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How Much Food to Feed a Dog at Any Life Stage

When it comes to how much to feed a dog, you must consider its life stage, body weight, diet, and activity level.

Are you considering adding a new pet to the family? Wondering how much to feed a dog? Throughout the life stages of your dog, from puppy to an adult dog, Just Food For Dogs has some guidelines to help you out along the way.

Understanding Dog Life Stages

Just like all animals, dogs experience various life stages, and their nutritional needs may change depending on these stages and changing body conditions.

It is also true that your dog’s lifestyle will have an impact on his needs, feeding times, and the amount of food he eats. Dog diet requirements for highly athletic or working dogs will be very different than for a much more sedentary dog… even if they are the same breed, age, and size.

We have broken down dog life stages into four basic categories in order to provide some fundamental guidance. The four dog life stages are:

Note that each of the dog life stages may not necessarily require a dog food change.

Puppies

husky puppies. how much to feed a dog

How much food do you feed a puppy? In general, puppies require a larger quantity of food and need to eat smaller meals more frequently.

Feeding puppies should be done four times daily until they are four months old, three times a day until they reach 6 months old, and then twice a day, just as adult dogs.

Puppies mature at different times, depending on their size. Here is a general time frame for when puppies are typically considered mature:

Small breeds and toy breeds 6-12 months

Medium breeds 6-12 months

Large breeds 10-16 months

Giant breeds up to 24 months

Feeding puppies for maximum growth is not advised. Therefore, free-feeding dogs (leaving a bowl of food out for him to eat at his own discretion) is not recommended. Steady and consistent growth should be the objective as this builds a foundation for future dog health. Excessive feeding will not lead to a stronger, healthy dog. No matter how much you feed your dog, he will only grow as big as he is predetermined to grow.

To determine the right amount to feed your puppy, first, establish what his estimated adult dog weight will be. Feeding a puppy is based on a combination of his size, age, and estimated adult body weight. Proper nutrition is the foundation for his growth, muscle and skeletal formation, immune system, and brain function.

Adult Dogs

german shepherd staring a food bowl

The recommended feeding schedule for adult dogs is twice a day. The predetermined volume of dog food should be divided into two equal portions and fed 8 – 12 hours apart. Adjust the quantity of dog food as needed to sustain a healthy weight.

Adult dogs require enough calories to meet their energy requirements as well as to maintain and repair body tissue. They should be fed pet food based on the dog’s size and dog’s activity level. A very active dog could consume as much as 20 – 40% more calories than the average “maintenance” dog, even though they may be the same size. An inactive dog may need as much as 10% fewer calories than the average “maintenance” dog.

Senior Dogs

what to expect with an aging dog

Dogs age at different rates. There is no exact time when a dog becomes a ‘senior dog’. Just as with any life stage, each dog needs to be treated individually. Here are some estimates of when dogs become senior dogs, based on size:

  • Small dog breeds (dogs weighing less than 20 pounds)—7 years
  • Medium dog breeds (dogs weighing 21 to 50 pounds)—7 years
  • Large dog breeds (dogs weighing 51 to 90 pounds)—6 years
  • Giant dog breeds (dogs weighing 91 pounds or more)—5 years

If your dog has reached his golden years, you have probably noticed the signs, such as a lower activity level and perhaps becoming grey around the muzzle. One of the most common problems at this stage is dog weight gain and obesity. This can be controlled by decreasing the caloric intake as needed.

Seniors require a high-quality, highly digestible protein to maintain good muscle mass. There is no nutritional basis for a “senior” dog diet, per se. Some dogs, senior or otherwise, may have specific dietary needs not addressable by our existing daily or vet support meals. For these dogs (and cats), we offer a Custom Meals Service in which a customized diet is formulated by a veterinarian trained in whole-food nutritional formulations.

These custom meals are designed specifically for your dog in partnership with your veterinarian, based on their medical records and lab work.

Pregnant Dogs

How much do I feed my dog if they are pregnant? Expecting pups require different care. Refer to the feeding guide below.

Dog Gestation Stage

In the first six weeks of a dog pregnancy, a dog does not need any extra nutrition. Just like people, some dogs also experience morning sickness and may avoid eating full meals. If this continues consult your vet.

After the first 6 weeks of the dog’s gestation period, and every week thereafter until the puppies are born, you should increase her food intake by 25%. She should be fed smaller meals more frequently because the puppies may be constricting her stomach. As always, make fresh, clean water accessible at all times.

Dog Lactation Stage

After giving birth, have your dog eat puppy food while nursing. It is important to feed her a nutrient-dense food with proportionally higher nutrients for the nursing process. This will also aid in recovery from the dog pregnancy.

Feeding guidelines: As in the gestation period, she should be fed smaller portions more frequently — 5-6 times per day is ideal.

As soon as the puppies are weaned, she should transition back to her regular adult dog food and be fed at usual mealtimes as she was before the pregnancy.

A Word on Obesity in Dogs

Obesity leads to a slew of health issues for dogs, yet most pet owners don’t even recognize when their pet is not at an ideal weight. In one study, the Association of Pet Obesity Prevention found that 95% of dog owners of overweight dogs incorrectly identified their pet as a normal weight.

It is imperative you avoid overfeeding, monitor daily caloric intake, and get the right amount of food and type of food for your pet’s overall health and wellness. Whether or not you feed your dog fresh food or dry dog food, avoiding or alleviating health problems comes down to dog nutrition.

If you’re still asking yourself, how much should I feed my dog? speak to your veterinarian or veterinary nutritionist.

Related reading: 5 Ways to Help Your Dog Lose Weight

dog at justfoodfordogs kitchen

About JustFoodForDogs:

At JustFoodForDogs we only create what we believe is best for dogs and cats. We start with the highest quality, USDA-certified, restaurant-grade meats, fresh vegetables, and whole grains, all of which are approved for human consumption.

We cook our homemade food for dogs, puppy foods, dog and cat treats, and cat meals in small batches in our own kitchens. This is a critical point as it relates to quality control and commitment.

All of our healthy food for dogs recipes are prepared by cooking our all-natural ingredients to the minimum allowed temperature in order to preserve the maximum nutritional value. Whole grains and fresh vegetables are cooked to a very specific point to preserve nutrients. This way, a dog’s system benefits from the nourishment these healthy dog food ingredients offer.

Our dog kitchens were designed from an empty shell with only one purpose in mind — making the world’s best food for dogs. We didn’t convert some ‘out of business’ restaurant or alter some old catering kitchen, we built our space from scratch, dominated by our dog kitchen, for this sole purpose. Every piece of equipment and its location is strategic to our homemade food for dogs.

“Gentle cooking” is not just marketing jargon. Cooking fresh food for dogs to the minimum allowable temperatures is much more difficult than overcooking everything and putting it in a can or a bag, but your dog will benefit greatly from this process. All of the ingredients in our recipes — meats, vegetables, etc. deliver far greater nutritional value when cooked properly. Undercooked and a dog’s system cannot digest the ingredients (which makes them useless). Overcooked and there is little or no nutritional value remaining. Kick the kibble with us.

This content is for informational use only and does not replace professional nutrition and/or medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. It is not a substitute for and should not be relied upon for specific nutrition and/or medical recommendations. Please talk with your veterinarian about any questions or concerns.