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Latest health and behavior news and advice from the veterinarians at Tufts University.

Expert Advice October 2018 Issue

Dear Doctor: On Whether the Recommended Serving Sizes on Dog Food Labels Account for Treats

Q. I have read in Your Dog as well as in other places that up to 10 percent of a dog’s daily calories can come from treats. With that in mind, when you look at a bag of dog food and see how many cups per day a dog should be fed based on his weight, is the manufacturer taking into account that you might add 10 percent more calories in the form of treats, or is the company calculating 100 percent of a dog’s calorie needs? I’m asking because I’m wondering if I should subtract a little of the kibble recommended so I can add in some goodies each day?

Arlene Walter

Sayville, New York

Dear Ms. Walter,

A. Each company may have its own way of making the calculations, but we called Purina, one of the largest, most reputable dog food manufacturers out there, and were told that when they make their recommendations on serving sizes, they are considering 100 percent of a dog’s calorie needs, not, say, 90 percent in order to add in some treats. So if you plan to give treats, you may want to give slightly less kibble over the course of the day.

Note that recommended feeding amounts on packages of dog food are not x calories for a dog who weighs y pounds. It’s a range of calories for a range of weights. That’s because even two dogs who are the same size may have different calorie requirements depending on such factors as activity level and age and whether or not they were spayed/neutered. Dogs also have varying metabolic rates, meaning some are just easy keepers and need fewer calories to maintain ideal body condition.

The bottom line is that there’s generally some trial and error involved in coming up with the right amount to feed your dog. In some cases, a dog might even need fewer calories than the smallest feeding amount recommended for a given weight range (in which case you will want to switch to a different pet food because if you have to go below the lower end of the recommended calorie range to keep your dog trim, you could be shortchanging him on nutrients that come with those calories). In other cases, particularly if the pet is a working dog who is extremely active throughout the day, he might need more.

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