How much are you suppose to feed your pet? This depends on the size of the pet, genetics and lifestyle. The feeding guide on the bag of food gives you a range, but remembers they are trying to sell more food.


Until they are spayed or neutered which can be done at 4 months of age, can be free fed a good quality kitten food. Most kitten foods have approximately 500 kcal/ cup. Once they have been altered their caloric requirement decreases and they should be fed meal times of 1/4cup/ twice daily. When they are a year of age you can switch to adult cat food.


Obesity is the number one health disease in cats and can take up to 5 years off their life. The average life span of an ideal weight cat is 18-20 and overweight cat is 13 years. You are not doing your cat any benefit overfeeding it a premium food. Cats only need about 20-25 calories per pound. A good rule of thumb is ¼ c / twice daily. If it is a small boned cat or you are feeding a premium food then the cat will need a little less. The cat should not have a swinging pouch. Meal times are one of the best things you can do for your cat.


What are the recommendations for switching pups and growing dogs onto adult maintenance diets?

Puppies have specific dietary requirements that differ from those of adult dogs. Mostly, they have different requirements for calcium and phosphorus, and, as a rule, a higher calorie requirement than an adult dog of a similar size.

The standard recommendations are to feed “growth” diets until the dog reaches approximately 80% of the anticipated adult size. This generally occurs at around 12 months of age for small-breed and medium-breed dogs, and around 18-24 months for large and giant-breed dogs. Thus, it is conventionally recommended to feed “growth” diets until this time, but longer will not be harmful.

Is it actually necessary to feed puppies “puppy food” and adult dogs “adult maintenance food”?

Most clinical veterinary nutritionists suggest using diets that are specific for each life stage (growth, adulthood, reproduction,). However, some foods marketed as maintenance diets are formulated and/or tested for “all life stages”. Therefore, determining the correct diet can be confusing – for example, BOTH Purina Puppy Chow AND Purina Dog Chow are approved for “all life stages”.

The major difference between regular and large-breed growth diets is the energy density and calcium content. Large-breed growth diets are less energy dense to reduce the risk of overfeeding. An overweight body condition is an important risk factor for developmental orthopedic disease (Dammrich K 1991, Hedhammer A et al 1974). In most cases, Dr Larsen recommends feeding a diet which has passed AAFCO feeding trials for growth made by a reputable pet-food company and marketed specifically for large-breed or giant-breed growth. However, regular puppy diets can safely be fed to any breed if the puppy is kept lean.

What harm can the owner cause by feeding an adult diet earlier than what is recommended?

Most harm is likely to occur in large-breed or giant-breed dogs, since they grow rapidly and have heavier body weights which place stress on the growing skeleton. Of greatest concern is providing a diet with an inappropriate Ca:Phos ratio, an excess of calcium OR excess calories. For example, some adult maintenance diets (especially those formulated as ‘high protein’ or ‘grain free’) tend to be energy-dense and may exceed the safe upper limit for calcium intake for growing puppies as set by the National Research Council (NRC; 4.5 g/1000 kcal). Therefore, providing a diet with the appropriate balance of calcium and phosphorus, but with a lower calcium content and lower energy density than a regular growth diet, is likely safer for growing large-breed and giant-breed dogs. Studies in Great Danes have shown that orthopedic abnormalities can occur if the calcium content is too high, even if the Ca:Phos ratio is correct (Tryfonidou et al 2002, 2003). Both large and small breeds appear to grow safely consuming diets providing 1.0 to 1.5% DM calcium (or approximately 3 grams calcium per 1000 kcal). Large-breed growth diets have been formulated to limit calories AND limit calcium content (e.g. Purina and Hills OTC large-breed growth diets have 2.8 g Ca per 1000kcal).

Can calories be limited by switching giant-breed dogs over to adult food at 6 months of age to reduce the growth rate?

There are 2 reasons why this approach is not advised:

Adult diets often have calcium-phosphorus ratios, or absolute amounts of these minerals, which are inappropriate for growing giant-breed dogs. This can affect bone development in these breeds, which are still undergoing rapid growth at 6 months and beyond.
Diets marketed as “adult” foods may be as energy-dense as those marketed as “puppy” diets, especially if they are formulated to meet AAFCO nutrient profiles for “all life stages” (which is the same as “growth/gestation/lactation” formulation).
Therefore, simply switching to an adult food at any arbitrary age is not advised. It is best to simply control the calories consumed by regular assessment of body condition with appropriate adjustments in the amount fed.

The recommendation to switch to adult foods at 6 months of age is one that is promoted by many breeders, and was generally recommended by veterinarians before the advent of growth diets. However, since the development of large-breed growth diets, which have been specifically constituted to help reduce overfeeding as well as meet the requirements of growing large-breed dogs, these recommendations are obsolete. Importantly, you cannot determine suitability of a product by looking at the label or marketing. Instead, you have to examine the AAFCO statement and then look at the nutrient analysis to determine whether calcium, phosphorus and energy density are appropriate for growing large-breed dogs. Remember, as energy density and/or calorie intake increases, the Ca intake (absolute amount of Ca) will also increase.

How can I limit calorie intake in a growing giant-breed dog to reduce the rate of growth?

The easiest way is to adjust the amount of the growth diet. The correct amount of food is the amount that allows the growing dog to maintain a lean body condition (Body Condition Score: 4/9). Clients should be taught to assess their puppies on a regular basis and to adjust the amount fed accordingly. This ensures that nutritional requirements are met but that growth is controlled to reduce the risk of developmental orthopedic disease. Growth rates and energy needs can vary between individual dogs, even siblings, so adjustment of the diet should be individualized based on regular assessment of the BCS.

What should I do if the growing dog already has developmental orthopedic disease?

If the dog has identifiable developmental orthopedic disease, the diet should be carefully evaluated and adjusted if necessary. The help of a veterinary nutritionist in dietary evaluation is advised in these instances. The orthopedic problem should be addressed as required.

What should I do if the growing dog is overweight or obese?

Feed less and increase low-impact activity such as swimming or leash walking. In most cases, reducing calorie intake while continuing to feed the large-breed growth diet should allow for normalization of body condition while maintaining appropriate balances of other nutrients. Specifically designed weight-loss diets might be required to maintain sufficient intake of other nutrients; this should be done in consultation with a veterinary nutritionist.

What sort of nutritional composition should a giant-breed growth diet have?

Generally, growth diets for large-breed or giant-breed dogs should contain at least 30% protein and 9% fat on a dry matter (DM) basis, with calcium up to 1.5% and phosphorus around 0.8 to 1% DM (restricting calcium to 0.9% has been associated with poor growth in many breeds) (Laflamme 2001). Some diets might have different concentrations of these micronutrients and still be appropriate for growing puppies (e.g. Eukanuba Large-Breed Puppy diet).

Despite the persistence of this myth, concerns of high-protein diets leading to developmental orthopedic problems are unfounded (Nap et al 1991).

Are there any home-made diets that can be fed to growing large-breed dogs?

Not if your client is after an “off-the-shelf” or “out-of-the-book” home-made diet. There is too much potential for errors in estimating calcium and phosphorus as well as other essential nutrients. If a client is adamant about feeding home-made diets, enlist the services of a clinical veterinary nutritionist to formulate a suitable diet for the pet. Using generic diet recipes is simply a recipe for disaster! (Streiff et al 2002) Further, most “raw diets” do not have an energy, calcium or phosphorous concentration considered appropriate for large-breed and giant-breed dogs.



Journal Articles

1. Dämmrich K. Relationship between nutrition and bone growth in large and giant dogs. J Nutr. November 1991;121(11 Suppl):S114-21.

2. Hedhammer A, Wu F, Krook L et al. Overnutrition and skeletal disease: an experimental study in growing Great Dane dogs. Cornell Vet Suppl, 1974;64(2 Suppl):5-16.

3. Laflamme DP. Effect of breed size on calcium requirements of puppies. Supplement to Comp Cont Ed Pract Vet.2001;23(9A):66-69.

4. Larsen J. Feeding large-breed puppies. Compendium: Continuing Education for Veterinarians, 2010;32(5):E1-E4.

5. Nap RC, Hazewinkel HA, Voorhout G, van den Brom WE, Goedegebuure SA, van ‘t Klooster AT. Growth and skeletal development in Great Dane pups fed different levels of protein intake. J Nutr. November 1991;121(11 Suppl):S107-13.

6. Streiff EL, Zwischenberger B, Butterwick RF, Wagner E, Iben C, Bauer JE. A comparison of the nutritional adequacy of home-prepared and commercial diets for dogs. J Nutr. June 2002;132(6 Suppl 2):1698S-700S.

7. Tryfonidou MA, van den Broek J, van den Brom WE, Hazewinkel HA. Intestinal calcium absorption in growing dogs is influenced by calcium intake and age but not by growth rate. J Nutr. 2002 Nov;132(11):3363-8.

8. Tryfonidou MA, Holl MS, Vastenburg M, Oosterlaken-Dijksterhuis MA, Birkenhäger-Frenkel DH, van den Brom WE, Hazewinkel HA. Hormonal regulation of calcium homeostasis in two breeds of dogs during growth at different rates. J Anim Sci. 2003 Jun;81(6):1568-80.


1. Coffman M. Nutrition for the Growing Large Breed Show Dog. IAMS Company Proceedings – 2002

2. Michel KE. Nutrition and Developmental Orthopedic Disease. Atlantic Coast Veterinary Conference 2002

Rounds and Other Resources

1. Remillard RL. Practical Nutritional and Dietary Recommendations: Minimizing Clinical Aspects of Orthopedic Diseases. VIN Library, 2001


This FAQ was reviewed by Jennifer Larsen, Craig Datz & Rebecca Remillard for the VIN community.

Date Created: 8/11/2011

They come in all shapes and sizes and feeding requirements. The small and toy breeds caloric requirement is almost twice that of the big dogs. Large breed puppies also require less fat calories to prevent orthopedic developmental problems.

The first 4 months puppies have a high caloric requirement that decreases almost in half when they are 4 months old. That is also the time they are being spayed or neutered which also decreases caloric requirement.

The first 4 months the puppies need approximately 60 kcal/# for the big breeds and 80kcal/# for the small breeds. Decrease that by 25% when they turn 4 months old. Decrease another 20% when they become adults.


The toy and small breed dogs generally have a requirement of 35kcal/ # which decreases as the size of the breed increases. A 50# dog would have a requirement of 23kcal/# and a 90# dog would be around 20kcal/#.

There is a wide range of calories/cup depending on the brand and the ingredients. Canidae and Blue Buffalo have around 500kcal/cup which is what is in most performance foods. Most other adult maintenance foods will be in the range of 370-400kcal/cup. Large breed, senior and weight management foods will have less.

These are guidelines. Do not forget to count the calories from treats and table food.

To monitor your dog’s weight at home feel him behind the elbows. It should feel like the back of your hand. If it feels like your knuckles he’s too skinny. If it feels like your palm and you’re not feeling the ribs, he’s too heavy.

The Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP) is a group of veterinarians and veterinary healthcare experts dedicated to reducing the pet obesity epidemic.

The average life span of ideal weight big dogs is two years longer than for obese dogs. The average life span of ideal weight cats is 18; the life span of an obese cat is 13.

Guides on the pet food bags are too large, which causes a lot of fat pets.

Body Condition

It is not enough to simply feed your dog the amount indicated in the chart on the back of the bag. Like people, each dog’s body uses food differently, and changes in age and activity level may alter the number of calories a dog needs. If you feed your dog more than he needs, the extra energy may be stored as fat and could lead to obesity- the number one nutritional disorder among dogs.

This extra weight puts dogs at risk for certain health problems involving the cardiovascular, respiratory and skeletal systems. Knowing how to recognize the signs of your dog being overweight and taking corrective action is important. But it’s more important to know how to keep your pet in good body condition from the beginning, thus avoiding the development of obesity in the first place.

Maintaining Ideal Body Condition

Start by figuring out where your dog falls on the 9 point purina@bodyconditionchart. In order to do this, you will want to conduct three checks of your dog.

Rib Check ( Healthy hugs): Place both of your thumbs on your dog’s backbone and spread both hands across his rib cage. You want to be able to feel his ribs. It should feel like the back of your hand. If it feels like your palm, he is too heavy. If it feels like your knuckles, he is too skinny. Feeling your dog is important, as the coat of many dogs will make a visual check difficult.
Profile Check: Examine your dog’s profile- it’s best if you are level with your dog. Look for the abdomen to be tucked up behind his rib cage.
Overhead check: Looking at your dog from overhead, identify if you can see a waist behind the ribs. Most dogs at a healthy weight should have an hourglass figure.
Obesity Awareness

It has been estimated that nearly half of US dogs and cats are overweight or obese. pet obesity can be caused by genetics, high-fat diets, overeating, lack of exercise and health problems such as hypothyroidism ( low thyroid levels)

Whhile gaining 1-2 pounds may not make a lot of difference to your body, for a cat or a dog with a comparatively smaller body, a few pounds can add a lot of stress to bones and organs. If left untreated dogs and cats may experience serious health issues secondary to obesity. Excess pounds can shorten your pet’s life span.

Common health problems associated with obesity include:

  • Lamesness, Arthritis and other Joint Disorders
  • Diabetes Mellitus
  • Heart Disease
  • High Blood Pressure
  • Exercise Intolerance and Overheating
  • Increased Anesthetic and Surgical Risks
  • Skin Problems
  • Reduced Life Span