Feeding Your Adult Dog FAQ
WebMD veterinary experts answer commonly asked questions about creating a food and nutrition plan for your adult dog.
How much food should my adult dog eat each day?
That depends on the size of the dog, its age, and how much exercise it gets.
Use feeding charts on pet food labels as a guide. Start by checking the amount
recommended for your pet’s weight range. If your dog weighs on the lower end of
the range, feed the smaller recommended amount. Dogs on the heavier end of the
scale may need more food.
Assess your pet’s activity level. Lap dogs who get little exercise may need
10% less than what’s recommended on the package label. An active dog that
exercises outdoors may need 20% to 40% more. Working dogs -- those that
regularly receive high-intensity exercise, such as a sled dog or police dog --
may need a food designed for working or performance dogs. These foods have a
higher fat content to provide extra calories.
Next, you may need to make adjustments based on your pet’s body condition.
The Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine web site has a body
condition scoring chart that shows and describes various body conditions,
ranging from emaciated to obese. Your dog’s vet can help you understand how
your dog’s body condition affects the amount of food she needs.
Serious illness, pregnancy, or nursing can
increase a dog’s energy needs. Ask your vet about adjusting the type or
quantity of food.
What are some guidelines for checking whether my dog is too lean, just right, or overweight?
Body condition ranges from emaciated to obese.
An adult dog is emaciated if its ribs, vertebrae, and pelvic bones are
easily visible from a distance. Chronically underfed dogs or dogs fed
unbalanced diets may develop osteoporosis and are more susceptible to parasites and bacterial
infections. They also may lack the energy for working or for nursing
An adult dog is considered in moderate condition if you can feel its ribs
easily and see its waist when looking down at its back. You should also be able
to see an abdominal tuck when looking from the side.
A dog is overweight if it’s difficult to feel its ribs or see its waist or
abdominal tuck. It will have visible fat deposits on its back and the base of
its tail. Fat dogs are more likely to develop diabetes and
What should I do if my dog is overweight?
Give less food or switch to a low-calorie dog food. Cut out any table scraps
and high-calorie treats, such as dog biscuits.
Look for high-fiber, low-calorie treats instead. Make sure your dog isn’t
eating food intended for other pets in the house. Your veterinarian can help
you calculate the exact amount of food to give your dog when starting a weight
loss plan. It’s important to not give too much food or your dog won’t lose
weight. But it is equally important to give enough, or your dog can lose weight
too quickly and become sick.