Caloric Needs of Growing Puppies

Determining the caloric needs of growing dogs is more difficult than deciding how much to feed adult dogs. The NRC has established the following formulas to determine caloric needs for growing puppies.

Needs for puppies from weaning to 50% of adult weight

Body weight in kg0.75  X 264 = Kilocalories

Needs for puppies from 51% of adult weight to adult weight

Body weight in kg0.75  X 198 = Kilocalories

Feeding growing puppies as per these guidelines will produce trim, lean puppies during the growth phases. This can be disconcerting to some, who are accustomed to roly poly pudgy pups. Remember though, extra weight is not good for those developing joints and there is plenty of time for your dog to be his/her adult size! Overfeeding now will not create a larger dog later – rather an obese one! Feeding your puppy more than he/she needs will not make him or her grow bigger either. He or she will grow as large as he is genetically programmed to be, and there’s not much you can do about that.

Pet food manufacturers recommend feeding growing pups more than the NRC recommends. Feeding those amounts produces the kind of puppies some breeders and owners prefer. They follow the pet food manufacturers’ recommendation that “the dog owner should feed the animal so that its size, condition and general appearance are pleasing to his eye.” Unfortunately if this recommendation is followed, puppies will suffer from overnutrition and the possibility of orthopedic problems. Obviously a pet food producer does not want to recommend feeding puppies at a level that will make them appear lean and unthrifty. Consequently they recommend greater food intakes compared to those recommended by the NRC. In studies on growing dogs, pet food manufacturers feed up to 30 percent more calories than that recommended by NRC. A company’s feeding instructions will be based on results from these studies.

There is no question that determining the caloric needs of growing dogs is more difficult than deciding how much to feed adult dogs. Growing dogs are of different sizes and their needs change as they mature so feeding them is often no more than a guess. Tables below on puppies’ caloric requirements give the caloric needs of different size growing dogs at any given age and weight. You can check the food package or the manufacturer website for information regarding calorie content for your particular brand. Bear in mind however, that a cup is not always a cup! When in doubt, contact the manufacturer and ask them how many ounces or grams per cup is in their food. Then use a kitchen scale (you can get one very inexpensively these days) and measure that food out to the ounce/gram! Puppies that are overfed can suffer from the possibility of orthopedic problems. Dogs still growing after one year of age will need more than those of comparable weight that stopped growing at eight months of age.

Pet food labels recommend amounts to feed in a range of cups to give at a certain age and for a puppy that will mature to a given weight range. The range of cups to feed varies greatly so that a two or three month old puppy estimated to weigh over 100 pounds at maturity should eat from three to six cups of a dry puppy food. Also if puppies gain one-third or one-half of their adult weight at three months for one breed and at six months for another breed, their food requirements per pound of body weight will be greatly different. Dogs that are still growing after one year of age will need more than those of comparable weight that stopped growing at eight months of age. This can be confusing for some owners, and they resort to free-feeding which can be detrimental, especially in growing large and giant breed puppies.

No matter how the needs of a puppy is determined, it is most important to judge how much to feed by an additional evaluation of the puppy’s appearance. Judge the amount to feed by the animal’s weight and body condition.

The puppy should look trim with only a slight layer of fat over the ribs. The puppy is too fat if the ribs cannot be felt with gentle pressure on the rib cage. The puppy is too thin if the ribs can be easily seen as the puppy moves. If too fat, or too thin, regulate the diet until the puppy is in good condition. The desired condition varies with certain breeds–some tend to be more solid, others more trim. It’s important to handle your puppies and feel their body condition for yourself!

A puppy’s dietary intake should be examined and adjusted every week for its desired rate of growth, coat, body conformation, spontaneous activity, and most importantly prevention of orthopedic problems.The information on overnutrition causing many medical problems is more recent. In the past veterinarians were very happy to see owners bring in well-fed puppies of any breed. Owners were instructed and encouraged to feed their puppies so they would look as “healthy” as possible. Healthy most importantly meant that they were not thin. This is the wrong approach to counseling dog owners on care of their puppies, especially if they will mature to a large size.

Now it is well-known that owners must learn to moderate energy intake in growing dogs (especially of the larger breeds). Periodic weight monitoring and control are essential. Maximal growth is not necessarily compatible with optimal growth. If owners continue to feed puppies so they can be proud of their animal’s size, many problems can be expected. Rapid growth leads to abnormal skeletal development. Slower growth reduces the incidence of abnormalities and does not affect a dog’s ability to eventually attain its normal adult size. The goal of feeding is to provide all the essential nutrients but while keeping the growing puppy “lean.”

A table at the bottom of this page shows the expected weight gain during growth of dogs of different size at maturity. Use this to determine how an animal is growing.

Daily Caloric Requirements for Growing Dogs

Age In

Months

Estimated Adult Body Weight
10 Pounds 20 Pounds 30 Pounds
Weight Pounds Caloric Needs Weight Pounds Caloric Needs Weight Pounds Caloric Needs
2 4 306 6 500 8.3 668
3 5.6 324 8 522 12.5 705
4 6.6 342 11 550 15.6 747
6 7.8 351 13.7 589 19.8 792
9 8.9 374 16.3 628 23 828
12 10 389 18.8 637 26.7 855
Adult 10 389 20 653 30 886

Age In

Months

Estimated Adult Body Weight
40 Pounds 50 Pounds 60 Pounds
Weight Pounds Caloric Needs Weight Pounds Caloric Needs Weight Pounds Caloric Needs
2 10 792 12 935 14 1080
3 15.6 851 19 1025 23 1224
4 19.6 923 24 1116 29 1368
6 25.2 968 30 1118 36 1295
9 29.4 979 36 1134 43 1331
12 34 1106 41 1260 50 855
Adult 40 1099 50 1299 60 1489

Age In

Months

Estimated Adult Body Weight
70 Pounds 80 Pounds 90 Pounds
Weight Pounds Caloric Needs Weight Pounds Caloric Needs Weight Pounds Caloric Needs
2 15 1188 18 1350 21 1575
3 26 1434 30 1639 32 1761
4 33 1597 38 1825 41 1943
6 42 1458 48 1666 52 1802
9 49 1457 56 1665 63 1844
12 57 1647 65 1883 73 2064
Adult 70 1672 80 1848 90 2019

Age In

Months

Estimated Adult Body Weight
100 Pounds 110 Pounds 120 Pounds
Weight Pounds Caloric Needs Weight Pounds Caloric Needs Weight Pounds Caloric Needs
2 19 1365 19 1370 19 1376
3 34 1919 35 2039 36 2160
4 44 2080 46 2158 49 2277
6 57 1959 62 2118 66 2277
9 69 1960 75 2118 82 2277
12 81 2239 88 2415 96 2591
Adult 100 2184 110 2346 120 2504

Age In

Months

Estimated Adult Body Weight
130 Pounds 140 Pounds 150 Pounds
Weight Pounds Caloric Needs Weight Pounds Caloric Needs Weight Pounds Caloric Needs
2 19 1370 20 1370 21 1405
3 37 2257 39 2039 42 2507
4 51 2376 55 2158 59 2661
6 71 2455 76 2118 81 2699
9 88 2455 94 2118 101 2699
12 104 2811 111 2415 119 3085
Adult 130 2660 140 2346 150 2961

Age In

Months

Estimated Adult Body Weight
160 Pounds 175 Pounds
Weight Pounds Caloric Needs Weight Pounds Caloric Needs
2 22 1458 25 1584
3 45 2649 48 2811
4 63 2802 67 2969
6 86 2879 93 3049
9 107 2841 116 3049
12 107 3225 137 3484
Adult 160 3108 175 3324

Evaluating Growth Rate in a Dog

In addition to subjectively evaluating a dog’s nutritional condition, its weight can be compared with a standard. The following table shows the expected weight gain during growth of dogs of different size at maturity. Use this to determine how an animal is growing.

Weight (in pounds) of Different Mature-Size Dogs During Growth

 

Age in Months
2 3 4 6 9 12 Adult
4.4 6.2 7.3 8.8 9.9 11 11
6.4 9.7 11.9 15.2 18 20.5 22
8.8 13.6 16.9 21.6 25.5 29 33
11 16.7 21.1 26.8 32.1 36.5 44
13.2 20.7 26.2 33.2 39.6 45.3 55
15.2 24.9 31.5 40 47.5 54.6 66
16.9 28.6 36.3 46.2 54.8 63.1 77
17.6 30.8 39.6 51 61.6 71.3 88
18.3 33.7 43.6 56.5 68.2 80.3 99
18.5 35.2 46.2 61.6 74.8 88 110
18.7 37 51.5 71.3 88.4 104.3 132
20 40 55.9 77.2 95.9 113.1 143
21.6 43.1 60 83.2 103.2 121.7 154
23.1 46.2 64.5 89.1 110.7 130.5 165
24.6 47.5 66.9 93.3 116.2 137.3 176