How Much and What Should Dogs Eat

Wolves love to prey on other animals, like deer, goats, sheep, etc. They will scavenge, eating plants when prey is scarce, but don’t prefer to. Most scientists agree that dogs, or almost all dog breeds, descended from wolves. Like wolves, they are mainly carnivores. Even wild or stray dogs will scavenge when they have to (stray dogs probably have to a lot), but dogs prefer animal meat to anything else. Their sharp teeth were designed to grab, hold, rip and tear at meat. Their bodies were designed to thrive off of animal protein, meat and fats, not plants or carbohydrates.


A Dog’s Ideal Diet

Wolves love to prey on other animals, like deer, goats, sheep, etc. They will scavenge, eating plants when prey is scarce, but don’t prefer to. Most scientists agree that dogs, or almost all dog breeds, descended from wolves. Like wolves, they are mainly carnivores. 

Even wild or stray dogs will scavenge when they have to (stray dogs probably have to a lot), but dogs prefer animal meat to anything else. Their sharp teeth were designed to grab, hold, rip and tear at meat. Their bodies were designed to thrive off of animal protein, meat and fats, Not plants or carbohydrates.

The majority of popular dog food brands on the market today are mainly plant based, or created mostly from plant ingredients. Manufacturers do this not with the health of the animal in mind, but in an attempt to create a cheap product and still meet minimal nutritional requirements. It’s much cheaper to grow your own ingredients than raise and feed them.

 

Dogs are Meat Eaters

Remember, dogs are carnivores, and their bodies do better with proteins found in animal meat, as opposed to plant based proteins. Not all proteins are the same, and this does make a huge difference. This is why we don’t want to simply stop at a basic chart listing off calories.

 

Amino Acids: Why Dogs are Meant to Eat Meat

All proteins are built from a mixture or combination of smaller compounds called amino acids. The amino acid mixture that builds the proteins found in animal meat is different from the amino acid mixture found in plant proteins. A dog who eats mostly plant based food might find it hard to get the right mixture, in the right amount, of amino acids he needs.

 

How Much Should Dogs Eat 

You should also ask yourself what type of calories you are feeding your pet. There is far more to dog nutrition than the simple question: How many calories does a dog need? Understand you could meet this amount by mostly feeding your dog fat, or mostly carbs (like the ‘poor quality’ example below). Proper nutrition is about the type of calories more than the amount.

 

Wet food

The most canned foods’ caloric value is about 25-30 calories per 1 ounce  (~88-105 calories per 100 g), unless indicated otherwise on the package.


Dry food

Dry food is much more calorific than canned food. Assuming that its contents is 90-120 calories per 1 ounce (~320-430 calories per 100 g), the daily volumes based on the dog’s weight are as follows:


 

Calorie Needs for an Average Healthy Adult Dog in Ideal Body Condition (WSAVA)

Remember, these are only loose and basic guidelines. You should be more concerned with the type of protein, how many fats and carbs are in your dog’s diet. These amounts can also vary based on the dogs:

  • Age
  • Current weight
  • Activity level
  • Breed (to a lesser degree)

 

Wet vs. Dry Dog Food

The largest benefit of wet over dry dog food, however, is the added water percentage. There are actually several differences.


Dry Dog Food

  • Often more affordable
  • Lasts longer exposed to open air
  • More calorically dense (about 10% water)


Wet Dog Food

  • Less calorically dense (about 75% water)
  • Often more preferable to dog
  • Often fewer carbohydrates, fewer grains
  • Easier for dogs suffering from dental pain

 

Dental problems are often a simple fact of aging, and wet food is usually easier on old dogs. On the other hand, the simple, mechanical act of chewing helps break up plaque before it can harden and form tartar. This is one reason why it is good for your dog to chew on solid (not cooked or poultry) bones.

 

Are Carbohydrates Good or Bad?

Unlike us humans, who use carbs and sugars as our main source of energy, dogs simply don’t need them. A dog will do fine with an adequate amount of the correct proteins, fats, and other nutrients.

‘Grain Free’ is a pretty popular topic in pet food circles these days. Grains and carbs aren’t necessarily good or bad, and you don’t need to avoid them entirely. 

Cats and dogs can synthesize their own blood glucose from amino acids. Carbohydrate, therefore is not an essential macronutrient. (WALTHAM). 

 

Carbs and Weight Gain

The avg. domestic dog diet today consists from anywhere around/between 30-70% carbs, mostly because manufactured dog food brands often produce so many cheaply made plant based foods. The average wild wolf diet consists of about 15%. You can understand why weight and obesity is such an enormous problem in today’s pets.

Though dogs don’t need to eat plant foods, they certainly can find nutrition in grains, fruits, and vegetables! The key is both moderation and knowing what you are actually feeding your pet. A good dog food will contain all these in addition to various meats or other sources of animal protein. 

If your dog is suffering from weight issues, along with discussing the problem with your veterinarian, take a careful look at your pet’s diet. Take a look at the example of a high quality, premium dog food brand, and the ingredients offered, further down in this article. Compare that example to the other listed, a very cheaply made, low quality food.

 

Low Quality Dog Food Brand Example

Below are listed the top ten ingredients found in this dog food, distributed by one of the most popular brands in the world (by quite a lot, which is pretty ironic). 

 

Top Ten Ingredients: 

Whole grain corn 

Chicken by-product meal 

Corn gluten meal

Beef fat naturally preserved with mixed-tocopherols 

Soybean meal

Whole grain wheat 

Chicken

Beef

Ground rice

Natural flavor

Mono and dicalcium phosphate

 

Ingredients on a nutritional label are listed based on content, the first ingredient used the most. You don’t see a meat source here until you hit the seventh ingredient! Chicken ‘by-product’ meal isn’t actually meat from chickens. Most of this dog food is made from corn, beef fat, and wheat.


High Quality Dog Food Brand Example

Below are the top ten ingredients listed from a higher quality dog food brand. Though this example does offer various vegetables lower down the list of ingredients, they don’t make the top ten. This is an example of a proper store bought dog food.


Top Ten Ingredients:
 

Deboned chicken 

Deboned turkey 

Atlantic flounder 

Whole eggs 

Whole Atlantic mackerel

Chicken liver

Turkey liver

Chicken heart

Turkey heart

Whole Atlantic herring

 

The list goes on, offering more protein sources. This product doesn’t just provide one or two sources of animal protein, but about 15. They start with chicken and turkey, but also provide 4 different types of fish, egg, and various types of highly nutritious organ meats.

 

References

Burke, Anna. (2019, July 8). How to Choose the Best Dog Food. Retrieved from https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/nutrition/best-dog-food-choosing-whats-right-for-your-dog/

Committee on Nutrient Requirements of Dogs and Cats. (2006). Your Dog’s Nutritional Needs. Retrieved from https://www.nap.edu/resource/10668/dog_nutrition_final_fix.pdf

Millburn, Naomi. Dry Dog Food Calorie Count. Retrieved from
https://www.petfinder.com/dogs/dog-nutrition/dry-dog-food-calorie-count/ 

Prof. Grandjean,  Dominique. Dr. Merrill,  Ralph. Dr. Buckley, Catherine. Dr. Morrism, Penny. Mr. Charlton, Chris. Dr. Stevenson, Abigail. WALTHAM® Pocket Book of Essential Nutrition for Cats and Dogs. Retrieved from https://www.waltham.com/dyn/_assets/_docs/waltham-booklets/essential-nutrition-for-cats-and-dogs/walthampocketbookofessentialnutritionforcatsanddogs.pdf

WSAVA Global Nutrition Comtee. (2013). Calorie Needs for an Average Healthy Adult Dog in Ideal Body Condition. Retrieved from
https://www.wsava.org/sites/default/files/Calorie%20requirements%20simple%20dog.pdf

17 Comments

  1. Kate Sackville-West says:

    I am looking after an 11-year-old, male border terrier for 4 days next week. He weighs over 12 kilos and is therefore clearly overweight. His owner has left me 300g of good quality wet food to give him daily, plus a Bonio for before he goes to bed. This seems to me to be far too much. Am I right? If so, how much should I give him? He’s also itching compulsively, mostly along his back. Could this be a consequence of overeating? His diet is mainly meat-based.

  2. Andy Woodger says:

    Wow, 12kg for a border Terrier does seem a lot. Our Labradoodle puppy is 4 months old and weighs about 9kg and he is already nearly twice the size of a Border Terrier!
    We feed our pup a raw food diet. One of the things that was mentioned as I researched the raw food for dogs, was that it can help a lot with skin irritations as well as a list of general health issues. No doubt the vet will invite you to “Pop him along so we can give him some antibiotics and charge you a portion of my next holiday” I’m not suggesting for a minute that raw feeding will cure him and that the vet has no care, but from my research a raw fed dog doesn’t seem to suffer these minor irritations as much as dogs fed with other stuff.

  3. Andy Down says:

    started my 12 month springer spanial on a raw food diet, which is a variety of either chicken, beef, fish or tripe mixed with carrots,peas, apple. The difference in his coat is remarkable. Happy and shiny

  4. Shirley Wallas says:

    We have always given our Yorkshire Terrier cross a mixture of wet food and Eukanuba and he is now a very healthy 12 year old. We are wondering if the Eukanuba alone would be sufficient as it is now difficult to go shopping. Any advice would be very welcome. Shirley.
    shirleywallas@icloud.com

  5. Nicki Lee says:

    After recently receiving an allergy report for my 11 month boxer, Delboy, I’m struggling to find a supplier that can cater for he’s long list of banned foods. Is there recipes anywhere that can guide me with preparing/cooking/portion control from home?
    Been using Butternut Box until now. Been brilliant and delboy loves the food but unfortunately all their dishes contain either/or carrots, peas!!
    Grateful for any advice

    • Tracey U says:

      We adopted two pups 18 months ago from Romania, they had been street dogs but whatever we fed them on it really upset their tummies so I researched fresh food, and we haven’t looked back since. I boil 2 chicken legs with a spoonful of turmeric I then take the chicken out and add a variety of vegetables which include potato, sweet potato, swede, parsnip, carrot (you can leave this out if it doesn’t agree with Delboy), spinach and kale. I also add a pinch of sage, parsley and basil. I then add rice (preferably wholegrain but white is an option it’s cheaper and occasionally we swap the rice for pasta). We then strip the chicken being careful to make sure all bones are removed especially the horrible little sharp one. Mix it in and allow the rice to almost cook then cover it and turn it off leaving it to cool and the rice to finish cooking. Once it’s cool enough decant it into a container and store in the fridge. We serve it with ordinary mixer and they love it. There has been a massive improvement to condition of their fur etc and they have the most amazing white teeth. They love it and clear their bowls every meal time.

    • leadsue@hotmail.co.uk says:

      i have a boxer he is 3 years old, and allergic to most things, perhaps we could share information

  6. Debbie Smith says:

    We have a 9 yr old choccie lab, we have been trying to get his weight down, he is 45 kgs & should be around 30 kgs….for a few months we have been feeding him 275 g of dry food, enough for a dog the weight he should be. But he hasn’t lost any weight. Can you tell me what we should do….we walk him about 1 hr a day too….thank you for any advice

    • Beth says:

      It would depend on what food you are feeding him to be honest – if he isn’t losing weight then it is the wrong amount or food. The best thing would be to go to your vets for advice on clinical obesity diets such as Royal Canin Obesity Management or Satiety diet, and get a diet plan written up for him and stick to it 100% with weekly weigh ins. It could also be some underlying medical issue such as a thyroid problem, so absolutely contact your vet in the first instance to rule this out. I’m assuming he isn’t getting extra treats or scraps? Also, little and often walks may be better than 1 hour a day if he is that overweight, at least until he has shed some lbs, otherwise his joints and heart are at risk of being put under unnecessary pressure.

    • danny says:

      That amount of food will maintain his weight. He needs to be at a deficit of energy (food) going in to his body compared to the amount of energy being used in order for him to use stored energy (fat).

      Simple answer feed less, exercise more.

  7. Michelle says:

    Hi my 11 1/2 year old chocolate lab has gone right of dog foods dry and wet, he loves chicken and pastas and chicken and rice, how much should he have daily he weighs 39-40 kilos?

  8. Dawn says:

    My 12 year old beagle has Proteinureia, I have to feed her a moderate protein diet which is proving difficult in itself. I have managed with a mix of raw and dry food and then last week she became unwell.. Vomiting all feeds and then off food all together along with some very loose stools. She was panting with pain a lot. The vet has diagnosed pancreatitis. I now need lots of help in what to feed her as she needs a low fat diet. I cannot seem to find what she requires for a balanced diet. ny advice please?

  9. Jacqui - Daisy's new mum says:

    I inherited my late fathers 4 year old staffy back in April. He never gave her canned dog food but fed her boiled chicken, boiled fish, weetabix Naturo dog trays also chicken mince, beef mince both for dogs and she always got a little something off his plate at dinner time she also had a bowl of Bakers dry food to snack at whenever needed. She weighs 29kilos and the vet said today she needs to be 27 We have been giving her for breakfast boiled chicken breast with a boiled egg and 2 handfuls of cornflakes then either boiled chicken breast with boiled rice or beef/chicken mince with 2 white fish fillets (boiled) at dinner time. Also have been adding raw chopped carrots, courgette, cucumber and blueberries Sometimes in the morning it is 2 scrambled eggs with chicken and cornflakes or variations of all. The problem l have is l am not sure what weight l should be giving her of each ingredient to help her lose some weight and also make sure she is eating enough. She no longer has a full bowl of dry food she gets a small handful before bed Any help or advice would be greatly appreciated

  10. Apollo the Superpup says:

    Thanks for the document advice!

  11. Adele says:

    I have read that when feeding a puppy it should be 3% of their expected adult weight is this correct as I think its alot I am feeding her 3% of her weight now

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