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Nutritional Guide For Large vs. Small Dog Breeds

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It’s easy to assume that small breeds have the same nutritional needs as large canines, just cut down in proportion to their size. They’re all dogs, right? When it comes to a canine’s nutritional needs, however, size really does make a difference.

Nutritional Needs: Small vs. Medium vs. Large Breeds

In general, small breeds (30 pounds and under) have a higher metabolic rate than large dogs (55 pounds and over), so they need to consume more calories per pound to maintain their weight. For example, an active and energetic 10-pound Schipperke might require about 400 calories a day. In comparison, a 100-pound Bernese Mountain Dog might need to consume 2,250 calories a day. When broken down, this means that the Schipperke’s caloric requirements are about 40 calories per pound in comparison to the Bernese Mountain Dog's 22.5 calories per pound.

Not surprisingly, the caloric requirements of medium-size dogs (between 30 and 55 pounds) fall midway between that of large and small breeds. It also spans a wide range, anywhere from approximately 920 calories for a 30-pound Border Collie to 1,350 calories for a 50-pound Goldendoodle.

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Tips for Feeding Small Dogs

When choosing the right food for your small breed you should consider the following:

  • Small breed puppies and young dogs can be prone to hypoglycemia. They should be fed a calorie-rich diet three to four times a day.
  • Because of their high metabolic rate and small stomachs, small breeds need a diet that is higher in fats and protein than that of a larger dog.
  • Small bite-size kibble is best for little canines.

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Tips for Feeding Large Dogs

Because many large breeds are prone to developing joint problems and serious orthopedic issues, such as hip dysplasia and osteochondritis dissecans (OCD), it's important to feed them the right diet. This is especially true when they are puppies. When choosing a diet for your large breed, you will want to consider the following:

  • A diet that is too high in fat could make a large breed puppy grow too fast, which can place stress on their developing bones and joints.
  • To encourage your dog to slow down and chew their food, it’s best to feed them a larger size kibble
  • Large breeds have slower metabolic rates but bigger stomachs than small dogs. While they will need more food to fill them up, their diet needs to be less calorically dense than that of a small dog.

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Tips for Feeding Medium Dogs

Many active breeds fall into the medium-size category. This group, for example, includes Australian Shepherds, Wheaten Terriers and medium Goldendoodles. Because medium dogs are typically energetic, they usually require a calorie-dense diet that is packed with protein.

It’s important to note that medium dogs bridge a gap between small and large breeds that is quite sizable, so if your dog is closer in size and activity level to a large breed, you'll want to tailor their diet accordingly. Here are some other factors you'll want to consider when choosing a diet for your dog:

  • If your medium-size dog is on the active side, choose a higher-protein diet.
  • Medium-size puppies need food that is approximately 30% protein and 20% fat. In general, medium-size puppies will not need to consume a diet that is as calorie-dense as small dogs.

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Older Dogs of All Sizes

As dogs age, their metabolism starts to slow down. Even though a canine may be eating the same amount of food as before, they may start to gain weight. To combat this issue, it is recommended that senior dogs are fed a less calorie-dense diet that has been formulated specifically to meet their needs.

At what age is a dog considered to be a senior? For small breeds, it’s when they reach about nine years of age. Large dogs age a little faster, so they’re typically considered to be seniors when they reach five to six years of age. As for medium dogs, they’re typically considered to be a senior at around seven years of age.

The Importance of Feeding Your Dog Properly

Just like with humans, dogs who are overweight are more susceptible to a variety of health issues, including heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure. It’s important to feed your dog a diet that is appropriate for their size and that will give them the nutrients they need without causing them to gain weight. By doing so, your canine will be able to live a longer and healthier life.


Image Copyright: Doodles of NC

Author bio: Erin Ruppe is the owner of Doodles of NC. With nearly a decade of experience in breeding goldendoodles, Ruppe focuses on providing exceptional care, genetic health and loving environments for these delightful companions. Her passion lies in breeding and ensuring the well-being of these wonderful dogs, bringing joy and happiness to families far and wide.