How much food should you feed your dog? Dogs have natural instincts to eat whenever food is available. While that can help them survive in the wild, it’s our responsibility as pet parents to help them manage their intake at home by knowing how to measure dog food portions.
If you’ve been in the habit of eyeballing the serving of dog food while filling the bowl, maybe topping it off with a little extra because they’re so good, now’s a great time to revisit what a proper portion of dog food looks like for your pet.
Why portioning your dog’s food matters
From puppyhood to their geriatric years, dogs need the right balance of nutrients, proteins, carbs and calories. Be mindful of their specific dietary needs according to their age, activity level, environment and size.
- The correct portion of puppy food changes as they grow and develop. As you monitor their growth, you should match the portion of puppy food to their weight and stage of development.
- As adults, it’s easy to overdo it when feeding our pets, and that shows up in a growing number of dogs that are considered overweight and obese. Unless we actively manage their intake to help them return to a healthy weight, obesity can result in serious medical conditions and a shorter life span.
- And as dogs enter their senior years, their dietary needs evolve with the slowing of their activity level. Senior dogs require fewer calories and higher amounts of fiber to stay satiated.
In this guide, we’ll help you reset how you measure dog food portions so it aligns with their needs. First, we’ll show you how to identify the right serving size of kibble as well as wet food.
Then we’ll show how to recalibrate the serving of kibble when you mix in wet food, so your dog gets a variety of flavor and nutrients while keeping his calorie count in balance.
How much dry food should you feed your dog?
The feeding chart on the back of the kibble bag can be overwhelming at first. But don’t worry. We’ll show you how to measure dog food portions based on your pet’s age, size and activity level.
Tips for measuring the right portion of dry dog food
Avoid guessing when feeding your dog. Counting scoops or eyeballing the amount in the bowl is a recipe for overfeeding your pet — and causing unwanted weight gain. With the help of this guide, you’ll achieve perfect portions with every meal. The first thing to understand is knowing the difference between a daily portion and serving size.
Identify the right daily portion for your dog: To determine your dog’s daily feeding portion based on their weight, account for their age and activity level. You might choose the higher end of the portion range for younger, more active dogs, and the lower end for older, more sedentary dogs.
Know the right serving size: Some parents assume — incorrectly — that the bag of kibble lists single meal servings. But these actually recommend full daily portions. To find the right serving size, divide the daily portion by the number of meals you serve. (Most adult dogs thrive on two meals a day: one meal to start the day and one evening meal.)
Feeding example: For an 18-pound dog, the feeding recommendation for NutriSource Chicken and Rice Formula ranges from 1 to 1-1/4 8 oz. cups of kibble. You might start with a 1/2 cup serving for each of his two daily meals, and adjust as needed.
Perfect the portions: Once you’ve found the daily allotment that’s right for your dog, you’re ready to roll. To make sure they’re getting the correct amount of kibble every time, here’s a foolproof single-scoop method.
- Use a dry measuring cup to measure out your dog’s daily portion.
- Divide the portion into their daily meals.
- Make portioning foolproof by making a custom one-serving scoop out of an empty plastic food container. Place the serving of kibble in an empty container of sour cream, cottage cheese or yogurt. Then cut it down so it’s level with the food. Now you have a custom scoop for perfect portioning with every meal.
How much wet food should I feed my dog?
Many pet parents mistakenly assume one can of dog food equals one serving. That may be true for some dogs, but one can might be too little or too much, depending on the size of the dog. When you’re serving canned dog food as an entrée, it’s worth taking time to learn how to measure dog food portions for wet food.
As with kibble, the right amount of wet food for your pet also depends on their age, nutrition needs and activity levels.
Finding the right serving size of canned dog food
The first step is knowing your dog’s healthy weight range, so you can calculate how much wet food makes a right-sized serving for your dog.
Feeding guides for canned dog food typically recommend giving one can per day for a specific amount of the dog’s body weight.
- Calculate the number of cans needed to feed your dog per day: Divide the recommended pounds per can by your dog’s total body weight.
- To calculate a single serving: Divide the daily portion in cans by the number of daily meals.
Examples of wet food feeding guidelines
To provide a real-world example, the feeding guidelines for NutriSource wet food call for 1 can per 15 lbs. of body weight per day. (Adjust to 3/4 to 1-1/4 cans as needed, depending on weight and activity levels.) Here are some examples of how much canned food you should feed your dog based on their size:
- Daily portion (divide 7 by 15) = roughly 1/2 can
- Serving size* = 1/4 can
- Daily portion (divide 30 by 15) = 2 cans
- Serving size (divide 2 by 2) = 1 can
- Daily portion = 4 cans
- Single serving = 2 cans
- daily portion = 6 cans
- single serving = 3 cans
*Assumes two daily servings
Full Circle Feeding: Achieve variety mixing wet and dry food
Mixing some wet food into your dog’s kibble is great for your pet’s health. It can help with digestion, it makes mealtime more exciting for your pet, and most of all, your pet will get a wider variety of protein sources in their diet to provide a full spectrum of nutrients. That’s why we encourage pet parents to mix wet food with kibble as a key part of the Full Circle Feeding method.
Because Full Circle Feeding calls for a variety of protein sources, mixing wet food with kibble is an effortless method to provide a wider variety of meats, grains and other healthy carbs every day of the week.
Perfect portions: How to feed your dog a mix of wet and dry food
When mixing canned dog food with kibble, you want to avoid a calorie overload at mealtimes. The last thing you want to do is cancel the health benefits of Full Circle Feeding by making the mistake of overfeeding. So whenever you add wet food, it calls for a reduced serving size of kibble.
Remember, the moisture content is higher in wet food, so it’s not a one-for-one replacement. Luckily, all you need is a dry measuring cup to find the right balance of wet food and kibble.
Mixing NutriSource wet foods with kibble: For every half can of wet food you add to the meal, subtract 1/3 cup of kibble.
Can you serve a full can of wet food? Absolutely. Just remember to subtract the right amount of kibble, and in this case, it would be 2/3 cup.
What if you have a small dog? Convert the formula from a single portion to a daily portion, and it will be far easier to find the right ratio.
Perfect portions, perfect balance, perfect nutrition
Because we love our dogs, we want them to live the best possible lives. When you go for balance and variety in nutrition through Full Circle Feeding with the right-sized portions for your dog’s needs, you’re setting the stage for a long and happy life.
Now that you know how to serve perfectly portioned meals, learn how to provide your pet with a full spectrum of nutrients through our Ultimate Guide to Full Circle feeding. Then get a personalized meal plan for your dog by taking our Full Circle Feeding quiz.