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Feeding Your Adult Dog FAQ

WebMD veterinary experts answer commonly asked questions about creating a food and nutrition plan for your adult dog.
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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 puppies.

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 osteoarthritis.

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.  

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