How Many Calories Does My Dog Need?


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There are several good reasons to know how many calories your dog needs each day. You don’t want to overfeed your dog – obesity can lead to several health problems for your pet. And you definitely don’t want to underfeed him, because that can cause issues for him too and leave him suffering from both hunger and a lack of energy. But finding the right number can be tricky, and it’s not as easy as that little chart on the back label of his food may make it seem.

There’s a way to calculate how much you should be feeding your pet – and it’s not measured in volume. Veterinarians have a formula they use to figure out the number of calories your dog needs to eat. It takes into account his current weight and activity level. The number will be unique to him and only him. It is:

RER=X(weight in kg)0.75

or

RER=X(weight in lbs/2.2)0.75

(Don’t fret if your math is rusty – we have a cheat for you!) 

“RER” stands for “Resting Energy Requirement” – how many calories your dog should be consuming a day to maintain his current weight. “X” is where you would plug in the number representative of his activity level.

Below is a handy chart from Petnet.io based on studies from the Waltham Center for Pet Nutrition. It can help you estimate your dog’s activity level and give you a number to use in the formula:

Category Type of Activity Daily Calorie Requirement (CR)
Duration Intensity
Inactive Adult/Senior < 3 hr/day Low 90 • Wtkg(0.75)
Typical < 3 hr /day Mainly Low 110 • Wtkg(0.75)
Active 1-3 hr/ day Mainly High 125 • Wtkg(0.75)
Highly Active 3-6 hr/day High 175 • Wtkg(0.75)

So if you were trying to figure out how many calories a healthy, moderately active 60lb. dog should eat, you would work the formula as the following:

  1. Divide his weight in pounds by 2.2 to get his weight in kilograms (60/2.2 = 27.27)
  2. Bring his weight in kg. to .75 power (27.27(0.75)=11.9) Psst! Need some help with this step? Click here and plug your own number into the search bar!
  3. Multiply that number by the recommended number above. Our moderately active dog is (110 x 11.9 = 1,309)

Our dog needs 1,309 calories a day to maintain his weight. 

Try it again, but with a small 12lb. inactive dog.

  1. Divide his weight in pounds by 2.2 to get his weight in kilograms (12/2.2 = 5.45)
  2. Bring his weight in kg. to .75 power (5.45(0.75)=3.5) Click here if you need that cheat again!
  3. Multiply that number by the recommended number above. Our small inactive dog needs (90 x 3.5 = 315)

This dog needs 315 calories a day to maintain his weight.

Remember, your dog is unique, and there may be other factors that will help determine how many calories he should be eating. Does he need to gain or lose weight? Is he sick? Very young or very old? Your veterinarian will be familiar with your dog, his body, diet, activity level, etc. and will be able to help you figure out how many calories he ought to be eating. But that doesn’t mean we can’t use the math for funsies!

Be sure to discuss any concerns about your dog’s weight or changes you’re considering making to his diet with your veterinarian.

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