Updated: Jul 19
Much like humans, a dog and a cat have a calorie per day requirement. Eating over this, with minimal output will make your pet overweight and eating under this will cause your pet to be underweight. Finding the perfect balance between the two is where you need to aim to be – so what do you need to know?
First – a calorie is a unit of energy identified in a serving of food.
Everything we eat, everything our pet’s eat, contains calories.
Like humans, dogs have different metabolic requirements and calorie requirements. The standard assumption is that dogs need 25 – 30 calories per 1lb (454g) of body weight.
So, your normal, everyday family dog of 10kg body weight only needs about 660 calories a day.
If your pet is a senior pet, neutered or quite sedentary in activity levels, it is recommended that they have a reduction of 30% in their daily calories so that they do not become overweight due to lack of exercise and general movement, or if your pet is neutered, the lack of sex hormone and imbalance.
So, your now senior, neutered family dog of 10kgs needs approximately 463 calories a day.
But what if my pet is healthy, active and not ideal in weight?
We have a general guideline for this as well.
Add on 25 – 30% calories for this class of dogs too. If this is not enough, and your pet is burning more calories despite this increase (and becoming underweight) then you need to adjust by 5 – 10% every few weeks until your pet maintains their ideal weight consistently.
So – keeping this in mind - your healthy 10kg dog now needs 858 calories per day if they are highly active and busy. This is running, walking, hiking etc. on a daily basis so there is ample opportunity for them to burn through the standard calories.
But I have a dog with a fast metabolism – how many calories do they need?
Certain breeds are more predisposed due to breeding and genetics to not store as much fat and turn a high protein and a biologically appropriate diet into muscle and tend to burn through their daily calories quite quickly. Think along Greyhounds, Vizsla dogs, Jack Russell's etc.
These dogs should also be placed on a higher calorie per day guideline – and a good place to start is at 30% above the recommended standard calorie guideline.
What about puppies? What do they need?
Since puppies are growing for the first 12 - 18 months of their lives, they require 2x - 4x (times) the recommended calories for the expected adult weight. It is also recommended to feed them 3 to 4 meals per day, a few hours apart to ensure that they are eating enough and taking in enough calories while they grow - and growing is incredibly taxing on the body!
Again, the recommended calories are a guideline and this means that we really need to work with your specific puppy and their requirements.
So what do we take home from this?
There are a lot of other factors, like Resting Energy Requirements (or RER) and external factors and medications with side effects etc. but it all boils down to feeding your dog less calories if you and your pet are not engaging in activity – daily – to burn these calories. And treat calories count too!
What I tend to do, is slightly underfeed per meal or per day’s calories to accommodate the treats I know my dog’s will get during the day. Same for my cats – underfeed on the daily portions if I am planning a treat dense day. That way I know they are not being overfed and are not at risk for weight gain.
Whether you are doing a home cooked food, a raw food or kibble diet, or a hybrid diet (mix of raw/kibble/cooked), be sure to sit and calculate the calories in what you are feeding per day. Too many calories, or too little calories, are both ineffective at maintaining a healthy pet.
If you are struggling with your pet(s) and their diet (and weight) and need assistance, pop us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or book a nutrition consultation or a kibble course via our online store!