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Andrea J Cecur DVM
Andrea J Cecur DVM, Veterinarian
Category: Dog
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Experience:  18+yrs veterinary experience in small animal medicine
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How many calories should a dog have each day to maintain a ...

Customer Question

How many calories should a dog have each day to maintain a weight of 8 pounds
Submitted: 10 years ago.
Category: Dog
Expert:  Cheryl K. replied 10 years ago.

All dogs are different, even if they are the same weight, it has alot to do with their activity level and their basic health level.I have supplied some information below about daily nutritional guidelines for dogs and some tips for keeping your dog's weight maintained. If your dog has a problem maintaining their weight then you should first rule out any health issues that could be causing the weight loss. If you dog is very lean then I suggest increasing the calorie intake by 25% by what the standards state on the food you are feeding and this should help keep the weight up on your dog. I suggest reading the tips below as they can be very helpful in proper nutrician for your dog. Calorie intake depends on the dogs activity level, wellness level, and of course weight. Follow the instructions on any AAFCO approved food for your dog, and if you are feeding the recommended daily allowance and your dog is not keeping their weight up or is losing weight that is a sign to increase the intake to a higher calorie type dog food.

Good nutrition and a balanced diet are essential elements for good health in a dog. Your dog needs plenty of fresh water and should be fed good quality food in amounts just right to meet his energy requirements. Inadequate or excess intake of nutrients can be equally harmful.

Most dry dog foods are soybean, corn or rice based. Some of the better brands have meat or fish meal as the first listed ingredient. Although higher priced, they are worth looking into. Dogs eat less of the higher quality products, thus reducing the cost. Dry dog foods also have greater "caloric density" which means simply, there is less water in a cup of food as compared to a canned food diet. This is not a big issue for our smaller canine friends, but large dogs may have difficulty eating enough volume of canned food to fulfill their caloric needs (because they also get a lot of water in that food). Overall, the choice of "dry" vs. "canned" vs. "semi-moist" is an individual one, but larger dogs (such as those greater than 30 pounds) should be fed a dry or semi-moist food in most circumstances

Proteins, fats and carbohydrates are necessary for energy. Dietary requirements for dogs can vary according to activity and stress levels and medical history. Dogs expend energy in many different ways. For example, outdoor dogs are likely to experience increased levels of exercise and thus require a higher percentage of protein and fat for energy production than a dog who stays indoors most of the time. Dogs in various life stages [including puppy ("growth"), adult and senior ("geriatric")] require different amounts of nutrients. Special situations such as pregnancy and nursing puppies can dramatically affect nutritional needs. Working dogs need more calories, while the "couch potato" needs less (just like us!).

The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) is an organization that publishes regulations for nutritional adequacy of "complete and balanced" dog and cat foods. Your pet’s food should conform to minimal AAFCO standards. Diets that fulfill the AAFCO regulations will state on the label: "formulated to meet the AAFCO Dog Food Nutrient Profile for…(a given life stage).


  • AAFCO Standards: All foods should conform to AAFCO standards (check the label). This indicates the manufacturer is following the national consensus recommendations for dog foods.

  • Food Type: The choice of canned, semi-moist or dry food is an individual one, but if your dog is more than 30 pounds, dry food is preferred as the base diet for its greater caloric density (more calories per volume of food). There are a number of excellent dog food manufacturers.

  • Water: Always provide plenty of fresh water.

    Consider Your Dog's Age

  • For puppies (less than 8-9 months and less than 30 pounds): Feed your puppy a consistent canned, semi-moist or dry dog food designed for puppies. If your dog weighs more than 30 pounds, dry food is preferred for greater caloric density.

  • For adult dogs (8-9 months to 6 years): Feed your dog a consistent canned, semi-moist or dry dog food designed for an "adult" dog.

  • For senior dogs (7+ years): Feed your dog a consistent canned, semi-moist, or dry dog food designed for a "senior" dog.

    Consider Your Dog's Body Weight

  • Underweight dogs: Feed your dog 1-1/2 times the "usual" amount of food and make an appointment to see your veterinarian about your dog’s body condition. Consider switching to a food with higher protein and fat content.

  • Lean dogs: Many healthy dogs are a bit thin, especially active young male dogs. Consider increasing total daily food or caloric intake by 25 percent. Weigh your dog every week if possible to chart progress.

  • Chubby dogs: If your dog is a bit overweight, try increasing the daily exercise routine. Gradually increase exercise over 2 weeks unless limited by a medical condition. If these measures fail, cut out all treats and reduce daily intake of food by up to 25 percent.

  • Fat or obese dogs: Stop all treats except vegetables. Increase exercise gradually over 2 to 3 weeks if not limited by a medical condition. If these measures fail, reduce the total daily food amount by 25 to 40 percent, switch to a low fat/high fiber diet, and call your veterinarian to discuss your plans. Inquire about prescription-type reduction diets that can really be effective while providing balanced nutrition.

    There are a number of prominent manufacturers of high quality dog foods, including Iams (Eukanuba), Hill’s (Science Diets), Nature’s Recipe products, Nutra Max, Purina and Waltham, among others. Follow the label recommendations, but use your own judgment in determining how much to feed.

    How much to feed?
    The best determinant of the amount of food to feed is the dog himself. Food intake in all animals is governed principally by energy requirements. When dogs are successfully fed freely, the underlying control over the amount of food that is consumed is primarily the need for energy. When dogs are fed on a portion-controlled basis, owners should select a quantity of food based primarily on the pet's weight and body condition. If the dog gains too much weight (energy surplus), the amount should be decreased. Conversely, if weight is lost, an increased amount of food is provided. Commercial pet foods that are sold for particular life stages or lifestyles are formulated to contain the proper amount of essential nutrients when a quantity is fed that meets the dog's energy requirements. Balancing energy density with nutrient content ensures that when a dog's caloric needs are met, its needs for all other essential nutrients will be met by the same quantity of food. Therefore, the best way to determine how much to feed a particular dog is first to estimate the animal's energy needs, then calculate the amount of an appropriate food that must be fed to meet that need.

  • Customer: replied 10 years ago.
    Reply to cheryl kauffman's Post: My dog is 10 lbs and I want her to weigh 8 lbs   I changed her diet to rice, boiled chicken, fruits,veggies and cottage cheese. I know how many calories are in the mixture so I just need to know how may calories a day to maintain 8 lbs. I switched her food due to 2 reasons. the dry food I was feeding her is no longer available in my area. Also a new roommte with a dog has moved in. She eats the new mixture right away and that makes it easier to control.
    Expert:  RaisinL replied 10 years ago.
    Because activity levels vary so much from dog to dog (even if they are the same size, breed, and age) an exact number of calories is difficult to determine.

    The simple way, is to measure carefully the amount of food you give her, and keep records of that amount and her weight. To help her lose weight, cut back by like 1/4 of the amount, and check her weight in a week. If she has lost a little toward your goal - stay at that amount and keep watching her weight. If she's losing too fast, or not losing - then adjust her food accordingly. Remember, for a 10 pound dog to lose 2 pounds is the equivelent of 150 pound person losing 30 pounds. You don't drop that weight overnight, just slow and steady does the trick.

    This is how we regulate weight for our show dogs.
    Customer: replied 10 years ago.
    Reply to Mary Pyle's Post: Can someone just give me a number of calories it takes to mantain a 8 lbs dog. If not I will understand.
    Expert:  RaisinL replied 10 years ago.
    Taken from Collins Guide to Dog Nutrition,

    for 'pet dogs'
    40 lb dog primarily kept indoors 1000 calories
    primarily kept outdoor 1560 calories
    primarily kept in/out 1160 calories

    Expert:  Cheryl K. replied 10 years ago.
    You need to start by cutting back on her food by one fourth of the amount you are feeding her now and see how that goes. You don't want to make a drastic cutback as that can make it actually harder to control the weight as you are trying to do at this point. Check her weight in 8-10 days and see how it ranges compared to the weight she is at now. If she has tolerated the lesser amount of food well and still has not dropped to the eight pounds you want her to be at then drop it a bit more. As far as calories I suggest feeding her a rate of about 500 calories a day and see if this helps you achieve your goal, then if this does not help cut back to 325-400 and just remember to watch her health as you do this, for any possible changes in her agility and energy level. I hope that this information will be helpful to you. It will take a couple of weeks for you to see the difference so give it time and do this gradually for better results. I hope this additional information will be of help to you. Let me know if you have any further questions.
    Expert:  Andrea J Cecur DVM replied 10 years ago.
    According to the Small Animal Clinical Nutrition book, a dog that should weigh 8lb should receive about 40-50kcal/lb/d so your dog will need around 320-400kcal daily. Adjust as needed for her metabolism and health conditions if any.

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