Chances are you have a sneaking suspicion that you’re not feeding your dog the right amount. One and three quarter cups to two and a quarter cups for a 26 to 40 pound dog?! That doesn't sound very accurate. It's no wonder that an estimated 54% of dogs in America are obese, according to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention. You can calculate the number of calories that your dog should be consuming through the food’s nutritional density...but if we could actually figure out how to do that, we would be rocket scientists.
So we asked Greg Aldrich, pet food program coordinator at Kansas State University, who specializes in pet food processing and nutrition, to help you sort out portions.
How to calculate portion size
The pros use an allometric equation, which is a biological scaling measure, to determine dogs’ daily caloric needs. The equation, which is ridiculously complicated, takes into account that larger dogs don’t need as many calories per pound as smaller dogs. There’s a lot of fancy calculation, and the end result represents the metabolic body size, which dictates the dog’s energy requirement for the day.
How to take other factors into account
The amount your dog weighs is only a starting point, says Richard Hill, associate professor at the College of Veterinary Medicine in the Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences, who worked on the Committee on Nutrient Requirements of Dogs and Cats for the National Research Council. Neutered dogs should get a little less food due to metabolic changes, older dogs should get a little less than puppies because they’re less active and those that are running around frequently should get more, since they’re burning more calories than couch potato pups.
How to tell if your dog is getting too much food
The formula is a science, but it’s still not exact, Hill says, explaining that there's a pretty simple way to tell if your dog is getting too much food: “They start to get fat!" For a more nuanced way to evaluate your dog's weight, there's a body composition scale: if your dog's ribs are visible from a distance and there's muscle loss, they're too thin. If they have large fat deposits all over their body and their stomach sags, your dog is too heavy. And if you can feel their ribs but not necessarily see them and their stomach is raised, that's a sign your dog is at an ideal weight.