How much food does your dog really need?

Big, small, old, young – every dog has different energy requirements. But how much food does a dog need? Learn about the ideal amount of food for dogs.

    Every dog is different – whether big, small, old, young, sick or healthy, dogs also have very different energy requirements. They satisfy these needs with food. But how much food does a dog need? And what factors determine when enough is enough? Read the following article to find out how you can calculate the right amount of food for your dog.

    Factors in deciding the perfect amount of food

    You already suspect that a little Yorkshire Terrier eats less than a large St. Bernard. But what exactly are the factors that determine how much food a dog needs?

    Characteristics of the dog


    Puppies need a lot of energy because they’re growing. They usually eat more than adult dogs. Old dogs have less appetite. Similar to people, their energy requirements decrease because they’re not that active anymore.

    Size and breed

    Probably the most obvious deciding factor in terms of the right amount of food because you can tell by the size of your dog whether he needs a lot. A large body has to supply more cells with energy than a small one.


    Whether your dog is overweight or underweight is best felt on the dog’s back. If you can feel his ribs and spine but they’re not overly conspicuous, then your dog is at an ideal weight. If the dog is underweight, you should increase the amount of food; you can put overweight dogs on a diet.

    However, you must always make sure that your dog is still getting sufficient nutrients. It’s best to implement an increase or reduction in food in consultation with the vet.

    Level of activity

    The individual character of your dog plays an important role when calculating the perfect amount of food. Does your dog romp around all the time? Does he run or bark a lot? Then he’ll eat more than quiet dogs who see getting out of bed for a walk as torture. The energy requirements due to physical activity are closely related to age, height and weight.

    Special factors in calculating the ideal amount of food


    If your dog is pregnant, new little bodies are growing inside her. Accordingly, the energy requirements of the dog increase. However, you should only provide more food than before from the 4th week of pregnancy. The exact requirements depend on how many puppies she’s having. The necessary amount of food can then increase by up to 30%.

    Age of the puppy

    As previously mentioned, young dogs need a lot of nutrients and vitamins to help them grow. Make it easier for your puppies to start their lives with a healthy diet. If puppies don’t eat, this can be for a variety of reasons.

    Change of coat

    A change of coat is physically demanding for a dog. In order to survive this time in spring and autumn, the dog needs different food than usual to support coat and skin generation: you should increase the amount of essential fatty acids. These are found, for example, in fish fats such as cod liver oil or salmon oil, in animal fats such as beef tallow or lard, or in vegetable oils such as olive and linseed oil.


    When we’re sick, we often eat less – especially if the illness is gastrointestinal. For some illnesses like diarrhoea, a diet is medically advisable. In other cases, the body needs more energy than when it’s healthy. It’s best to talk to your vet about calculating the ideal amount of food for your sick dog.


    A fertile dog has a different hormonal and metabolic balance than a neutered dog. Therefore, it can happen that your dog needs less energy after castration. If you keep feeding him the same amount, he could easily become overweight. So, observe carefully and consider how much food your dog now needs under the new circumstances.

    Characteristics of the food

    Energy content

    Quality is not the same as quantity. It depends on what’s in the dog food. The so-called energy density of the food depends on the amount of nutrients it contains. The biggest source of energy is fat, followed by carbohydrates and proteins. What does the packaging say about the energy density of the dog food? Find out about the individual ingredients in the food at BARF or cook your dog’s food yourself.

    Supplementary feeding or fixed mealtimes

    Always remember that everything your dog eats satisfies his energy balance. So if, for example, you regularly give him treats when going for a walk or let him gnaw on a chewing bone on the way to the vet, the need for “normal” dog food will decrease. Always keep a close eye on how much and what you feed your dog during the day.

    Dry or wet food

    If your dog mainly only eats dry food, he’ll need to compensate for this by drinking water. A dog’s stomach can digest a much larger amount of wet food at once – up to four times as much as with dry food. In the end, however, the body regulates the actual amount of food by drinking and excreting. Dogs that are fed dry food don’t really eat less.

    Calculating the right amount of food for dogs

    Obviously, there are many factors which influence how much food a dog needs. In addition, dog food manufacturers often put very generous portion sizes on their packaging to sell more and cover all dog breeds and sizes. But there are rough guidelines by which you can calculate the perfect amount of food:

    2.5% of the body weight per day

    With puppies and pregnant dogs, this amount can increase to up to 6%; with dogs that aren’t so active or old dogs, the required amount of food can fall to 2% of the body weight.


    • A dog that weighs 10 kg: 2.5% of 10 = 250 g of food per day
    • A puppy that weighs 4 kg: 6% of 4 = 240 g of food per day
    • An old dog that weighs 15 kg: 2% of 15 = 300 g of food per day

    ‍It’s important to understand that these figures aren’t absolute as there too many factors that influence the right amount of food. A vet will be happy to advise you and will, for example, set up feeding tables to provide your dog with the right energy supply. For healthy dog nutrition, it also plays a role that you allow your dog a rest of about 2 hours for digestion after feeding. Ideally, you’ll feed your dog twice a day until the required amount of food is reached. Exceptions such as illness, after being especially active, or even work (e.g. sled dogs) confirm the rule. Try to constantly check your dog’s weight by weighing him so that he has the best foundations for a long, healthy life.

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    The right food, the right insurance

    Did your dog eat too much and throw up on the dress your aunt lent you? Feeding mishaps associated with vomiting or other unpleasant side effects can also often cause financial worries. Dog Liability Insurance will cover these damages up to a predetermined amount. For example, Luko also offers insurance of up to €5,000 for borrowed items. Before buying a dog, it’s best to see how Dog Liability Insurance can protect you from the wrong amount of food spoiling your whole day.