Do Dogs Always Want to Eat? – Full Guide to Feeding

French Bulldog sniffing bowl of cookies

Anyone who has owned a dog is bound to have, at one time or another, experienced the seemingly insatiable hunger from your furry friend – making you ask “do dogs always want to eat?” I mean, come on, your dog has eaten everything in their bowl and yet they still come and sit by you in hopes that you might drop something or be willing to share with them. Why is this?

Most often dogs are eating because food is available, which is perfectly normal. This is due to canine biology and their survival instinct to eat while food is present. In some circumstances this could be a warning sign for medical issues.

While most often there is nothing to worry about, there is a lot to digest (no pun intended) about dog eating habits and feeding practices. In this article we will take a look at the following:

  • Why do dogs always seem to want to eat?
  • How much should my dog be eating?
  • How often should my dog be eating?
  • How many treats should my dog be given and how often?
  • How to feed your overweight dog
  • What to do if you suspect an underlying medical issue

Why do dogs always seem to want to eat?

As we’ve already discussed, this behavior of dogs always wanting to eat is absolutely normal. Dogs will often seek more food because they’ve learned what works and because their gut is speaking to them like their wolf cousins.

Of course, there’s also a small chance that dogs may be experiencing some kind of medical issue. It’s important to know what to look for to discern any possible problems. We’ll get to that in a little bit.

Learned Behavior

Our pups can be manipulative actors when it comes to food. Dogs have spent over ten-thousand years with humans and have picked up the tricks to getting food; they’re quite good at it. In fact, this is part of the leading theory for dogs domesticating themselves.

Long story short, the now extinct wolves that dogs came from, followed early humans around eating scraps left at campsites. The braver wolves would get closer to the camp and get more food. Eventually, a partnership was born and wolves would protect human as a resource base and in turn, those humans kept feeding the wolves to keep the protection services going.

Our dogs today are just as gifted at leveraging food. Your dog may have just eaten breakfast or dinner, but can smell your oh so amazing meal. They know if they sit there looking cute, flash those puppy eyes, maybe raise a paw to look sweet, or even try to look pathetic and starving, we humans are likely to cave and throw some food their way.

It’s just something they know will get them that yummy reward of food.

Canine Biology

Another reason is that eating food anytime it’s available may be an instinct hanging around in our pooches from their wolf ancestry. For instance, modern wolves in the wild do not eat every day because they have to catch prey and some days they strike out; there’s no promise of food.

Wolves live a feast-or-famine diet. They can go many days without fresh prey. So, when food becomes available they eat as much as they can, knowing it may be days until their next meal.

This may be a similar default setting in our dogs. Even though there will be food regularly appearing in their food bowl, they can’t help but to listen to the instinct of their gut to take advantage of any food available.

Possible Warning Signs for Medical Issues

Of course, while most of the time dogs wanting to always eat is perfectly normal and to be expected, there’s a chance that something may be up with your pup. Let’s take a look at some of the issues that may be present, what to look for, and what it means.

Important disclaimer: this information is not intended to replace any veterinary advice, but rather it’s intended to serve as general knowledge to help you make more educated observations.

The following is a list from of potential medical issues that could cause dogs to want to eat constantly:

1) Diabetes

Diabetes is a disease where you dog either isn’t producing enough insulin (which is Type 1) or is having an incorrect response from the cells that produce the insulin (which is Type II).

The resulting lack of insulin means that glucose in the blood stream won’t be absorbed and turned into energy. This makes your dog’s body and brain tell them they are still hungry and need more food for energy.

Most common early signs of diabetes in dogs:

  • Increased appetite
  • Excessive thirst
  • Frequent and excessive urination
  • Weight loss, even with normal appetite

If you observe these symptoms, call your vet and get an appointment.

2) Inflammatory Bowel Problems

Inflammatory bowel problems can result from an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), which is a group of gastrointestinal diseases. The exact cause of IBD is not know, but is believed to be the result of abnormal immune system responses. This results in weight loss and increased appetite since nutrients aren’t getting absorbed as they should.

Most common signs of inflammatory bowel problems:

  • Diarrhea
  • Weight loss
  • Fatigue
  • Depression
  • Chronic vomiting
  • Gas
  • Abdominal Pain
  • Rumbling and gurgling abdominal sounds
  • Bright red blood in stool
  • Distressed coat hair

If you observe these symptoms, call your vet and get an appointment.

3) Intestinal Cancer

Unfortunately, the presence of intestinal cancer can result in tumors in your dog’s stomach and intestines. These types of cancer will cause your dog to have an abnormally increased appetite due to food not being absorbed as usual.

Most common signs of intestinal cancer:

  • Vomiting
  • Weight loss
  • Poor appetite (I know this is contrary to increased appetite, but it can be a symptom of intestinal cancer – just wanted to give all the facts)
  • Abdominal pain
  • Vomiting of blodd
  • Black colored feces (this is due to heavy bleeding in the intestines)
  • Bright read blood in feces
  • Constant attempts to poop, but not much happens

If you observe these symptoms, call your vet and get an appointment. It is always scary when you talk about the “C word” in people or pets, but it is important to be aware of something big and bad.

4) Hyperthyroidism

Hyperthyroidism is a disease caused by the overproduction of thyroxine (a thyroid hormone). When there is excesses levels of this hormone in your pet’s body, their metabolism is ramped up and put into overdrive. This often causes increased appetite.

Common signs of Hyperthyroidism in dogs:

  • Involves many organ systems due to the overall increase in metabolism , so there can be a wide range of symptoms.
  • Weight loss
  • Increased appetite
  • Messy appearance
  • Poor body condition
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Increased thirst
  • Increased urination
  • Rapid breathing
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Heart murmur; rapid heart rate; particularly an abnormal “gallop rhythm” to their heart beat
  • Hyperactivity
  • Enlarged thyroid gland (can be felt as a lump on the neck)

If you observe these symptoms, call your vet and get an appointment.

5) Cushing’s Disease

Cushing’s disease is an endocrine (hormone system) disorder that can appear in dogs age six or older. Cushing’s disease is primarily caused by a tumor on the pituitary or adrenal glad. The size of the tumor affects the prognosis – meaning the smaller the better.

Commons signs of Cushing’s disease:

  • Increased appetite
  • Increased thirst
  • Increased urination
  • Hair loss on the body
  • Skin appearing thin
  • Lethargy and a pot-bellied look

If you observe these symptoms, call your vet and get an appointment.

6) Old Age

As your dog ages they can develop many different behavior changes or medical issue, like the ones listed above. All of this can cause dogs to always want to eat.

Any decrease in a senior dog’s desire to eat certainly needs to be paid attention to. However, increased appetite in aging dogs is not as common and can be a sign of medical issues.

Additionally, it may be time to switch to a dog food blend formulated for senior dogs. Your pooch can be perfectly healthy, but may simply not be getting the nutrients they need in their old age.

As discussed in each section above, if you see any of these signs in your dog, it’s a good idea to consult your veterinarian to be sure that your doggy companion is healthy. You want to be sure that this constant hunger isn’t the sign of something more serious.

How much should my dog be eating?

Beagle eating out of food bowl in grass

As with humans, not ever dog’s metabolism is the same. The amount of food they eat will depend on their age and size. There are different dietary requirements. Let’s take a look at those different life stages


Most puppies are completely weaned from their mother’s milk and eating solid food exclusively by six to eight weeks old.

Puppies require a diet higher in protein that is packed full of nutrients in order to support their growth and development.

Be sure to select food formulated specifically for puppies.

Puppies should be fed at least three times a day – breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Once they are about 6 months of age, they can be backed down to two times a day.

The amount that you will feed your puppy will depend on their activity, metabolism, and size. You may need to feed more or less food depending on those factors. Below are some general feeding guidelines to give you a starting point.

Puppy – Small & Toy Breeds

Weight of Dogs – lbs (kgs)Amount per Day – cups (grams)
Months 0-4
Amount per Day – cups (grams)
Months 4 – 9
Amount per Day – cups (grams)
Months 10-12
2 (0.9)1/2 (50)3/8 (40)1/3 (35)
5 (2.3)1 (105)7/8 (90)2/3 (70)
8 (8.36)1 5/8 (170)1 1/8 (120)7/8 (90)
10 (4.5)1 5/8 (170)1 3/8 (145)1 1/8 (120)
15 (6.8)1 7/8 (195)1 1/2 (155)
20 (9.1)2 1/3 (245)1 3/4 (185)
25 (11.3)2 3/4 (290)2 1/4 (235)
30 (14)3 (315)2 1/2 (260
Courtesy of Hills ® Science Diet ® Puppy Small Paws ™ food

Puppy – Medium Breed

Weight of Dog – lbs (kgs)Amount per Day – cups (gram)
Months 0-4
Amount per Day – cups (gram)
Months 4 – 9
Amount per Day – cups (gram)
Months 10 – 12
2 (0.9)1/2 (50)3/8 (35)1/3 (35)
5 (2.3)1 (100)7/8 (85)2/3 (65)
8 (3.6)1 1/2 (150)1 1/4 (125)1 (100)
10 (4.5)1 3/4 (175)1 1/2 (150)1 1/8 (110)
20 (9.1)3 (300)2 1/2 (250)2 (200)
40 (18)5 (495)4 (395)3 1/4 (320)
60 (27)6 2/3 (660)5 1/2 (545)4 1/2 (445)
80 (36)8 1/4 (820)7 (695)5 1/2 (545)
100 (45)9 3/4 (965)8 1/4 (820)6 1/2 (645)
120 (54)11 1/4 (115)9 1/3 (925)7 1/2 (745)
Courtesy of Hills ® Science Diet ® Puppy food

Puppy – Large Breed

Weight of Dog – lbs
Amount per Daycups (grams)
Months 0-4
Amount per Day – cups (grams)
Months 4-9
Amount per Day – cups (grams)
Months 10-12
Amount per Day – cups (grams)
Months 13-18
2 (0.9)1/2 (50)
5 (2.3)1 (100)
8 (3.6) 1 3/8 (135)
10 (4.5)1 2/3 (165)
20 (9.1)2 3/4 (2752 1/3 (230)
40 (18)4 2/3 (465)4 (395)3 (300)
60 (27)6 1/3 (630)5 1/3 (530)4 1/4 (4203 3/4 (370)
80 (36)6 1/2 (645)5 1/4 (520)4 3/4 (470)
100 (45)7 3/4 (770)6 1/4 (620)5 2/3 (560)
120 (64)7 (6956 1/3 (630
140 (64)8 (795)7 1/4 (720)
160 (73)8 3/4 (870)8 (795)
180 (82)9 2/3 (960)8 2/3 (860)
200 (91)10 1/2 (1040)9 1/3 (925)
Courtesy of Hills ® Science Diet ® Puppy Large Breed food

Adults (1 – 6 years)

After about one year of age your dog is mostly matured and will now enter a “maintenance period” of feeding.

A healthy adult dog’s nutritional requirements will stay about the same until they enter into their senior stage of life, at about year seven.

The amount of food that is right for your adult pup will depend on their activity, metabolism, and size. You may need to feed more or less food depending on those factors. Below are some general feeding guidelines to give you a starting point:

Adult Small & Toy Breeds

Weight of Dog – lbs (kgs)Amount Per Day – cups (grams)
2 (0.9)1/4 (25)
5 (2.3)1/2 (55)
8 (3.6)3/4 (80)
10 (4.5)7/8 (90)
15 (6.8)1 & 1/4 (130)
20 (9.1)1 & 1/2 (160)
25 (11.3)1 & 3/4 (185)
30 (14)2 (210)
Courtesy of Hills ® Science Diet ® Adult Small Paws ™ food

Adult Medium and Large Breeds

Weight of Dog – lbs (kgs)Amount per Day – cups (grams)
5 (2.3)5/8 (60)
10 (4.5)1 (100)
20 (9.1)1 2/3 (165)
30 (14)2 1/4 (225)
40 (18)2 3/4 (270)
50 (23)3 1/4 (320)
60 (27)3 2/3 (365)
80 (36)4 1/2 (445)
100 (45)5 1/3 (530)
120 (54)6 1/4 (620)
130 (59)6 1/2 (645)
140 (64)7 (695)
160 (73)7 2/3 (760)
Courtesy of Hills ® Science Diet ® Adult food

Mature and Seniors (7+ years old)

As your dog reaches about seven years of age they enter their mature stage stage of life and then their senior stage around 11 years old. Just like humans, dog’s nutritional requirements change as they get older. Their metabolism isn’t quite what it once was and their activity most likely has begun to slow down.

Therefore, mature and senior dogs should not be eating the same amount of food as they did when they were younger.

Be sure to select food formulated specifically for older dogs. Look for brands that provide reduced calories, but still give your older pooch all the nutrients they need.

The amount of food that your senior pal will need depends on their activity, metabolism, and size. You may need to feed more or less food depending on those factors. Below are some general feeding guidelines to get you started:

Mature & Seniors – Small and Toy Breeds

Weight of Dog – lbs (kgs)Amount per Day – cups (grams)
2 (0.9)1/4 (25)
5 (2.3)1/2 (50)
8 (3.6)3/4 (75)
10 (4.5)7/8 (85)
15 (6.8)1 1/8 (110)
20 (9.1)1 1/3 (130)
25 (11.3)1 2/3 (165)
30 (14)2 (200)
Courtesy of Hills ® Science Diet ® Youthful Vitality Small & Mini food

Mature & Seniors – Medium and Large Breeds

Weight of Dog – lbs (kgs)Amount per Day – cups (grams)
5 (2.3)1/2 (50)
10 (4.5)7/8 (85)
20 (9.1)1 1/3 (130)
30 (14)2 (200)
40 (18)2 1/3 (230)
50 (23)2 3/4 (270)
60 (27)3 1/4 (320)
80 (36)4 (395)
100 (45)4 3/4 (470)
120 (54)5 1/3 (530)
Courtesy of Hills ® Science Diet ® Youthful Vitality

As always, consult your vet if you want specific or detailed nutritional information for your individual dog.

Daily caloric needs: regular activity vs. high activity

Just as humans who exercise more need to intake more calories to maintain weight, so do dogs. See the chart below to see how many calories your dog should be eating.

The chart below is a starting point and can be adjusted up or down to maintain a healthy body condition for your dog.

Chart for Dog Caloric Needs
*Data formulated using the basic calorie calculator from The Ohio State University Veterinary Medical Center

How often should my dog be eating?

There are two approaches to feeding. There is scheduled feeding and free feeding. Either approach will work, but it depends on the dog. There are also some other factors to consider when deciding how to feed.

Scheduled Feeding

Scheduled feeding is exactly what it sounds like. You are feeding your dog a set amount of food at scheduled times throughout the day. It’s a good idea to feed your dog two – three times per day if you are going to do scheduled feeding.

For puppies, it is important to feed them three times per day until they are six months old. After six months you should move to two times per day.

For adult dogs, and puppies older than six months, feeding them twice a day is recommended.

This is probably obvious, but it is important to measure how much food you’re giving in order to split the feedings properly and not overfeed. For instance, if your dog should have four cups of food per day and you are feeding twice a day, each feeding should be two cups.

The main advantage to scheduled feeding is that you can control how much your dog is eating. This is important if you have a dog that will eat until his bowl is empty, no matter how much you put in it.

The only disadvantage, if you want to call it that, is that you have to take the time to measure and keep track of feeding.

Free Feeding

Free feeding is where you fill up a container with food and your dog has free access to eat what they want – when they want.

Free feeding works really well if your dog has self control around the food bowl and doesn’t over eat. My Golden Retriever, Nakota, was a dog that did this well and it wasn’t an issue. We had a big feed tank thing and Nakota ate as he wanted. However, that changed once we got another dog, Sophie. I will get to that in the disadvantages.

When free feeding you just have to be sure to monitor your dogs weight extra close to see if this is having any negative effect on their health.

The biggest advantage to free feeding is that your dog has access to their food and can eat when they are hungry. Additionally, you just have to fill up their bowl or container when needed.

There are a few disadvantages to free feeding though. Mainly this can lead to weight gain. Especially if you have multiple dogs, free feeding can lead to competitive eating.

As I mentioned above, my dog, Nakota, did pretty well at free feeding. However, once we brought home Sophie, Nakota began to over eat. We moved both of them to scheduled feeding and got the overeating under control.

Another risk to free feeding has to do with any other animals you have in the house. If you leave your dog food out, other pets in the home could help themselves.

Specifically in our case, our cat, Tux, will eat dog food if it’s left out and that has effects to her health. First off, dog food is not formulated for cats needs (shocking, I know right). Secondly, in our cat’s case, she would get urinary tract infections every time she got into a lot of dog food.

In a nutshell, scheduled feeding and free feeding are both acceptable ways to feed. Just pay attention to your dog’s behavior and their health, as well as, be mindful of other pets in your home.

How many treats should my dog be given, or how often?

So you may be asking yourself “okay, I now know how much food my dog is supposed to be getting, but how many treats should my dog be given?”

Well, it really doesn’t matter as long as you’re adhering to the caloric needs of your pooch. Just as with humans, if you eat the necessary calories at your meals to maintain your healthy weight, but eat a bunch of snacks in between, the weight will sneak on. The same is true with Dogs.

To show how this can easily spiral out of control let’s take a look at the treats I give to our dog Juno. Her treats are a soft duck flavored snack. They are about 26 calories per treat – if I would give the whole treat.

Juno should have about two cups of food a day, which is about 748 calories. Her recommended daily calories for being 15 lbs at four months old is 886 calories. That only allows for around 138 calories for treats.

You can see how giving too many treats or high calorie human food scraps can add up.

A really good way to approach this is to buy smaller training treats or break up treats into smaller bites. That way if you’re training, or just rewarding for going outside, you won’t have to worry about over feeding and having your pooch pack on the pounds.

What to do if your dog is overweight and overfed?

If you have determined from the information above that you are feeding your dog too much and they are overweight you may be wondering what to do.

The first thing, and absolute best advice, is to check with your veterinarian and get your dog on a specialized nutrition plan and possibly even some dog food formulated specifically for weight loss.

Secondly, refer back to the calorie needs table above. Make sure you aren’t accidentally going over how many calories your pup should be having.

Thirdly, you can utilize the Resting Energy Requirement (RER) of your dog’s recommended ideal weight to determine how much to feed them to achieve healthy and safe weight loss.

Ideal Recommended Weight – lbs (kgs)Resting Energy Requirement (RER) -Calories
5 (2.2)130
10 (4.5)218
15 (6.8)295
20 (9.1)366
25 (11.4)433
30 (13.6)497
40 (18.2)616
50 (22.7)729
60 (27.3)835
70 (31.8)938
80 (36.4)1037
90 (40.9)1132
100 (45.5)1225
110 (50.0)1316
120 (54.5)1405
130 (59.1)1492
140 (63.6)1577
150 (68.2)1661
160 (72.7)1743
*Data formulated using the basic calorie calculator from The Ohio State University Veterinary Medical Center

It’s actually pretty simple. To achieve weight loss your dog should eat their RER calories for their ideal weight.

For example, looking at the chart above, let’s say you have a Labrador (who are pretty notorious for being chow hounds) and their recommended weight should be 70 pounds. However, your furry friend is weighing in at 90 pounds.

Looking at the chart above, the RER for you pup at 70 pounds is 938. Adjust your dogs daily caloric intake to match 938 calories (this includes treats and human food).

Once your dog is at their ideal weight you can adjust the calories to the maintenance levels for that weight. Continuing with our Lab example, that would be about 1500 calories per day for a 70 pound dog with a moderate activity level.

Additionally, just like humans, the key to taking off pounds is diet AND exercise. So also remember to get your pooch moving if they are generally inactive. Get that daily walk going!!!


If your dog is acting like a bottomless pit, the good news is that this is absolutely normal behavior and is quite typical. No need to worry too much.

However, you do want to be aware of some of the potential medical issues, of which increased appetite can be a sign. Look for some of the symptoms we talked about earlier.

If you believe your dog may have anything suspicious going on, don’t hesitate to reach out to your veterinarian and get your puppers checked out.

Additionally, following the recommended feeding and caloric needs for your dog, adjusting as needed for activity, will make sure your dog is getting the proper fuel they need to keep their legs moving and their tail wagging!


Thank you for taking the time to read my article! I hope it was helpful and insightful. I absolutely love dogs and my mission is to help dog owners better understand their dogs and how to care for them in the best way. Please checkout my about page: CLICK HERE!

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