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The Science Behind Dog Food Calculators: How They Ensure a Balanced Diet?

A happy dog sitting beside a food bowl filled with kibble


Dog food calculators can be very helpful as you try to determine the right amount of food to give your doggo each day. But since every dog is unique, it’s impossible to predict the serving size that’s perfect for each pet without taking into account that different foods have different formulas. However, there are some limitations to them that you need to consider.

Calculating a Dog’s Caloric Needs

Dog Food Calculators use a basic formula to determine an estimated number of calories that your dog needs on a daily basis. They consider a variety of factors, such as:

  • Activity level
  • Age
  • Breed
  • Health issues
  • Intact or spayed/neutered
  • Pregnant/Nursing
  • Weight
  • Working/non-working

When entered into the equation accurately, the result will be an estimated calorie needs. Remember that this is just an estimate, a place to start which might need to be adjusted later.

Food Quality Is Very Important

Dog food calculators determine the caloric needs of your dog–not necessarily the nutritional needs. If you give your dog low quality food, they might be getting the calories that they need, but not the right balance of protein, fat, carbohydrates and fiber. And they could be missing many of the micronutrients as well.

So, start with the package’s feeding instructions — or the amount suggested by the calculator.

What Does Your Dog Need?

Whatever food you decide to feed your dog, you need to provide them with the necessary “amino acids from proteins, fatty acids and carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, and water” that are required to maintain a healthy body. [1] “The source of the proteins and fats is less important than the quality and digestibility of these essential components of the dog's diet, and a well-balanced diet must also include an appropriate amount of minerals, vitamins, certain essential amino acids (from proteins), and specific essential fatty acids (from fats).” [1]


There are a variety of protein sources, but they need to provide all 10 amino acids. Proteins can also cause food allergies, but there are enough to pick from, so if your dog does have a sensitivity to one, you can easily find another that they are not allergic to.


Fats provide a lot of your dog's energy. It also provides Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids which are needed for good doggy health. Fat content varies, but it will be the main source of calories in a quality dog food.


Carbohydrates supplement the energy provided by fat, and they are a good source of fiber as well. Unused carbs can be converted to fat for later use. Try to find dog food with carbs that are metabolized slowly so that they can be used as they are digested.


Fiber will help your dog’s digestive tract work properly, as well as promote good gut health, encouraging the right “bugs” in your dog's gut.


Here are the necessary vitamins your dog needs to stay healthy:

  • A
  • D
  • E
  • K
  • B1
  • Riboflavin
  • B6
  • Pantothenic Acid
  • B12
  • Folic Acid
  • Biotin
  • Choline [2]


Minerals are necessary, too:

  • Calcium
  • Phosphorus
  • Magnesium
  • Sodium
  • Potassium
  • Chlorine
  • Iron
  • Copper
  • Zinc
  • Manganese
  • Selenium
  • Iodine [2]

Read the Label!

As you are deciding on a food for your forever friend, start with your vet. They can recommend quality dog foods that will help to keep your dog healthy as well as fit and trim.

Look for ingredients that are “real,” things that you recognise. The more plain English in the ingredient list, the better. If there are ingredients that you don’t recognize, you might want to pass that brand by and pick one that is simpler.

And don’t forget to weigh your dog every few weeks. Calculators are just giving you an estimate–you will need to adjust it, up or down, for your furry pal to make sure that they are getting the Goldilocks amount–not too much and not too little but just right!

Since dog food calculators just give you a recommended number of calories for your dog, it is up to you to make sure that they are getting all the nutrients that they need. Feeding your doggo the right food in the right amount will go a long way to giving them their best and longest life–And isn’t that best for both of you?

[1] Your Dog’s Nutritional Needs

[2] Nutrition–General Feeding Guidelines for Dogs