How Many Calories Are There in Dog Food?

Understanding calories and puppy energy needs

Close-Up Of Puppy Eating Food At Home

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Puppy food contains calories that supply the energy for your growing dog's needs. Puppy energy needs vary depending on the age of the dog, his breed, health status, and activity level. Feeding trials help determine the amount of a given food your puppy will need to be fed to sustain growth and health.

Feeding guidelines are on the pet food label only as a starting point for the amount to feed your puppy. Be sure to decrease or increase the amount fed to keep your pet in ideal body condition. The instructions on the package always err on the side of caution and typically address those pets that need to eat more (rather than less) of a given product to stay in good health.

Puppy Energy Needs

Growing puppies and reproducing female dogs require as much as two to four times more energy per pound of body weight than an adult dog. Working dogs like hunting or herding animals, those under stress and outdoor dogs exposed to cold weather have much higher energy requirements. Inactive couch-potato dogs and outdoor dogs exposed to hot weather require much less. That means you’ll need to adjust your pup’s food intake and/or the diet as he matures or his energy needs change.

Puppy Food Calories

Some dog food labels will include a statement of caloric content in the food. A calorie is a measure of energy produced by eating a specific food.

A single calorie is such a small unit of measure that often a unit of 1,000 calories, termed a “kilocalorie” (or interchangeably as a calorie) is a more useful measure. You won’t always see a disclosure of calories on the dog food label, except in diets making "lite" claims for weight reduction. When it appears, it’s stated as "kilocalories per Kg of food." For convenience's sake, it's also often labeled as "calories per cup" or "per unit" of food.

Dry rations generally contain 1,400 to 2,000 metabolizable kilocalories per pound of diet (3,080 to 4,400 Kcal/Kg); semi-moist have 1,200 to 1,350 metabolized kilocalories per pound of diet (2,640 to 2,970 Kcal/Kg), and canned rations only provide 375 to 950 metabolized kilocalories per pound of diet (825 to 2,090 Kcal/Kg) because such a large percentage of canned foods is water (up to 70 percent). That's why dogs must eat more canned foods than dry diets to obtain the same energy intake.

How Many Calories Is Enough?

The amount of calories a dog requires varies widely from puppy to puppy and dog to dog. Your pet’s age, size, metabolism, and energy expended determine each dog's need. On average, large dog breeds need less food per pound of bodyweight than small breed dogs.

  • Small breed dogs are those whose adult body weight is less than 20 pounds. Adult small breed dogs require about 50 kilocalories per pound of body weight each day.
  • Medium breed adult dogs are those weighing 20 to 50 pounds. Adult medium breed dogs need approximately 30–40 kilocalories per pound of body weight each day.
  • Large breed dogs weigh 50 to 100 pounds, while the giant breeds exceed 100 pounds as adults. They need 20 to 30 kilocalories per pound of body weight each day or less.

If your puppy isn't eating enough, a veterinary exam can rule out possible health problems. Adding 1 teaspoon of vegetable oil for every 8-ounce cup of dry food may tempt his appetite, and also help improve his coat condition. A strong-smelling or flavored top dressing like warm chicken broth often prompts dogs to eat up to ten percent more of the food. However, a better choice for dogs with small appetites and big energy needs is a more energy-dense ration, like a complete and balanced super-premium food. Such diets provide more calories even if the puppy eats less volume.

Of course, every puppy is an individual. Even pups from the same litter can vary greatly. Differences in activity level, lifestyle and metabolism determine what your special pet requires. Work you’re your veterinarian, and judge your puppy’s healthy good lucks and behavior to determine what’s best for him or her.