In order to properly determine how many calories your pet needs, his or her lifestyle, age, activity level, and many other factors must first be considered. How do these factors affect your pet and how should you go about determining your pet's caloric needs? Let's take a look.
Including your veterinarian in any conversation dealing with your pet's dietary and caloric needs is vital, particularly if your dog has any health problems or special dietary needs. "Nutrition, including determining how many calories a pet should be taking in, is not a one-size-fits-all endeavor," says Jennifer Coates, DVM. This is exactly why you need the expertise of your veterinarian. Calorie “calculators” or tables cannot take into account what might make an animal’s situation unique.
The standard steps used by veterinarians to determine a pet’s caloric needs (otherwise known as their maintenance energy requirements) are as follows:
- Divide a dog’s body weight in pounds by 2.2 to convert to kilograms (kg)
- Resting Energy Requirement (RER) = 70 (body weight in kg) 0.75
- Maintenance Energy Requirement (MER) = appropriate multiplier x RER
Appropriate multipliers include such things as whether or not the pet is neutered or intact, whether the pet requires weight gain or weight loss, and a variety of other factors. For example, a 10kg (22lb) adult neutered dog of healthy weight needs RER = 70(10kg)3/4 ≈ 400 kcal/day. You then multiply 400 times 1.6 (the appropriate multiplier for a neutered pet), which equals 640 kcal/day, or the MER. However, this calorie count should only be viewed as an estimate. Your veterinarian will use this information as a piece of the puzzle; also taking into account a pet’s lifestyle, age, activity level, etc.
Remember to do a nutrition comparison. Some pet food brands require more calories to be fed to the pet in order to achieve the same nutritional benefits a higher quality pet food can achieve with less. This is due to the difference in nutrient content. Consult your veterinarian on how to determine if this may be affecting your pet.