· What brand of food are you feeding?
· What other food items are you giving?
· What breed/size of dog do you have?
· What age is your dog?
· Is your dog spayed/neutered?
· How active is your dog?
· Is your dog underweight/overweight?
· Does you dog have a specific medical condition?
I feel the best way for me to demonstrate this thinking is to use my own dog as an example. Tyrion, a one year old chihuahua who is neutered and weighs in at 10 pounds, is a very active fellow and enjoys every bit of his food and treats, and loves to go hiking with me. Here are the facts based on the questions above:
· Hills Science Diet Ideal Balance Grain Free - Chicken & Potato (400 kcal/per cup)
· The quality of food being fed to your dog is important because of the difference in how much digestable matter is in the food. Our clinic recommends Hills Science Diet, Purina, and Royal Canin due to their highly digestable nature, better nutrients and the research and years these brands have behind their foods.
· 1 cup = 8oz. measuring cup, not a 44 oz. cup from the gas station. Make sure you have the appropriate cup.
· Ideal Balance Veggie Chips - Potato & Carrot (19 kcal/treat) & Ideal Balance Fruity Snacks with Apples and Oatmeal (27 kcal/treat). No table scraps.
· Managing the intake of treats, table scraps, canned foods, etc. is important because the calories from those items contribute to the total number of calories your pet should intake per day. If you give a lot of extra food items, decreasing the amount of the main diet is necessary.
· Keep in mind that 99% of veterinarians do not recommend table scraps to dogs due to health reasons, like diabetes, pancreatitis, diarrhea/vomiting, and foreign body removals like bones and corn cob. However, there is a short list of food items that are good for them - high fiber, low calorie snacks like baby carrots and green beans are great and generally don't cause problems.
· Chihuahua, 10 pounds
· Some breeds are prone to obesity, and the Chihuahua is on top of the small breed list. These dogs are so cute, it's irresistable to give them a treat just for that reason. Keep in mind there is no onboard "hunger shut off button" in dogs, they will eat and eat, with nothing but us teling them they can't have anymore.
· One year old
· Age does matter. As we know, older pets generally have slower metabolism and puppies have a higher calorie and energy requirement, so take this into consideration.
· Dogs being spayed or neutered affect their calorie requirement. By removing hormones (such as testosterone and estrogen) from their bodies, that is taking away natural reproductive processes that burn up calories. The simple solution to prevent an overweight dog after spaying or neutering is to decrease the amount of food (including treats, etc.) they are getting.
· High energy & active
· This is a given - animals that are high energy and get to burn off that energy by running, hiking, playing, swimming, etc. may require higher amounts of calorie intake. Dogs that are sedentary will require less calorie intake.
· Ideal body condition
· Weight comes in three categories - underweight, ideal, and overweight. Your pet's veterinarian will give you the category your pet is in based on physical exam, and let you know where they feel your pet should be. In Tyrion's case, his weight is considered ideal.
· No known medical conditions
· Certain medical conditions can make it impossible for pets to lose weight, or make it very easy to gain weight. This is something to discuss with your veterinarian as laboratory tests may be required to accurately rule out a medical condition.
Now that we have the facts about Tyrion, let's examine the facts about his food. Keeping all above considerations in mind, look at the feeding guide on the back of the food bag. For the diet Tyrion eats, it says for the weight that he is to feed 2/3 cup to 1 cup per day (and do note that it does that PER DAY - these total cups can be split to one meal, two meals, or three.) Big range, right? With Tyrion, I started him 2/3 cup per day, so 1/3 cup twice daily. Even with his lifestyle, he was starting to become overweight. At that point, I decreased his amount to 1/2 cup per day, or 1/4 cup twice daily. Doing so brought him back down to his normal weight.
As a whole, his calorie intake is 200 calories per day plus one of each treat I listed above, making it a grand total of 246 calories he is intaking to maintain his ideal weight. Doesn't seem like a lot, does it? Much as calorie requirements change from person to person, dogs share the same nature. Your dogs calorie intake will be based on how he or she looks, feels and the other facts listed above - as their lifestyle and metabolic needs change, so will his or her requirements.
I really hope this helps break down the process in figuring out how much food your dog should eat; just goes to show how difficult it can be. The next time your bring your dog in, let us know if there is anything we can do to help you help your dog! (Blog Related to Weight Loss to follow soon!)
Author: Kat, Veterinary Assistant