How Many Calories Does Your Dog Need?


If you want to know how many calories your dog needs on a daily basis, you’re in luck today. We’ll be guiding you through some simple calculations that will help you establish your furball’s daily caloric requirements.

First thing’s first, though, what are calories?

I. What are Calories?

A kilocalorie (kcal), commonly abbreviated to calorie, is a unit of energy found in one serving of food.

More broadly, a calorie is the amount of heat required to raise the temperature of 1 kilogram of water by 1 degree Celsius.

How does this translate to your dog’s diet, then, and why should you care?

II. Calories and Canines

As a rule of thumb, dogs need from 25 to 30 calories for each pound of body weight.

What this means is that simply determining your dog’s mass can help you to calculate how many calories he needs to take onboard to stay within a healthy weight limit and avoid obesity.

There are other variables that impact caloric requirements, including:

  • How old your dog is
  • His activity level
  • Whether your dog has been spayed or neutered

This latter point is relevant since spaying or neutering a dog triggers hormonal changes. A common side effect is increased lethargy. Sedentary dogs will need fewer calories than active dogs if you want to avoid weight gain. Decrease the amount of food you give to an inactive dog by fully one-third.

Even if you take these factors into account, it’s still tough to calculate precisely how many calories your dog really needs. Dogs have different metabolic rates, and the speed of Rover’s metabolism can impact his caloric need by up to 20% in either direction.

With that said, you should consider any calculation you arrive at as nothing more than an estimate to work from. You can feed your dog this number of calories and then monitor his weight, his body condition, and his overall wellbeing. You can then adjust his food accordingly.

Make sure to speak with your vet about how many calories your dog needs. You will be able to pin down any health problems or special dietary needs that may influence how much food you should feed your furball.

Further to recent AAFCO guidelines, dog food labels are now required to show calorie counts. As outlined above, though, these can only be used as a guide.

How, then, can you go about calculating your dog’s caloric needs?

III. How to Determine Your Furball’s Caloric Requirement The Easy Way

You’ll find many formulae for determining how many calories your dog needs. This is arguably the most straightforward calculation for arriving at your dog’s RER (resting energy requirements):

Daily caloric needs = 30 x (your dog’s weight in kg) + 70

  • Example: If your dog weighs 15kg:
  • (30 x 15) + 70 = 520 daily calories

To get your dog’s weight in kg, simply divide his weight in pounds by 2.2. The 15kg dog referenced above weights 33 pounds.

IV. Summary of Approximate Daily Calorie Needs of Active Dogs

  • Small breeds to 10 pounds: 404 calories
  • Medium-sized breeds to 30 pounds: 922 calories
  • Medium-sized breeds to 50 pounds: 1353 calories
  • Large breeds to 70 pounds: 1740 calories
  • Giant breeds to 90 pounds: 2100 calories

V. Summary of Approximate Daily Calorie Needs of Inactive Dogs

  • Small breeds to 10 pounds: 296 calories
  • Medium-sized breeds to 30 pounds: 674 calories
  • Medium-sized breeds to 50 pounds: 989 calories
  • Large breeds to 70 pounds: 1272 calories
  • Giant breeds to 90 pounds: 1540 calories

VI. How Can You Manage Your Dog’s Weight?

If you find out your dog needs to lose some weight, the same slow and sustainable approach that works for humans dieting is effective for dogs.

For weight loss purposes, you should find that feeding your dog the right amount of RER calories will bring his weight down within a healthy range with no need for further dietary tweaks. You can expect your dog to lose a pound or two a month, meaning they could hit their goal weight in 6 months or so. Pack plenty of patience and know you’re doing your dog a favor.

If you try this approach and notice no improvement at all after a month or two, try cutting back the calories by 10%. Vets typically recommend reducing caloric intake by 10 to 20%, so start at the lower end.

Weigh your pooch monthly and keep on reducing the total caloric intake by 10% until your furball hits his ideal weight.

At this stage, it should be straightforward to maintain your dog’s weight by feeding him the controlled calorie intake you ultimately arrive at.

You might find using a digital scale helps when you’re portioning up Fido’s food

One recent approach to weight management in dogs involves visiting a vet and finding out your dog’s optimal caloric requirement. Then, your vet will recommend a portion size of the dog food you’re using in grams, making your life easier and streamlining portion control.


There are plenty of dog foods for weight loss which are well worth considering if your dog is heavier than he should be.

Look for foods that are low in calories and fat, but high in protein and fiber. Carb content should be moderate. This will ensure your dog’s lean muscle growth is supported and his energy needs met without excess fat accumulating. Obesity in dogs triggers a laundry list of negative outcomes and should be avoided at all costs. We hope today’s brief guide helps you to achieve this.

Take a moment to bookmark BarkVA before you head off. We have a busy content calendar for the summer ahead, so we would recommend popping back regularly. We bring you reviews of all the best dog equipment along with plenty of informative guides like today covering all aspects of dog ownership.

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Jesse Hopping, CCDT

Jesse is a natural-born dog-lover certified dog trainer (CCDT), dog foster, and former volunteer at Richmond SPCA and surrounding dog shelters for over 10 years. Her pack includes a Bernedoodle and 3 Boston Terriers. She’s sipping caramel coffee and watching her pack play in the sun when she’s not writing blogs. Jesse has her Certified Dog Trainer designation from CATCH Canine Trainers Academy since 2018 and and majored in English from the University of Virginia.

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