Why Is My Dog Always Hungry?

This question has been asked by every dog owner. At some point in every dog’s life, they seem to never get enough food. The big question for owners then is whether they are feeding their growing pup enough at each meal. Or, is their dog just wanting more for no reason. Is this just a behavior the dog is developing and, if so, for what reason? Is this natural or something created due to other circumstances?

The answer is yes … to all of the above as any one of them can be true. The key to determining your dog’s ideal weight begins by gauging the overall health of your dog. Is your dog too thin, overweight or just right? Is he or she lethargic; does your dog tire easily? Does your dog have mobility issues or have difficulty breathing during or after a brisk walk?

A Dog’s Ideal Weight

Proper weight is very important but is not often easy to determine. The answer is not easy to establish because many owners often do not understand healthy weight for themselves let alone their dogs. Also, many weight tables show ideal ranges for purebred dogs only and those ranges can be considerable.

In a 14-year study, Purina showed that dogs fed to a lean condition from early puppyhood throughout life can enjoy up to 2 healthier, active years. Yet, some studies show that approximately 55% of our dogs in the U.S. are overweight or obese. As with humans, obesity can lead to other diseases in dogs including:

Every Dog Deserves a Waistline

The chart below can help you gain a visual idea of what your dog size might indicate about its overall weight condition. View your dog from the top and both sides to start your evaluation. The next step is to feel your dog’s ribcage and hips. Because many dogs have heavy coats, the touch test will help finalize your assessment.

You should be able to feel the ribs with very little to no padding. If you cannot feel your dog’s ribcage then there is a good chance your dog needs to lose some weight. The waist should gently curve into the hips as well. If you feel too much bone then your dog may need to add a little weight. The hip bone should be present but not protruding.

Sometimes even the loss of just 2 to 5 pounds can make all the difference; not just in the visual look of your pup but their health, activity level and overall well-being. As you can see in the chart, there is not a huge difference from emaciated to normal but there is when your dog begins to reach a level that is considered overweight or obese. You will need to take into consideration your dog’s breed, body type, coat density and age. Again, the touch test is extremely telling.

Credit: Courtesy of Nestle Purina PetCare Co.

Purina’s Body Condition Chart

 Purina’s Body Condition Chart shows dogs in a range of weight conditions. [Credit: Courtesy o

The Overweight Dog

First things first; what and how much you feed your dog is the most important aspect of proper weight management. Next would be exercise and activity and finally, changing YOUR behavior about feeding your dog.

Rapid weight loss is not the best plan of attack. Your dog will need time to adjust both physically and mentally. My advice to owners with overweight dogs is to cut back slowly to the ideal feeding amount. For exercise I suggest gradually increasing activity so as to avoid injury.


A healthy diet should consist of natural ingredients including healthy, lean proteins and few if any grains. Human-grade ingredients are best as they would not contain toxins and molds when grains are present. Fruit and vegetables should also be included and the food should never be chemically preserved. The use of tocopherols is best; Vitamin A, C and E. Sprayed on flavorings and by-products should always be avoided.

How Much to Feed ~ The Almighty Measuring Cup

Not all dog food are created equally. A cup from one brand might have more or fewer calories than the next. The quality of ingredients determines the quality of the calories. Choosing the best food for your dog is extremely important so that when you determine the caloric needs of your dog you can be sure you are measuring our his or her food properly.

NOTE: Always use a dry ingredient measuring cup for accuracy.


RER or Resting Energy Requirements can be calculated by multiplying the animal’s body weight in kilograms (30 x body weight in kilograms) + 70.

So for example: the RER of a 20 pound (9 kg) dog would be (30x9) + 70 or 340 (RER or Calories per day).

The RER is then multiplied by factors to estimate the pet’s total daily energy needs. Each dog’s requirements can vary by as much as 50% from calculated values. So this is only a start for estimating the amount of calories needed daily. The amount can be adjusted up or down depending on factors such as:

Using the RER, determine your dog's daily caloric needs based on the following calculations:

Using the example above, if a 20 lb dog is a spayed female with a normal activity level, her daily caloric requirement will be approx. 1.6 X 340 RER or 544 calories per day.

If she needs to lose weight, you'll want to feed 1 x 340 RER or 340 calories per day (minimum).

Remember this is just a guideline. Owners will always need to adjust caloric intake by taking into account all factors involving their dog’s age, growth, health and activity levels on a daily, weekly and monthly basis. It will become a matter of habit as you become more in tune with your dog’s daily health requirements.

Dog Food Labels

The number of calories in a given amount of dog food is known as its metabolizable energy or ME. It’s usually indicated somewhere on a dog food package as:

Most dog food labels assume you will feed your dog once daily.

I recommend you feed your adult dog twice per day. Puppies, and smaller or toy breeds may need to be fed three times per day. If you prefer to feed your dog twice a day, be sure to divide their daily amount in half so that both meals add up to the daily suggested calories.

Most important; use a dry measuring cup. Guessing your old coffee cup is 8 oz is not good enough.

The Hungry Dog

Is your dog really hungry or are you providing love in a biscuit? Dog’s generally fall into two categories;

  1. The begging dog
  2. The dog who does not beg

Like the dog who does not beg, the begging dog is rarely, if ever, a hungry dog. Sometimes owners create the problem and sometimes our dog just comes wired this way. You can never be certain which it is but you can learn to control the impulse to believe your dog is always hungry.  Owners generally fall into two categories:

  1. The owner that often gives in to the begging dog
  2. The owner that always gives in to the begging dog

Most owners rarely think about their dog’s daily caloric intake. They just assume their dog is hungry.

Dogs in the Wild

Like their closest ancestors, dogs have very specific instincts where food is concerned. While the domesticated dog has been conditioned to being provided their food, and to being fed by humans, understanding their natural feeding habits might explain some of your dog’s behavior. Studies on dog and wolf behavior and anatomy have shown that dog physiology and most dog behaviors are comparable to those of young wolves.

Wolves eat their kill very rapidly; most likely to keep from becoming vulnerable to other’s looking to kill them or steal their prey. Adult wolves can eat up to 20% of their body weight. Competition can be fierce during lean seasons as Alphas and breeding pairs eat first leaving what is left to the rest of the pack to fend for themselves.

Wolves must often live off their stored fat for several weeks at a time; when food is scarce and when they must scavenge.

Many dogs’ exhibit these rapid feeding tendencies. This behavior may be an adaptation to scavenging during the early stages of domestication. This behavior can lead to obesity if not kept in check. Many dogs eat so quickly that they do not sense a feeling of fullness.

Treats Can Be Good

Dog’s that always seem hungry will usually eat anything. No treat is unacceptable and no table scrap is unworthy of immediate attention. This may be your clearest indication as an owner that your dog simply loves to eat no matter what. This is the dog most likely to be overweight – at present or in the future – and most likely to suffer from related health issues.

Treats can be healthy though and can be doled out in such a way as to make both owner and dog happy.

I prefer protein-based treats only. Chicken, fish, deer, lamb; dried or fresh in small quantities. These types of treats will be a great supplement to your dog’s diet rather than interfere with it. And, treats should be considered a dietary supplement rather than a snack. One of the treats we give our dogs fresh frozen smelt which are highly nutritious – they love them! Chicken liver (in small quantities) are also excellent. Etta Says! Freeze-dried Treats are excellent!

Never reward your dog for begging though. A healthy treat is best given out on a schedule once or twice a day. Be sure to include those calories as part of your dog’s daily requirement – especially if your dog is prone to weight gain or is already overweight.

Medical Causes for a Hungry Dog

There are health issues that can cause a dog to be overweight or underweight or to not digest or metabolize their food properly.

We have seen many instances lately where dogs are suffering from lack of digestive enzymes in their diet. Dogs receive enzymes from two sources;

1. Their bodies
2. Their diet

Just about every raw, fresh food, whether it is plant or animal source, contains enzymes. Most dogs consume highly processed or cooked diets and most likely receive little or no enzymes from their food. They must rely on their bodies to manufacture the enzymes they need for proper digestion and other metabolic functions.  Although a dog’s pancreas produces protease, amylase, and lipase, but it is most likely not enough to completely digest their food.

Changing your dog to a fresh, raw diet can be a solution for some. For others adding a digestive enzyme supplement might work very well. See your vet if you have any concerns about your dog’s health.

The Healthy Dog

The material in this article is simply a guideline to help concerned owners understand their dog’s weight and health concerns. Let’s all work towards helping our dogs live longer lives.

Featured Dog Food

Allergies and skin and coat problems are the most common health issues our pets face today …but it doesn’t have to be that way. Improve your dog’s quality of life and give them a fighting chance against allergies!

Flint River Ranch Dog FoodA gourmet blend of nutritionally balanced Duck meat proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vegetables, and fruit berries with vitamins, chelated minerals, Omega 6 and 3 fatty acids, antioxidants and probiotics. No corn, wheat or chicken, and also keeps with our philosophy of no chemical preservatives or by-products. The formula is OVEN-BAKED under carefully controlled conditions and temperatures resulting in better nutrition, palatability and digestibility for your pet..

It is our belief that your pets have the ability to heal themselves of common metabolic and nutritional deficiencies when presented with proper nutrition and a superior method of delivery of the necessary nutrition. Flint River Ranch formulas are developed keeping this belief in mind as the foundation of our Company so we stay focused on formulas and products for your pets’ health and happiness.