How much should a dog eat a day? The truth is, there is no one-size-fits-all answer. There are numerous concerns that factor into how much and how often dogs should eat, and each pup has their own unique needs. It’s hard for humans to tell exactly what their dogs crave, and it doesn’t help that they like to make us think they’re always hungry (and we get it – those faces are hard to ignore!).

Getting your dog on a proper feeding schedule is crucial to their health, like pet insurance. Too little food each day can cause them to be deficient in vital nutrients that help keep dogs healthy. But too much, and your dog is at risk of becoming obese – and obesity comes with its own set of health risks for pets. The best way to ensure your dog is eating properly is to put them on a regimented schedule of the perfect amount of healthy foods.

How Much Should Dogs Eat Based on Weight

The simplest way to gauge how much your dog should eat each day is measuring out their food based on their body weight. Naturally, smaller dogs need less food than larger ones, but what exactly is the perfect number?

First, it’s important to have an accurate handle on how much your dog weighs and whether their body size is considered small, medium, or large. Not having a grasp on your dog’s weight could cause you to easily under or overfeed your pet.

Below is a recommended feeding schedule for how much and how often dogs should eat a day, based on their weight:

Toy Dogs (under 10 pounds)

Shih Tzu sleeping on carpet

Most pet lovers can spot a toy dog when they see one because, despite their tiny stature, toy dogs have big personalities that always seem to stand out from the crowd. But what exactly constitutes a dog as being a “toy” breed?

Some examples of toy breeds: Pomeranian, Havanese, and Yorkshire Terriers. As a rule of thumb, most toy breeds weigh around 10 pounds.

Toy breeds should eat:

  • 1/3 cup per day if they weigh 3 pounds
  • 1/2 cup per day if they weigh 6 pounds

Small Dogs (10-20 pounds)

Though the line between toy and small breeds is blurred, it’s important to know the difference to make sure you’re giving your pup proper health. Most dogs that are generally larger than a toy, but still around 20 pounds, are considered small breeds.

Boston Terriers, Dachshunds, Shih Tzus, and Pugs can all be considered small dogs.

Small breeds should eat:

  • 3/4 cup per day if they weigh 10 pounds
  • 1 cup per day if they weigh 15 pounds
  • 1 2/3 cups per day if they weigh 20 pounds

Medium Dogs (30-50 pounds)

Collie close up shot

Medium breeds often require a bit more food than their small friends. Though the term “medium dog” seems a little vague, there are actually quite a few popular breeds that claim the title.

A few examples of medium dog breeds: Australian Shepherd, Bull Terrier, and Collie.

Medium breeds should eat:

  • 1 3/4 cups per day if they weigh 30 pounds
  • 2 1/4 cups per day if they weigh 40 pounds
  • 2 2/3 cups per day if they weigh 50 pounds

Large Dogs (60-100+ pounds)

Let’s face it: large dogs are easy to spot. And though they can weigh up to ten times more than toy breeds, large pups often like to act like lap dogs anyway. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that these gentle giants put away a lot of food each day.

German Shepherds, Golden Retrievers, Rottweilers, and Bernese Mountain Dogs are all considered large breeds.

Large breeds should eat:

  • 3 cups per day if they weigh 60 pounds
  • 3 1/2 cups per day if they weigh 70 pounds
  • 3 3/4 cups per day if they weigh 80 pounds
  • 4 1/4 cups per day if they weigh 90 pounds
  • 4 1/2 cups per day if they weigh 100 pounds

Note: Add in an extra 1/3 cup for every 10 pounds if your dog weighs over 100 pounds.

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How Much Should Dogs Eat Based on Age

When determining how much to feed your dog, it’s important to consider their age as well as their weight. Young pups and senior dogs have very different needs – puppies need food for their growing bodies while adult dogs’ diets should be focused on maintaining their health.

Puppy and Growing Dogs Feeding Schedule

Not only will puppies require a different kind of feeding schedule, but they also will require a lot more attention to ensure they are adjusting well to new foods. Amidst all the craziness that comes with raising a young pup, you are probably wondering just how much dog food a puppy requires.

For the first eight weeks, puppies should freely nurse on their mother’s milk whenever they want. After the first four weeks, they can start incorporating small amounts of watered-down dry food, which will help them transition off their mother’s milk.

After eight weeks, puppies should be eating nutrient-rich food twice a day.

Adult Dogs Feeding Schedule

According to WebMD, when a dog reaches 90% of its estimated adult weight it’s considered an adult dog, for feeding purposes. This means that your pup can switch to an adult diet, which will help maintain their weight with nutrients for animals that have passed their growing stage.

Puppies’ growing stages usually happen by seven months, but larger breeds can sometimes grow until they are over a year old.

Other Considerations

White faced pitbull mix under table

While weight and age are often the main factors in determining how much and how often a dog should eat a day, you can’t rule out other factors that will affect your dog’s diet or health. 

Health Condition

If your dog suffers from any health conditions, it’s important to talk to your veterinarian about the best feeding schedule for your dog.

Dogs with specific conditions like urinary stones, weight problems, or heart, liver, and kidney disease require unique diets to help address their illnesses.

Activity Level

Like humans, a dog’s activity level can affect their feeding and diet needs. Less active dogs need less fat and will most likely not need to go over on their recommended calories. On the other hand, highly active pups may need more calories in their diets.

Dog Feed Schedule

As always, we recommend you consult with your vet before deciding on your pup’s dog food, feeding schedule, and serving size. However, these suggested feeding schedules are generally accepted as being safe for your dog.

Adult dogs should eat twice a day: once in the morning (approximately 7 am when you might have your breakfast) and once in the evening (around 6 pm, or when you eat dinner).

Puppies generally eat three times per day (sometimes four times for extremely active pups!). Puppies can eat their breakfast and dinner on schedule with adult dogs but may require a midday meal as well (around 12 pm).

Many pet owners with busier or ever-changing schedules wonder if they can just feed their dog once or twice a day. Some sources, like MedicAnimal, say it’s OK to feed adult dogs just once a day. If you’re still unsure about how often to feed your dog, ask your veterinarian.

Dog Feeding Tips

Figuring out the right amount of food to feed your dog isn’t always the hardest part of pet ownership. Sometimes the true challenge comes from making sure they eat their food at all. We compiled a few helpful tips from iHeartDogs to make mealtime easier on you and your pup.

  1. Persuade Your Dog to Eat

Dogs can be stubborn, and if you’re struggling with a hard-headed pup, we recommend adding a bit of broth or a small treat to their meal to encourage them to eat.

  1. Limit Meal Time

Leaving your dog’s food out all day can cause them to ignore it altogether. To break this habit, leave their food down at meal times for 10 minutes and even if they don’t touch it, take the bowl away until the next meal. This will teach your pup to eat when the bowl is on the ground.

  1. Slow Their Eating Down

Some dogs seem to inhale food within a second. Eating too fast can be dangerous for dogs, so investing in a slow feeder dish will help them take it nice and slow.

Dog and parent walking on wooden floor

A consistent feeding schedule and proper dosages of food will protect against your pet being over or underweight. A healthy feeding schedule and diet will ensure your pup is getting all of the proper nutrients they need from their food.

Know your dog’s weight, target weight, and health condition before starting on a new schedule. And remember: always measure before you scoop!