DogNation Home DogNation Home

Determining Your Dogs Energy Needs

Finding the Energy Requirements for Your Dog

Just how much should you feed your dog? Well, that will vary depending on the type of dog you have, the activity level and age of that dog, whether you have neutered her or not, as well as a host of other conditions. But, we can estimate the caloric needs of your canine friend using a couple quick formulas.

First, let's go through a couple definitions:

kcal - This is short for kilo-calories, which is 1000 calories, or 1 Calorie. (Why we chose to use capital C to mean 1000 small c's is beyond me!). In terms of what this means energy wise, one calory (small c) will raise the temperature of one gram of water from 14.5 degrees Centigrade to 15.5 degrees Centigrade). Just to add another term to the mix, 1 calorie is equal to 4.1855 joules.

RER - Resting Energy Requirement; this is the amount of energy that is required to sustain life, and includes breathing, heart beating, digestion, and brain functions. This will be the bases we will use to determine energy requirements further down this article. It is based solely on your dogs weight in kilograms (kg). Don't worry if you don't normally use kilograms for weight, neither do I. Basically there are 2.2 pounds to one kilogram, so if you divide your dogs weight by 2.2, you are ready to go! The equation for determining RER is:

Resting Energy Requirements equation

So, Resting Energy Requirements is 70 multiplied by your dogs body weight in kilograms raised to the three quarters power. Simple enough, right? But if you don't have a scientific calculator and excel spreadsheets are not your cup of tea, don't worry, I will summarize all the calculations before I finish this article... promise!

Modifying Resting Energy Requirements for Life Stages

Remember I told you that the energy needs for your dog will vary depending on several factors? Well, the table below lists some of those variables, as well as a modifier to use for that variable.

Activity RER Modifier
Weight Loss 1.0 X RER
Neutered Adult Normal 1.6 X RER
Intact Adult Normal 1.8 X RER
Light Work 2.0 X RER
Moderate Work 3.0 X RER
Heavy Work 4.0 - 8.0 X RER
Pregnant dog (first 6 weeks) 1.8 X RER
Pregnant dog (last 3 weeks) 3.0 X RER
Lactating female 4.0 - 8.0 X RER
Puppy up to 4 months 3.0 X RER
Puppy 4 months to adult size 2.0 X RER

You will notice that there is a pretty wide range for heavy work and for the lactating female. In the case of heavy work, it mostly depends on the intensity and timing of that work, so would have to be determined based on your dogs efforts. The lactating female will vary mainly based on the number of pups in the litter, with more puppies obviously requiring more energy to produce the necessary milk.

Putting it all together

The table below gives energy requirements determined for various weights. If your dogs weight falls somewhere in between the weights given, it is permissible to extrapolate between the two values. While the requirements are not exactly linear, it will be close enough to give you a ball park figure.

Before we continue, please understand the following caveats regarding the energy requirements shown:

  • These are only estimates. They will get you in the right area when determining how much energy your dog requires, but her actual needs may vary as much as 20% from these numbers. Start here, and monitor your dog. Her condition will tell you if you need to increase or decrease the feedings. Her ribs should be easily felt and distinct, yet should not necessarily be seen. If you cannot feel the ribs, you are feeding too much. Also monitor the abdominal tuck. Too pronounced means she is not getting enough, not enough tuck means she is getting too much.
  • These are daily energy requirements. If you feed your dog more than one meal each day, divide the requirements by the number of meals.
  • To use these numbers, you also need to know the energy content of the dog food you are feeding. New AAFCO rulings on commercial dog food labeling will require both a caloric content (both in kcals/kg and kcals/cup) and a recommended feeding chart. Until that time, you may need to estimate the caloric content of your dog food, which I will go through in another article.
  5 lb 10 lb 20 lb 30 lb 40 lb 50 lb 70 lb 90 lb
RER 130 218 366 497 616 729 938 1132
Weight Loss 130 218 366 497 616 729 938 1132
Neutered Adult Normal 207 349 586 795 986 1166 1500 1812
Intact Adult Normal 233 392 660 894 1109 1312 1688 2038
Light Work 259 436 733 993 1233 1457 1876 2265
Moderate Work 389 654 1099 1490 1849 2186 2813 3397
Heavy Work 518 -
1037
872 -
1743
1466 -
2932
1987 -
3974
2465 -
4931
2915 -
5829
3751 -
7502
4529 -
9058
Pregnant dog (first 6 weeks) 233 392 660 894 1109 1312 1688 2038
Pregnant dog (last 3 weeks) 389 654 1099 1490 1849 2186 2813 3397
Lactating female 518 -
1037
872 -
1743
1466 -
2932
1987 -
3974
2465 -
4931
2915 -
5829
3751 -
7502
4529 -
9058
Puppy up to 4 months 389 654 1099 1490 1849 2186 2813 3397
Puppy 4 months to adult size 259 436 733 993 1233 1457 1876 2265

I hope you found this information useful and entertaining. Let me know how I did!