Healthy eating, regular exercise, get enough sleep - these are all familiar concepts. Then there are phrases like: "You're looking a bit too heavy, maybe it's time to lose some weight," or "You haven't been doing enough exercise."
We all know these things are essential for the good of our own health, but if we have a pet, it is also important to remember that they need exercise and a healthy diet too. There can be a lot of truth in the phrase 'fat cat.' But you are here to hear about dogs, not cats, but still, dogs are even more in need of exercise - for good health and mental stimulation.
Like us, animals have a daily caloric rate, which is based on an ideal weight for the breed. Too much food and too little exercise will mean that the dog isn't using those calories and will gain weight.
How Many Calories?
The first thing is to find a dog weight calculator suitable for your dog breed. There are many of these available online, but there are a few factors to consider:
- The age of your dog
- The sedentary level
- Its existing fitness level
- Its current health problems and weight
Age Of Your Dog
Like humans, a younger animal needs a lot more calories for its weight. Why? Because it needs lots of energy to grow. It also requires a lot of energy for all that boisterous puppy behavior that we know comes in spades.
Resting and Activity Levels
The energy requirements of resting are far smaller than those of being active. Less active dogs do not require as many calories as a super active dog. However, too few calories can lead to malnutrition, so don't be led into thinking your inactive pet needs very little to eat. A body still needs the energy to carry out basic bodily functions like digestion or breathing.
Of course, it's all very well eating the right number of calories, but they have to be the correct type of calories. Like humans, eating a diet of treats and sweets is not suitable for overall health. A good quality dog food should provide the correct amount of nutrients that your pet needs to stay healthy. A good fluid intake is also important - although water is calorie-free!
To learn more about the nutritional content of these foods, look at the ingredients and nutritional information on the packaging. This will give you a very clear idea of what nutritional experts see as essential parts of your dog's diet.
If you break away from these packets or tins and give your pet too many treats, weight loss will be the next thing suggested by your vet. And as with us, weight loss is a bit of a challenge when you've got accustomed to a lazy life and an unhealthy diet.
But carrying excess weight contributes to shortening your pet's life span, even up to 30%. That can bring the expected life span from, say, ten years to seven, or ten years instead of fifteen. That's beginning to be a lot less time you are going to have your beloved dog with you. It will also make life quite uncomfortable for those years, so it's unfair to put an animal in that condition if it can be avoided.
It's worth finding a food calculator online to make sure the amount of food and type of food are providing a healthy diet if you are not going to use commercially produced food. If you are going to check this, it will be worth checking a dog's weight calculator to ensure you are keeping to a correct bodyweight calculation.
How Do The Veterinarians Work It Out?
Vets use what is called a Resting Energy Requirement (RER) based on your dog's body weight. This is calculated at 70 x (weight of dog in kilograms)¾. This is how many calories your pet needs just to maintain basic body functions.
Depending on your dog's age, this number has a second formula applied to calculate a daily energy requirement. This amount varies. For example, a 3-month-old puppy is 3 x RER, compared to a neutered adult who has 1.6 x RER.
Here's the difference - a 22 lb 5-year-old will have a daily energy requirement of about 400 calories per day, compared to the 9lb puppy, which has about 200 calories per day.
They also take into account (and score) Body Condition, which measures the appearance of an animal - whether its bones are outwardly visible or submerged under fat - aiming for the ideal of between these extremes.
In looking at Body Condition Scoring, the vet will also assess the Muscle Condition of your pet to determine if your pet has sufficient protein in its diet. In pet nutrition, 1 gram of protein per pound of weight of your dog is considered appropriate to maintain good muscle, skin, and coat health.
Since our dogs are dependent on us for their diet, we owe it to them to do the best we can to provide as healthy a diet as possible. We can provide them with an increased activity level by frequently walking them, which in turn helps us.
A variety of foods, including meats or meals and dog-safe fruit and vegetables, will keep your dog's inner health good and contribute to a long and healthy life.