Calculating Feeding Requirements of Raw, Fresh Direct, or Canned Diets for Ideal Weight in Dogs and Puppies

Figuring out how much to feed of raw, canned, fresh direct, or even homecooked diets for dogs is different than kibble and dehydrated foods. Kibble and dehydrated diet recommendations are based on cups or dry measurements whereas raw, canned, fresh direct, and homecooked are based on net weight. Why is there a distinction? Because of the moisture content that already exists in the canned or raw food. So, how does one go about this calculation for ideal weight in dogs? 

#1. Find out your companion dog’s ideal weight.

Talk to your veterinarian about how much they want your companion dog to weigh. They will take into account items such as the companion dog’s life stage, breed type, lifestyle, age, and whether or not your dog needs to lose, gain or maintain weight.

#2. Kitchen Accessories

You will need a kitchen scale. We prefer that you have a separate, designated scale exclusively for pet food. 

#3. Resting Energy Requirement (RER)

BW = Body Weight (Ideal goal weight) 

The calculation for RER is RER = (BWkg^0.75) x70. Use the carat symbol in Excel for “to the power of”. 

That’s ideal body weight in kilograms to the power of 0.75, then multiplied by 70. 

#4. Maintenance Energy Requirement (MER)

Now that you know the resting energy requirement for that ideal weight, you will need to multiply that number by the life stage factor to find the MER. 

The calculation is MER is MER = RER x LSF.    

Nutritional Assessment Factors Life Stage Factor (LSF)
Puppy (less than 4 months of age) 3.0
Puppy (older than 4 months of age) 2.0
Neutered / Spayed 1.4 – 1.6
Intact 1.6 – 1.8
Inactive / Obese 1.0 – 1.2
Weight Loss 1.0
Gestation (first 48 days) 1.8
Gestation (last 21 days) 3.0
Lactation (based on number of offspring and weeks of lactation) 3.0 – >6.0
Light Activity / Light Work 1.6 – 2.0
Moderate Activity / Moderate Work 2.0 – 5.0
Heavy Activity / Heavy Work 5.0 – 11.0

#5. Example

Let’s say you have two companion dogs that both need to weigh 20 pounds, but are at different life stages. You have a puppy named Murray that is 6 months old, and a slightly overweight 8 year old named Norman.

Murray the 6 Month Old Puppy

Steps Calculations Units Notes
Target Adult Weight 20 lbs. Murray’s adult target weight.
Convert pounds to kilograms. 9.09 kg. Divide lbs. by 2.2 for kg.
RER = (BWkg ^ 0.75) x 70 366.48 RER kcal/day
MER=RER*LSF 732.97 RER kcal/day LSF = 2.0

Norman the 8 Year Old Dog

Steps Calculations Units Notes
Target Adult Weight 20 lbs. Norman’s ideal weight.
Convert pounds to kilograms. 9.09 kg. Divide lbs. by 2.2 for kg.
RER = (BWkg ^ 0.75) x 70 366.48 RER kcal/day
MER=RER*LSF 366.48 RER kcal/day LSF = 1.0

As you can see, Murray needs to eat twice as much as Norman, or Norman needs to eat one-half as much as Murray per day. 

#6A. Wet Food – Canned or in a Box

Measurement Calories
1 Box = 10.5 oz. 274.00
1 ounce 26.10
1/2 ounce 13.05
1/3 ounce 7.91
1/4 ounce 6.52
1/8 ounce 3.26

According to our calculations, Murray the 6 month old puppy would need to eat approximately to 2 boxes and 7 1/8 ounces per day (733.93 kcal/day) for his nutritional requirement. Norman, would need to eat 1 box, 3.5 ounces per day for approximately 365.33 kcal/day. 

Bear in mind that we did not factor in treats or supplements. You can reduce the caloric intake based on the amounts of these. Please remember treats do not need to meet any nutritional standard. So, we suggest small treats. Better yet, we suggest healthy and fresh treats such as very small pieces of carrots or apples.  

#6B. Raw Dog Food

Raw dog food typically comes in nuggets or patties. 

One raw dog food company manufactures nuggets to be one ounce each and sells them in a 3 lb. bag that states, “approximately 48 nuggets”. According to the duck recipe we looked up, each of the nuggets were 36 kcal/oz. Based on this, Murray would need 20 nuggets weighing 1 ounce each and 1/3 ounce for a total of 732 kcal/day. On the other paw, Norman the 8 year-old would need to eat only 10 nuggets per day (366 kcal/day). 

Did we confuse you? Another way to say this is that Murray would eat 20 and 1/3 ounces per day; while Norman only needs 10 ounces per day. 

By the way, since the bag states approximately the number of nuggets, we would still weigh the nuggets. Why? Because we assume that the company is weighing the total weight of all of the nuggets combined to reach 3 lbs. instead of each nugget individually. In essence, it could be 45, 46, 47, 48, 49, 50, or 51 nuggets, etc… and so on… 

Another raw dog food manufacturer makes bison patties that are 304 kcal/8 oz. 

Measurement Calories
1 Patty = 8.0 oz. 304.00
1 ounce 38.00
1/2 ounce 19.00
1/3 ounce 11.52
1/4 ounce 9.50
1/8 ounce 4.75

Murray the puppy would need to eat approximately 2 patties, 3 ounces, and between one-quarter and one-third ounces each day. Norman would only need 1 patty, 1 ounce and five-eighths every day to reach his ideal weight. 

#6C. Fresh-Direct

Several companies now sell fresh food that is proportioned to a companion dog’s needs according to what is inputted. We checked one company’s online questionnaire and their recommended caloric intake was correct.

We took a pork recipe that is 311 kcal per one-half pound. For simplicity’s sake, we doubled it so it is a pound. 

Measurement Calories
1 pound 622.00
1/2 pound 311.00
1/3 pound 205.26
1/4 pound 155.50
1 ounce 38.88
1/2 ounce 19.44
1/3 ounce 12.83
1/4 ounce 9.72

Murray the puppy will need to eat 1 pound and 3 ounces of this food. His older brother Norman would only need to have 9.5 ounces per day (one-half pound and 1.5 ounces) which equals 369 kcals.

Additional Considerations

Puppies need to eat puppy food because it is higher in fat. Please see our post on the subject titled, “Is puppy food to rich?” 

Puppies have additional considerations such as feeding frequency, different nutritional needs, and stepdown food reduction timing based on their adult size. For more information on that, please read, “Feeding Puppies from Puppyhood to Adulthood: A How-To Guide”. 

For more details on safe weight loss for dogs, please visit Putting It into Action: Companion Pet Caloric Needs for Ideal Target Weight.

Puppies typically should not be fed raw until the age of 12-16 weeks, and it should be introduced gradually. 

Dogs with certain liver and bowel diseases should not eat raw foods. 


Cline, Martha G., et al. “2021 AAHA Nutrition and Weight Management Guidelines for Dogs and Cats.” AAHA, American Animal Hospital Association,  

Dodds WJ, Laverdure DR. Canine Nutrigenomics: the New Science of Feeding Your Dog for Optimal Health. DogWise Publ, Wenatchee, WA, 2015, 315 pp.

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