How much you should feed your pet! Calories, volume, mass and metabolism

Written by Chelsea Kent

The amount of food works for my pet is way different from what’s on the package… why?

When a manufacturer is creating a package they have the option of simplifying or complicating their label.  Unfortunately, when it comes to the feeding recommendation guide manufacturers usually make one single chart that they put on all of their products because there isn’t room for more!

This can never be completely accurate for a few reasons:

1) The calories per cup in each product are usually different (often substantially). Some products may have as few as 230kcals/cup and some may have as many as 580kcals/cup.

2) Your pets size alters your pets metabolism (larger animals have slower metabolisms than smaller ones… think elephants vs hummingbirds)

3) Your pet may have a higher or lower activity level than the average pet used to determine their general guideline

4) Your pet may need to gain or lose weight, which is not factored into a general guideline

5) Your pet may have a medical condition that requires adjustments in caloric needs

6) Your pet may be a puppy or senior, requiring more or less calories than the general guideline indicates

7) You may be giving treats, chews, human food, or some other calorie containing product that is not taken into account on the general feeding guide on your package.

Each of these factors is important to take into consideration when identifying the overall health and needs of your pet.  Anyone who ever advises that you feed your pet a certain amount without asking these questions should be questioned.

So how did you figure out how much I should feed my pet? I want to do the math myself 

If your pet is under 80lbs they tend to do best on around 200kcals/10 pounds of body weight per day.

If your pet is over 80lbs they have slower metabolisms and do better on only 100-150kcals/10 pounds of body weight per day.

If your pet is pregnant or lactating you must increase the base calories by 15-25% per day.

If your pet is under a year old you must feed for their estimated body size at 6 months old for the first 3 months (e.g. your pet is estimated to weigh 30lbs at 6 months old, feed them based on a 30lb body weight until they are 3 months old), 9 months old from 3-6 months (e.g. your pet is estimated to weigh 45lbs at 9 months old, feed them based on 45lb body weight from 3-6 months old), and estimated full body weight for 6 months on (e.g. your pet is estimated to weigh 60lbs at full body size, feed them based on 60lb body weight from 7 months on). The alternative to this math is to feed 5% of their body weight if you’re feeding a raw or dehydrated raw product, or 7% of their body weight if you’re feeding a less absorbable kibble or canned food product

If your pet is active or underweight feed 10-25% more than the base calories per day. (Remember that overfeeding often causes diarrhea and, surprisingly, often causes weight LOSS.  Overfeeding your pet can actually cause their body to use more calories when they put out excessive effort purging the extra calories.  If you find you are overfeeding your pet based on these calorie recommendation and they are not gaining weight, please contact for feeding advice, or see contact info below).  If your pet is sedentary or overweight feed them 10-25% less than the base calories per day.

If you are providing alternative calorie sources such as chew bones (bully sticks average 50kcals/inch, marrow bones average 225kcals/inch), treats, human food, etc these calories must be factored into the total number of calories provided in a day.  Food Regulation Facts is happy to assist you in identifying proper caloric needs while cutting expenses by incorporating these into the dietary needs.

Certain medical conditions such as low thyroid, EPI and diabetes require caloric adjustments. In some cases you may need to adjust calories, in some cases you may need to adjust absorption factors, in all cases you must know what you’re dealing with, which requires some level of veterinary attention.

Always make sure to compare current caloric intake (how many calories has your pet been eating and how have they been doing on that amount) to calculated caloric intake (how many calories per day did you calculate that your pet needs to eat based on these guidelines) before starting a new amount of food.  It is common for owners employees to identify potential medical conditions based on caloric discrepancies found in this calculation process.

Food Regulation Facts Alliance is happy to assist you with these calculation.  (FRFA reserves the right to consultation charges for non-members)

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