Jack Russell waiting patiently for his wet food dinner.

How Much Wet Food Should You Feed Your Dog?

Written By Vedrana Nikolic | Canine Coach, B.A Ethnology & Anthropology, M.A Semiotics.
Edited & Fact Checked By Renae Soppe | B.A Journalism & Science. 
Last Updated: 7th January 2024

It’s in a dog’s nature to eat food whenever it’s available. This means that most dogs will eat the portion served for dinner, no matter how large it might be. But as a pet parent, it’s your responsibility to determine the right serving size.

If you’re feeding your pooch wet dog food, there are several aspects to keep in mind when figuring out the portions. Our team of experts has shared everything about feeding your dog wet food, so let’s dive straight into the article.

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Related: What Is the Pet Food Industry Association of Australia (PFIAA)?
Related: AAFCO vs PFIAA: Dog Food Standards Comparison Australia

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How Much Wet Food To Feed Your Dog

If you’re feeding your pooch, let’s say, three cups of kibble a day, you might feel tempted to use the same measurement when serving wet food. However, given that wet food contains up to 78% moisture, portion sizes will be different compared to kibble, which contains no more than 10% (1). Therefore, expect the portion of wet food to be larger. But how much larger?

As you might have noticed, every packaging of wet dog food comes with the feeding guide printed on the back. If you’re absolutely clueless about the amount of food you should feed your pooch, this is a good place to start, since the feeding guide is based on a dog’s weight.

However, weight is just one of several factors that determine the right serving size for your dog. Another, no less important factor is your dog’s life stage. While growing, puppies need the right portion to support their development. Puppy food contains more protein and fat, so it’s more caloric-dense compared to food intended for other life stages.

Once they’re done growing, dogs need a more balanced diet that’s supposed to help them manage a healthy weight. Finally, as dogs grow older, their metabolisms slow down, so they can easily put on a few kilos from eating a diet that’s not adjusted to their life stage. For that reason, dog food intended for seniors should have fewer calories but higher fibre content to keep them satisfied.


Using Calories As A Guide

In a lot of cases, dog food brands offer formulas intended for a specific life stage, with a clear difference in caloric content between them. However, many brands may go down the “all life stages” route, meaning they offer food that’s intended to meet the nutritional requirements for dogs regardless of their age. With these formulas, finding the right serving size for your pooch is slightly more complex than reading the label.

In such a situation, it’s always best to simply count the calories. First, you need to figure out your dog’s Resting Energy Requirement (RER), which is basically the amount of energy your dog’s body needs to perform essential body functions like digestion, respiration, heart and brain functions, etc (2).

To figure out your dog’s approximate RER, multiply the weight in kilograms by 30, and then add 70. The number you get is how many calories your dog needs just to do the basic vital functions, excluding exercise. In the case of a Jack Russell Terrier, for instance, RER is roughly about 280.

From there, you can figure out the Daily Energy Requirement (DER), which reflects your dog’s age and exercise levels (3). Basically, you need to multiply RER with a specific coefficient, as follows:

  • Puppies up to 4 months old - RER x3
  • Puppies over 4 months old - RER x2
  • Neutered adult - RER x1.6
  • Intact adult - RER x1.8
  • Light physical work - RER x2
  • Moderate work - RER x3
  • Heavy work - RER x4-8
  • Weight loss regime - RER x1

So for instance, the previously mentioned Jack Russell Terrier with an RER of about 280, and we’re talking about a very active breed, should eat more than 1000 calories a day.

Now you know your dog’s daily caloric intake requirements, so how does this help you determine how much wet food to feed them?  Well, because the label on most wet dog foods shows the number of calories per 100 grams. From there, you can easily figure out how many grams (or how many cans) you should feed your canine companion. Of course, you don’t need to follow these numbers religiously. Most 400 gram cans have roughly between 300 and 400 calories, so if you round it up, the math will show that three of them in one day will be sufficient for the high-spirited energetic ball that is a Jack Russell. 


Serving Wet Food As A Topper Or Mixer

For many dogs, wet food is not a main part of their diet. Instead, it’s mainly added to kibble to make it more moist and palatable. If that’s the case with your pooch, you’re surely wondering how to dose the mixture to keep the overall nutritional value of the meal roughly the same.

Related: The Best Meal Toppers For Dogs.

Since wet food has a much higher moisture content compared to kibble, you shouldn’t just replace it one-for-one. If you want to be precise, you should figure out the right daily dose of both types of food, and then work with percentages. If you want to replace ¼ of your dog’s daily diet with wet food, remove ¼ of the daily dose of kibble and then add ¼ of the recommended daily amount of the wet food.


Figuring Out Wet Dog Food Portions

The amount of wet food a dog should eat a day is determined by considering factors like their age, weight and physical condition. But you shouldn’t serve it all in a single portion. Dogs should have at least two meals throughout the day, in some cases more.

During the first few months of their lives, puppies need to eat four to six times a day, as they’re just starting to transition to solid food. Puppies that are more than four months old can slowly transition to eating thrice a day.

Once dogs reach adulthood, their metabolisms slow down, so they should eat twice a day. In the case of larger dogs, three meals a day may be an even better option. This is especially true for dogs that gulp down their food and generally, breeds that are prone to bloating, like Great Danes and Saint Bernards.

As for portion sizes, they should be roughly equal. Alternatively, you can opt for slightly larger portions earlier in the day, while dinner is kept light to avoid urgent potty breaks in the middle of the night.


My Final Thoughts

While every wet dog food packaging contains information on serving size, other factors such as your dog’s age and activity level are just as important when tailoring portions to meet their unique needs. Of course, it's always best to consult with your veterinarian for personalised advice, especially if your dog has special health considerations.

References

  1. Hoffman, H. January 8, 2021. “Dry Dog Food vs. Wet Dog Food: Which Is Better?”. PetMD. Retrieved September 30, 2023. https://www.petmd.com/dog/nutrition/dry-dog-food-vs-wet-dog-food-which-better
  2. Strassburger, J. March 16, 2023. “How Much Food to Feed a Dog”. Whole Dog Journal. Retrieved September 30, 2023. https://www.whole-dog-journal.com/food/how-much-food-to-feed-a-dog/
  3. Olson, M. May 18, 2022. “Energy Calculations: Gauging the Proper Caloric Intake for Patients”. Today’s Veterinary Nurse. Retrieved September 30, 2023. https://todaysveterinarynurse.com/nutrition/veterinary-energy-calculations-and-proper-caloric-intake/

Vedrana Nikolic


Vedrana Nikolić is Gentle Dog Trainers Canine Coach, Professional Writer, Anthropologist & dog lover.

With a Masters Degree in Semiotics & Bachelors Degree in Anthropology, studying the communication between animals and humans, Vedrana is able to use her expertise to analyse and review dog products and write informative posts on canine behaviour and training.

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