A woman hugging a medium-sized dog in a field

Choosing the Best Dog Food for Your Medium Dog

No matter what size or breed your dog is, they need a well-balanced diet that includes six basic nutrients: water, proteins, fats, carbohydrates, minerals, and vitamins. But the recommended amount of each nutrient will depend on your dog’s individual needs — including their size.

Small dogs require different amounts of nutrients than large dogs, and it’s important to tailor your dog’s diet to meet their specific needs.

In this article, we’ll focus on medium-sized dogs in particular, which account for roughly 30% of dogs in U.S. households. You’ll learn the nutritional needs of medium-sized dogs, how to evaluate different dog foods, and some of the best options for your pup.

What Size Counts as a “Medium” Dog?

Dog breeds are often sorted by size, ranging from extra-small breeds to giant breeds. Medium dogs typically weigh between 20 and 60 pounds and measure 18–22 inches at the shoulder.

However, there’s variability within size categories, so it’s vital to consider your dog’s characteristics to ensure appropriate food portioning and healthcare.

If you’re unsure whether your pup falls into the medium breed category, check with your veterinarian. Some examples of medium-sized dogs include beagles, border collies, bulldogs, whippets, and cocker spaniels.

What Are the Nutritional Needs of Medium-Sized Dogs?

Now, let’s dive into the nutritional needs of medium-breed dogs, looking at both macro and micronutrients.

Caloric Requirements

Medium-sized dogs can have a wide range of caloric needs depending on their individual activity level, age, and health. High-energy, active dogs will require more calories than couch potatoes, and puppies typically need more energy-rich foods than senior dogs.

If you’re not sure how many calories your dog requires per day, you can refer to a daily calorie requirement chart and consult your veterinarian. But you should also take into account your pet’s weight and activity levels.

If they could lose a few pounds, try reducing their calorie intake with a vet’s guidance. If they’re on the thin side, ask your vet about adding a few extra calories to get them to a healthy weight. Just be sure to adjust to a maintenance level once they reach their ideal size.

Understanding your dog’s caloric requirements is key to maintaining a healthy weight and energy level. Too many calories in your dog’s diet can lead to obesity, diabetes, and other serious health concerns.

Balanced Protein Intake

Protein is essential for muscle building and maintenance and overall growth. When looking at dog foods, seek foods with real meat, fish, or poultry as the first ingredient to ensure adequate protein intake.

However, be sure to balance protein with other nutrients, as too much protein intake may lead to health problems like obesity, digestive issues, and kidney strain.

The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) suggests that dogs who are breeding or still in their prime growth years need anywhere from 22% to 25% of their daily calories from protein.

So you may want to consider a specialized high-protein food if your dog is pregnant, nursing, or still growing. However, dogs who are not breeding or actively growing only need 18% of their daily calories from protein.

Fats and Fatty Acids

Fats and essential fatty acids, like omega-3 and omega-6, play a vital role in supporting the skin and coat health of medium-sized dogs. As a pet owner, look for foods that include fish oil or flaxseed oil, both of which are great sources of these nutrients.

Adult dogs who aren’t breeding typically need 5% of crude fat in their diet daily, while puppies and breeding dogs require 8%. But keep in mind that the type of fat matters. Avoid fatty human foods like processed oils and meat trimmings, as these foods can lead to weight gain and, in severe cases, pancreatitis.

Vitamins and Minerals

Medium dogs require a mixture of various vitamins and minerals to ensure optimal health, including calcium for strong bones and antioxidants for immune health. A well-rounded diet that includes a variety of nutrients is essential to support different bodily functions and maintain your pup’s overall wellness.

Some of the most important vitamins to ensure your dog receives in their diet include vitamins A, D, E, K, C, and B. Most of these vitamins are found naturally in ingredients like carrots, marine fish oil, leafy greens, organ meats, and whole grains. If your pup needs added vitamins, talk to your vet about supplements.

Special Considerations for Sensitivities

Food sensitivities can be common among some medium-sized dog breeds, particularly poodles, cocker spaniels, and shar peis.

It’s important to be vigilant for signs of allergies (hair loss, excessive itching, and stomach issues) and choose limited-ingredient diets or hypoallergenic foods if necessary and recommended by your vet. Fresh foods made with just a few high-quality ingredients may also be a great option.

You should also consult with your veterinarian if you believe your dog may have dietary sensitivities. They can recommend testing or an elimination diet to pinpoint the cause of the symptoms. Some of the most common allergies among dogs include chicken, beef, dairy, wheat, soy, and eggs.

Also, keep in mind that dog food manufacturers don’t have to meet any specific additional requirements to label their food as hypoallergenic. So it’s extremely important to read ingredient labels closely to ensure whatever ingredient your pup is allergic to is not listed.

How To Evaluate the Quality of Dog Food for Medium Dogs

Once you identify a dog food that meets your medium-sized dog’s nutritional needs, it’s time to evaluate the quality of the ingredients to make sure it’s safe and healthy for your pup.

Analyze the Ingredients List

When assessing dog food brands, keep in mind that the first few ingredients listed on a pet food label make up with bulk of the recipe, with the first ingredient being most present.

A healthy dog food will include high-quality protein sources like whole meats and avoid fillers like corn and wheat. Lower-quality food, on the other hand, often contains meat by-products (meat meals) and artificial preservatives and additives that may not be beneficial for your dog’s health.

Meat meals are made up of low-quality cuts of meat heated to extremely high temperatures and combined with additives. They can be harder for dogs with sensitive stomachs to digest, and they don’t provide as much nutritional value as whole meat ingredients.

Understand Nutritional Adequacy

Next, be sure to check the dog food label for an AAFCO statement certifying that it meets the minimum nutritional requirements for your dog’s specific life stage. AAFCO life stages include gestation/lactation (pregnant or nursing), growth, maintenance, and all life stages.

Additionally, opt for dog foods that are labeled “complete and balanced.” This means the dog food either meets one of AAFCO’s Dog Food Nutrient Profiles or passed a feed trial using the AAFCO procedure. This designation also means there’s a healthy balance of carbs, fats, proteins, vitamins, and minerals.

Consider Your Dog’s Unique Needs

It’s vital to take into account any special dietary requirements your dog may have, such as food sensitivities and health conditions. Preferences are also important — even dogs won’t eat food they don’t find delicious and appealing.

It may take a little trial and error to find a food that supports all of your dog's needs, so embrace patience.

If you do have a pup with health issues, seek out foods with the necessary supplements. For example, choose a joint support food with a boost of omega-3 fatty acids and glucosamine or a digestive health food with added prebiotics and probiotics and easy-to-digest proteins.

Consult With a Veterinarian

Finally, when in doubt, consult with a veterinary nutritionist to determine which dog food is right for your medium-sized furry friend. Vets can provide personalized recommendations, taking into account your dog’s health, weight, and age, ensuring they receive the best possible nutrition for optimal health and longevity.

Vet advice can be especially invaluable for dogs with medical conditions or allergies. Some veterinarians can do allergy tests on dogs to help you identify an allergy versus an intolerance.

The Honest Kitchen’s Solutions for a Healthy Medium Dog Diet

With all of the above in mind, we recommend starting your dog food search with The Honest Kitchen. We offer plenty of nutritious food options, including some of the best dry dog food, dehydrated dog food, wet dog food, and toppers. Each recipe includes only high-quality, human-grade ingredients to support your pup’s overall health.

Here are some of our top picks.

The Honest Kitchen’s Clusters Dry Dog Food

For dogs that love traditional dry kibble and pet parents who appreciate convenience, we recommend The Honest Kitchen’s Clusters Dry Dog Food. It comes in a variety of grain free and whole grain recipes, and all ingredients are high-quality and minimally processed to retain their fresh taste and essential nutrients.

One of our favorites is the Whole Grain Chicken Clusters with whole chicken, oats, barley, carrots, ground flaxseed, kale, broccoli, and coconut oil. And for our grain free friends, the Grain Free Chicken Clusters include whole chicken, potatoes, lentils, carrots, ground flaxseed, broccoli, pumpkin, and apples.

The Honest Kitchen’s Dehydrated Dog Food

For a slight spin on a traditional kibble that you can serve dry or mixed with water for a hydration boost, try The Honest Kitchen’s Dehydrated Dog Food. All dehydrated recipes from The Honest Kitchen are gently dried to preserve nutrients and flavor. They’re also great for dogs struggling with teeth issues who may not be able to chew kibble.

Some ingredients you’ll find in The Honest Kitchen’s Dehydrated Dog Food recipes include whole proteins like beef and chicken, organic oats, barley, carrots, eggs, apples, parsley, spinach, and cranberries.

The Honest Kitchen’s Wet Dog Food

Wet dog food can also provide a well-balanced diet for medium dogs. The Honest Kitchen’s Wet Dog Food is rich in moisture and flavor, making it an enticing option for dogs who prefer softer textures or need an added incentive to finish their dinner. You can also offer wet food when you think your pup deserves a special treat.

The Honest Kitchen’s hearty wet dog foods come in a variety of whole-protein recipes, including lamb, beef, chicken, and turkey. They’re also full of healthy, tasty ingredients like bone broth, green beans, sweet potatoes, kale, broccoli, carrots, and more. All wet food from The Honest Kitchen supports a balanced, nutritionally dense diet for dogs.

The Honest Kitchen’s Dog Food Toppers

Finally, The Honest Kitchen’s Dog Food Toppers can add extra palatability and nutrients to your pup’s meal. These can be great as treats or an added incentive on top of dry dog food for picky eaters. They’re also convenient for travel, as they come in single-serve recyclable boxes.

Additionally, each topper provides an added boost to support key wellness areas, such as hip and joint health, immune support, and heart health. Not to mention, all of these boosts come in irresistible flavors like beef stew, turkey broth, salmon stew, and chicken and pumpkin stew.

Nourish Your Dog with The Honest Kitchen

Selecting the best pet food for your medium-sized dog is an important decision. By understanding your pup’s unique nutritional needs and choosing the right type of food and high-quality ingredients, you can help ensure your pup is happy and healthy.

Dog food from The Honest Kitchen can help you feel confident that you’re providing your dog with some of the best possible nutrition. With a wide selection of tasty yet nutrient-rich recipes, The Honest Kitchen offers something for every dog.

Explore The Honest Kitchen’s full range of delicious and nutritious dog food options.

*Health Disclaimer: This post is educational in nature and doesn’t constitute health advice. Please consult your pet's veterinarian or other healthcare professional for specific guidance on this topic. 

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