Obesity is a common problem among dogs, and it is one that is easily cured. By understanding the nutritional needs of your dog, you can provide him with a nutritious, balanced diet while helping him to maintain a healthy weight. The first step in creating a healthy diet for your dog is to calculate his calorie requirements. Once you know how many calories your dog needs each day, you can provide him with the right amount of healthy foods to fulfill those needs.
Calculating Resting Energy Requirements
Your dog's resting energy requirement (RER) is the number of calories your dog's body burns at rest. In humans, the equivalent of this would be the BMR, or basal metabolic rate -- the minimum number of calories required to maintain basic bodily functions. To calculate your dog's RER, multiply the animal's weight in kilograms by 30, then add 70 to the total. The result of this calculation should fall somewhere in the range between 130 calories and 1,420 calories.
Calorie Needs Based on Activity Level
If your dog does nothing but lay around all day, his daily caloric needs might be close to his RER. Dogs that engage in some type of daily activity, however, have higher caloric requirements, based on their level of activity. To determine the caloric needs of your dog based on his activity level, you will need to multiply his RER by a specific number according to each circumstance. For a spayed/neutered dog exhibiting normal activity, multiply the RER by 1.6. For an intact adult dog with a normal activity level, multiply the RER by 1.8. If you have a working dog, his calorie needs may be even greater. For light work, multiply the RER by 2.0. For moderate work, multiply by 3.0; for heavy work, multiply by 4.8.
Calories for Weight Loss
The same principles of weight loss for humans apply to dogs -- in order to lose weight, you will need to decrease your dog's caloric intake. To ensure that your dog's body receives all the nutrients it needs, however, you should not feed your dog less than his RER. To find out how many calories to feed your dog in order to achieve weight loss, simply calculate his RER and use that as his calorie goal. You may want to switch to a low-fat or healthy weight dog food formula to help your dog lose weight.
Calories for Puppies and Pregnant Dogs
While they are young, puppies need to eat a lot in order to grow. Similarly, pregnant dogs need extra calories to support their own health as well as the growth of developing puppies. Female dogs in their first 42 days of pregnancy have a calorie requirement equal to 1.8 times their RER -- but during the last 21 days of pregnancy, this requirement jumps up to about 3.0 times the RER. After puppies have been born, lactating female dogs have a calorie requirement equal to 4.8 times their RER. When they are first born, puppies will live off their mother's milk. As you wean the puppies, however, they will have a calorie requirement equal to 3.0 times their RER up to 4 months of age. Between the age of 4 months and adulthood, puppies have a calorie requirement of 2.0 times their RER.
How Much to Feed Your Dog
Translating your dog's caloric intake into an actual food quantity can be tricky. To ensure that your dog receives adequate nutrition, start by feeding your dog a high-quality dog food. Read the label to see what the manufacturer recommends you feed your dog based on his age and weight. Compare the number of calories in each serving of dog food to the calorie requirements you calculated earlier, and try to come to a balance between the two. Be sure to factor in extra calories your dog may receive throughout the day from treats, and adjust the amount you feed your dog accordingly.
Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.
Katherine Barrington has written on a variety of topics, from arts and crafts to pets, health and do-it-yourself projects. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English with a creative writing concentration from Marietta College.