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Optimeal® Blog

Optimeal® Blog

How Many Calories Should My Dog Eat?

By Bridget Reed


Your dog probably loves digging into a good meal. However, as a pet parent, you might not be sure how much food your dog should eat daily. Even the healthiest dog food can cause problems if your dog is getting too much or too little food for their needs.

Like humans, dogs thrive on consistency, and should always eat regularly. Your vet is the best resource if you’re concerned about whether your dog is getting enough calories in their daily meals. They can determine your dog’s ideal healthy weight and steer you toward the right portion sizes for your pup.

The number of calories your dog requires can vary from one pup to the next. Their breed, age, activity level, and medical history can all affect how much dog food they should eat every day.

We have the answers if you’re struggling to find out how many calories your dog needs. Pet health is our top priority, and your pet’s weight is a major factor.

Read on to find out what makes calories so important, how to calculate your dog’s energy requirements, and what steps you can take to keep your dog healthy and full.

What Are Calories?

Before we jump in, let’s cover some of the basics. Calories are a standard unit of measurement that you’re probably used to seeing on nutrition labels and food packaging. However, you might not be sure exactly what a calorie is.

Essentially, calories are a measurement of energy. The more calories a food has, the more energy it provides.

There are two kinds of calories, but one of them is a much smaller unit of measurement and is rarely used outside of a scientific context. Technically, it takes 1,000 of these calories to create one kilocalorie, or kcal. However, when you read a nutrition label or research the number of calories in your food, these kilocalories will usually just be called calories.

In nutrition, one calorie (or kcal) is the energy it takes to raise the temperature of one kilogram of water by one degree Celsius.

You and your dog both need calories to function. They provide the fuel for your body to keep going. However, getting the perfect amount of calories isn’t always easy. Overeating and undereating can both cause harm over a longer period.

Why Does My Dog Need the Right Amount of Calories?

Your dog’s weight and overall health are tied to the calories they consume. Calories aren’t the only important factor; different ingredients have different nutritional values, and some are healthier than others. However, if your dog isn’t getting the right quantity of calories, it’s almost impossible for them to stay happy and fit, even with the best dog food in the world.

Remember that your dog’s total calorie intake includes everything they eat, from regular meals to special dog treats. You might need to cut back on the table scraps if they're getting too many calories.

Overfeeding or underfeeding your dog can have major consequences for their health. While a slight variation in weight is nothing to be concerned about, you should keep an eye on their body condition and be ready to change their diet if they seem to be significantly underweight or overweight.

Underweight dogs will often be weaker and have less energy and could also suffer from vitamin and mineral deficiencies.

Overweight dogs risk many health conditions, including breathing problems, heart failure, and shorter life expectancy. Their muscles or joints may suffer from the additional strain caused by extra weight. If your dog is more than a few pounds over their ideal weight, you should contact your vet and make a plan to reduce their calorie intake to stop the weight gain. 

How Many Calories Does My Puppy Need?

Puppies have different nutritional requirements than adult dogs, and their calorie requirements are often much higher than you’d expect. This is because they’re still growing and need a lot of extra ingredients to keep their development on track.

A good starting point is to feed your puppy nutritious puppy-specific food to give them the extra protein, calcium, and phosphorous they’ll need to grow. Without these ingredients, your puppy will have difficulty developing strong muscles and bones as they age.

Puppies should be fed much more frequently throughout the day, but you can gradually taper down the feedings once they reach the six-month mark. Very young puppies can be fed up to four times a day.

The answer is highly variable if you’re wondering how many calories your puppy needs. Not only do different breeds and dogs have different calorie needs, but you may also find that your puppy’s serving sizes grow along with them. 

Rather than relying on a specific equation, we recommend checking your puppy’s kibble container for recommended servings or asking your vet for guidance on how many calories your puppy needs.

Along with figuring out the right serving size, the best way to keep your puppy healthy is by feeding them nutritious and balanced puppy food. At Optimeal®, we have plenty of great recipes to give your pup the nutrients they need to support their developing muscles and brain. Our dog foods always use meat as a first ingredient and avoid harmful additives such as artificial preservatives and colors.

How Many Calories Does My Dog Need?

When your little puppy grows up, they’ll need to expand their diet with each life stage. Figuring out how many calories your dog needs isn’t easy, but there are a lot of resources out there to help.

Unfortunately, no guaranteed equation gives you the exact number of calories your dog needs. While several rough estimates exist based on your dog’s ideal body weight, you can tweak them to accommodate your pup’s exercise levels and metabolism.

Ultimately, you’re the authority on how much to adjust the formula according to your dog’s needs. If you have an energetic, excitable poodle who loves to run around the house, you’ll probably need to increase their pet food portions over the recommended amount. On the flip side, if your old mastiff is getting a little chubby, you may want to feed fewer calories by reducing the amount of food in their bowl.

If you ask your vet for help, they’ll typically start with an equation to determine your dog’s resting energy requirement or RER. From there, they can figure out the approximate number of calories your dog needs to maintain their ideal body weight, also known as the maintenance energy requirement (MER).

If you’d like to calculate these values with your dog, you’ll need their weight in kilograms. Divide their weight in pounds by 2.2 to convert it into kilograms.

From there, you can plug their body weight into the following equation:

70 * (Body weight in kg) ^ 0.75 = RER

This formula will give you the approximate value of your dog’s RER. This value is the number of calories your dog would need as a baseline without any activity or exercise.

However, this number needs to be multiplied by another number to find your dog’s MER.

The MER is roughly equal to the number of calories your dog should eat daily. However, this number can be much higher or lower depending on your pup’s individual circumstances.

X is usually a value between one and three and can be adjusted to account for your dog’s circumstances. For example, a working dog may use a multiplier of four to account for the energy they need, while a typical neutered dog will use a multiplier of 1.6.


Even when you’ve found your dog’s RER, there’s a lot of flexibility to account for. Their metabolism may be higher or lower than expected, and their calorie count should go up or down to reflect that.

If you’re not as comfortable with going through all these equations on your own, plenty of dog calorie calculators are available online to walk you through the process. All you need to do is add your dog’s current weight and body condition, and they’ll give you an ideal number of calories for your dog to eat daily.

When in doubt, you can also check your dog food container, which should have a chart explaining how much food to give your pup with each serving. However, these numbers can vary by up to 50 percent, depending on your pup.

Remember, these suggestions aren’t rules, and your dog may have unique nutritional needs that aren’t reflected by the standard equations. If you’re concerned about your dog’s weight and calorie intake, your local vet is the best place to get more information and figure out the right amount of food for your dog.

In general, small dogs need fewer calories. Working dogs will often need more. Cold weather can also cause your dog to burn many calories, but they might need less food and more water in extremely hot weather.

The best way to ensure your dog gets the calories they need is by providing them with a healthy serving of suitable, balanced dog food. For example, a small dog can benefit from a breed-specific recipe such as our Lamb & Rice Recipe for Adult Small Breeds

If you have a large dog, you may want to pick up our Digestive Support Salmon & Brown Rice Recipe for Adult Medium & Large Breed instead. It’s a lot easier to get your dog the calories they need if they’re eating a dog breed-specific food with the right nutrients to supply them with energy.

You can check out our full collection of dog foods for every size and age to find a super premium recipe your dog will love.

Filling Up Your Dog’s Bowl

Daily calories aren’t an exact science. Your dog could have slightly different calorie requirements from one day to the next. While there are plenty of equations and guidelines to find an approximate answer for your dog’s energy needs, they can’t account for every possible scenario.

You’re in charge of filling up your dog’s food bowl. You may overfeed or underfeed your dog, but this isn’t the end of the world. 

By getting them on an appropriate feeding schedule and diet with your vet’s assistance, you can help them return to a healthy weight. As long as you stay on track and adjust their meals as needed, you can support your dog’s wellness for many years.


How Many Calories Does a Dog Need | PetMD

How Many Calories to Feed Your Dog Per Day | The Spruce Pets

Dog Calorie Calculator | Pet Nutrition Alliance

Calories: Requirements, health needs, and function | Medical News Today

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