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How many calories does a large breed dog need?

Q: Our family just adopted an Akita. How many calories do large dog breeds need daily?

A: As dog lovers, we all want to do what’s best for our pets. And a big part of keeping your pet healthy is providing a diet that meets your dog’s nutritional and caloric requirements. Let’s look at some examples of large-breed dogs, and show you a handy way to calculate the caloric needs of your pet.

What Qualifies as a Large-Breed Dog?

Generally, large breed dogs are those that attain healthy adult weights of 70 pounds or more. Large breeds include the Airedale, Akita, Great Pyrenees, Mastiff, Cane Corso, St. Bernard, Great Dane, and the Alaskan Malamute. These dog breeds can reach over 100 pounds as adults, though there are many others breeds (like the Blood Hound) that can reach this stature.

Computing Your Pet’s Caloric Needs

Your pet’s caloric requirements depend on a range of factors. Most important is your pet’s resting energy requirement (RER). This is the amount of energy (calories) that your animal needs to perform basic physiologic functions (such as digestion, respiration, maintaining blood pressure, etc.) while at rest.

You can calculate your pet’s RER this way:

  • Determine your pet’s weight in kg.
  • Increase by a power of ¾
  • Multiply by 70

Example: For a 50kg animal (110 pounds),

503/4 = 18.8.
125.75 x 70 = 1316 calories per day

This number reflects only calories required at rest. For example, healthy young dogs that enjoy running, playing, and working require 2x to 5x their RER daily. So, an active 50k animal in good health may need between 2632 to 6580 calories per day. 

Nutritional Guidelines

Dogs are omnivores by nature, which means they consume both meat and plant matter. Nutritionally, your pet’s diet should contain a kibble that is high in meat protein and low in carbohydrate fillers. The occasional healthy treat is okay, but avoid table scraps and human foods that might be hazardous or promote obesity.

Obesity Cautions

Obesity has been linked to significant health problems in dogs. These can include cardiovascular problems, musculoskeletal issues (obesity can exacerbate arthritis), and diabetes. Obese animals are also less likely to want to exercise, which can result in a cycle of weight gain.

If you feel your pet is obese or is at risk of becoming obese, there are some actions you can take. For example,

  • Decrease your pet’s daily caloric intake (if above 2x–5x RER)
  • Establish a feeding schedule
  • Decrease portion size
  • Purchase a “slow feeder” to decrease overconsumption

Tips to Help Your Pet Maintain a Healthy Weight

If your large-breed dog is already at a healthy weight, you’ll want to keep them there. So, a program of nutritious meals (low in carbs, high in protein) as well as regular daily exercise is recommended. Even a brisk 20-minute walk each day can help keep your pet (and you) at a healthy weight. Can’t get your pet to the park every day? Try some at-home toys that will let your pet exercise at home (for example, a swing pole is a great backyard toy for breeds that enjoy pulling a rope).

We hope these tips help you choose a healthy and nutritious diet for your large-breed dog. If you suspect that your pet has any underlying conditions that may affect its weight or ability to exercise, talk to your vet. They can make additional dietary and exercise recommendations to help your pet maintain a healthful weight.

Cecily Kellogg is a pet lover who definitely has crazy cat lady leanings. Her pets are all shelter rescues, including the dog, who is scared of the cats. She spent eight years working as a Veterinary Technician before becoming a writer. Today she writes all over the web, including here at Figo.

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