Monday, November 9, 2015

Are you Overfeeding your Pet?

Pet Caloric Requirements and RER

Pets’ energy (Calorie) intake needs to maintain a healthy weight for their life stage and depends upon several factors. First, the energy to perform essential body functions like digestion, respiration, heart functions, brain functions, etc. (Resting Energy Requirements or RER), which can be calculated by multiplying the animal’s body weight in kilograms raised to the ¾ power by 70, for example, a 10kg (22lb) adult neutered dog of healthy weight needs RER = 70(10kg)3/4 ≈ 400 Calories/day. One also can use the charts below to estimate resting calorie needs.

Table 1. Known life stages and corresponding factors used to estimate daily energy needs for dogs.
Neutered adult
=1.6 x RER
Intact adult
=1.8 x RER
Inactive/obese prone
=1.2-1.4 x RER
Weight loss
=1.0 x RER for ideal weight
Weight gain
=1.2-1.8 x RER for ideal weight
Active, working dogs
=2.0-5.0 x RER
Puppy 0-4 months
=3.0 x RER
Puppy 4 months to adult
= 2.0 x RER

Determining How Much Food to Feed

Richard H. Pitcairn, DVM, PhD, author of Dr. Pitcairn’s Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs and Cats, believes the most reliable approach is to feed what seems to be a reasonable amount and monitor his body weight.
“You should be able to feel your pet’s ribs easily as you slide your hand over his sides,” Pitcairn says. “If you can’t, he’s probably too heavy, so begin to feed a smaller quantity.”
If you’re using a commercial pet food, beware of the “feeding guidelines” on the bag or box. It lists different weights and the corresponding amount of food to feed your dog to maintain that weight, and should be used only as a rough guideline.
Many dogs are overweight because their families closely followed the directions on the label, which often indicates portion sizes that are too large. Dr. Link recommends that as a rule of thumb, unless the dog is over one hundred pounds, then do not feed more than 4 cups of food daily.
Starting at the low end of the suggested guidelines and then monitoring your dog for hunger and body condition is a good way to proceed.  If you are having difficulty finding the right diet or amount please contact White House Animal Hospital at

Treats Count as Calories

When feeding treats in a diet it is important to calculate them into the daily caloric intake, they are calories!  Most of us are guilty of sneaking a tasty table scrap to our pets during or after dinner. While there is not anything inherently wrong with giving your pet an occasional morsel left on your plate, there are some very good reasons to limit your handouts to treats made for dogs. Giving dogs a bit of leftover lean meat, non-buttered vegetables, and a little rice will not cause problems, but unfortunately, many people do not stop there.

Here are charts of common pet treats from Royal Canin to help you determine if you are over feeding with treats.

Overview of Pet Feeding

Choose a high-quality food and look at the recommendations on the label. Remember, these feeding recommendations are simply guidelines, not absolutes. There is often a wide range listed and there is little consistency in feeding guidelines between brands. You must consider the following, and adjust the food amount accordingly:
  • The actual calorie content of the food
  • Your pet's weight (and projected target weight if necessary). Ask your veterinarian if you're not sure about an ideal weight for your pet
  • Your pet's activity level
  • Other environmental variables (temperature)
  • Any additional calories from treats or table foods
  • Remember, most pets are overfed and under-exercised - so, if in doubt about how much to feed initially, feed a little less
After you have started feeding your pet an appropriate amount of food, weigh your pet at least once a month to determine if you (and your pet) are on the right track. If necessary, increase or decrease the amount of food slightly until the pet stays at his ideal weight. You can easily weigh your small dog or cat on your bathroom scale - simply weigh yourself while you hold your pet, then weigh yourself without your pet and subtract the difference. Larger dogs can usually be weighed at your veterinarian's office just stop on in and use our scale at White House Animal Hospital, no appointment necessary. Remember, most pets are overfed and under-exercised - so, if in doubt about how much to feed initially, feed a little less. 

Kristi May, MS, CVPM, LVT, AHT, BS, ABCDT 
White House Animal Hospital 615-672-0357

1 comment:

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