into account activity levels.

Weight (pounds)Calories (per day)
10400
20800
401200
601600
802000
1002400

Adult Dog Calorie Chart (over 1 year old)

Once your dog reaches adulthood, their caloric needs will remain the same for much of their life! The biggest variable here is simply their activity level.

Weight (pounds)Calories (per day) Less ActiveCalories (per day) Normal ActiveCalories (per day) More Active
10200249298
20335418502
30454567680
40563703844
50665832998
607639531144
7085610801284
8094611831420
90103412921551
100111913991678
Dog standing next to a bowl of kibble food with a thought bubble that says, "does this bowl make my butt look fat?"

Am I feeding my dog the right amount?

If you are concerned that your dog may be overweight or underweight, it is important to consult with your vet to get specific advice on how much food they should be eating. In general, dogs who are at a healthy weight should have an hourglass shape when viewed from above. They should also have a visible waistline and ribs that are not easily seen but can be felt through their coat without pressure.

If you are unsure about how much food to give your dog, it is always better to err on the side of caution and feed them a little less rather than more. Overfeeding can lead to obesity, which can cause health problems such as diabetes, heart disease, and joint pain. Conversely, underfeeding can also lead to health problems due to malnutrition. So, how many calories does my dog need? The answer isn’t always simple, but with a little bit of research you should be able to find the right amount for your furry friend.

Now onto the question…how often should you be feeding your dog?