Dog Nutrition Calculator
- Does an ever-full bowl really equal a happy dog? Some dog obesity facts.
- Professional advice: Dog nutrition algorithm
- How to use the dog calorie calculator?
- A note on using the dog calorie calculator
- How to tell if my dog is obese?
- Exercising is fun! Ideas for activities that will help your dog lose weight healthily
Every dog owner in the world would surely tell you that the saying is true - dog really is a man's best friend. And it goes both ways! A responsible owner like yourself treats their pet with love and respect, as they are one of your closest friends. It became even more evident when dog shelters emptied during the COVID-19 pandemic. People started adopting their little companions, spending the excess of free time with them, and going outside together - this is currently one of the safest physical activity 🌳.
We love our dogs so much that, occasionally, we might end up overdoing it a little - for example, by overfeeding them. After all, we just want them to be happy - and everyone knows a happy dog is one whose bowl is full! 🐶
Unfortunately, obesity is getting worse among our best friends, and with it comes a number of health complications. Especially nowadays, with social distancing still in place, it's easy to shower your pup with love a bit too much. But don't worry - it's really easy to help your dog maintain a healthy weight! We have prepared this calculator exactly for that reason. Whether you're a long-time dog owner, or a member of the surprising pandemic-related dog adoption boom, you will definitely find it useful. With our calculator, you can calculate the exact nutritional needs of your dog, as well as plan according food portions. And that's not all! In the article, you find more information on proper dog nutrition, as well as ideas to keep your dog healthy and entertained through physical activity. We love dogs, and we hope that with our calculator's help, pups all around the world will live long and happy lives!
We would like to thank Dr. Olga Lasek, PhD, an animal nutrition expert associated with the University of Agriculture, Krakow, for her immense help in supervising the creation of this calculator.
Does an ever-full bowl really equal a happy dog? Some dog obesity facts.
The Association of Pet Obesity Prevention reports that, in 2018, around 56% of all dogs in the US were overweight or even obese. Even more shockingly, a 2018 study revealed that dogs even as young as six months - practically still puppies - already face this problem!
"Why should we even consider it a problem?", some might ask. "What matters is that my dog is happy - why worry about an extra kilogram or two?"
Here's why - eating is one of the main driving forces of all animals, so your dog will most likely be content to eat all the time, even if their tummy is already full. Dogs don't understand the health implications of being too heavy, and it is the responsibility of their owners to make sure they don't suffer from them.
The most common health complications caused by obesity in dogs include (but aren't limited to):
- Breathing and heart problems, due to the huge amount of work a dog's heart has to do to pump blood around a bigger than average body.
- Arthritis, due to the extra strain the excess weight puts on your dog's joints.
- Digestive disorders, including constipation and flatulence - a rather unpleasant ordeal for both the dog and the owner.
- Heat intolerance, due to all the extra fat. Especially in a warmer climate, the summer months may be unbearable for overweight dogs.
- Liver problems, as excess fat tends to build up in the organ, impairing its function.
With all these (and many more) health issues in mind, it's easy to see why you should make sure your dog is a healthy weight.
What are the most common causes of pet obesity?
In most cases, it's the combination of two things: excessive food intake and insufficient physical activity for their diet. In addition, the risk of obesity is usually increased in neutered dogs, as hormonal changes influence their metabolism.
So, how to prevent all of these problems? The options are countless. Naturally, you can start by using our dog calorie calculator to find out your dog's nutritional needs!
Professional advice: Dog nutrition algorithm
We built the dog calorie calculator using the algorithm developed by Dr Olga Lasek, PhD, who studies animal nutrition for more than 15 years. Her scientific and professional interests concern dogs since 2010. She's now a specialist who studies the nutritional needs of animals, teaches students, and cooperates with pet food producing companies as well as pet owners.
Dr Olga Lasek creates, together with her students, practical tools for determining the animals' feeding needs and arranging the proper food rations. Thanks to them, you can make complicated calculations faster and more precisely than do it by hand. Dr Olga Lasek says:
When analyzing health problems in dogs, I often encounter overweight and obesity in animals. Usually, it is due to inaccurate feeding.
Owners often allow their dogs to eat as much as they want to or measure food portions by a "more or less" approach. In some cases, people read the label on dog food, but they find that for a specific body mass, there is a recommendation given by a range and no by a single value, e.g., 2.3 - 4.8 oz (65 - 135 g). Dr Olga Lasek points out that this precision isn't enough for healthy nutrition (there is more than 100% difference between given values!).
That's why the dog calorie calculator is essential for every dog owner. The proper amount of food in your dog bowl is a guarantee of good physical condition, health, and longer life of your pet ❤️
How to use the dog calorie calculator?
The way the dog calorie calculator works is really simple. To use it, just follow these instructions:
CALCULATING THE DAILY CALORIE INTAKE
- start by choosing how much physical activity your dog typically gets. To determine that, take a look at the table below. Please note that this field also covers the age, as an old dog's activity is generally low.
|Low activity (including elderly dogs)||Less than 1 hour of exercise a day, for example walking on a leash. Also applies to elderly dogs*.|
|Low intensity moderate activity||1 - 3 hours of low intensity exercise per day, for example walking on a leash.|
|High intensity moderate activity||3 - 6 hours of high intensity per day, for example unleashed walks with considerate amounts of running, games, playing with other dogs, etc.|
|High activity||3 - 6 hours of work per day, for example sheep dogs.|
- Input the weight of your dog. The activity and weight of your dog are what determine their daily caloric need.
- With those values, the calculator will figure out what the daily calorie intake of your dog should be.
*How to determine whether your dog is a senior? Your dog's breed determines its lifespan, so it may get a little confusing. A number of things such as fur discoloration and general condition may indicate that your friend is entering the golden years of his or her life, but, in general, it's reasonable to use the following rule of thumb based on your dog's weight:
- Small dog (below 20lbs/9kg) - age 11+
- Medium dog (21-50lbs/9-20kg) - age 10+
- Large dog (51-100lbs/21-45kg) - age 9+
- Giant dog (above 100lbs/45kg) - age 8+
Now that you know how many calories your dog needs, you have the option to calculate two additional things:
- the amount of food your dog should eat to meet their caloric needs, based on a food's energetic content,
- if you're not sure about a food's energetic content, you can calculate it based on the information of its ingredients, provided on the packaging. Please pick "yes" or "no" in the second part of the calculator to indicate if you want to calculate these things, or if you're satisfied with your calculations for far. For each "yes", an appropriate part of the calculator will appear.
CALCULATING THE AMOUNT OF FOOD
Calculating the the size of your dog's daily meals based on its caloric content is easy. All you have to do is input how many calories there are in 100 grams of the food. The calculator will compare this information with what it already knows about your dog's needs, and return how much to feed him or her daily. If you want to know how many bags that is or how long a bag would last, you just need to declare the volume of a package you usually buy.
CALCULATING THE CALORIC CONTENT OF SPECIFIC FOODS
If you're unsure of exactly how much energy there is in the food you give your dog, or just want to make sure that the info on the packaging is correct, you've come to the right part of this calculator.
To calculate the caloric content, you need to check the packaging for the following things, and put them in the calculator:
Dry matter - which is the part of the food that would remain after getting rid of all of the water in it. It's a valuable piece of information, as this is where all the nutrients come from. In fact, many experts state that knowing the dry matter percentage is crucial when it comes to comparing different kinds of dog food, especially canned.
Crude ash - sometimes labeled as "incinerated residue" or "inorganic matter". It may sound scary, but it actually refers to the amount of important minerals present in the food. This includes calcium, magnesium, phosphorus and other crucial elements.
Crude protein - as the name suggests, this is the total amount of protein present in the food. Contrary to popular belief, this is not restricted to protein from animal-sources - it covers all kinds!
Crude fat - this tells you the total fat that is in your dog's food. Unfortunately, this includes both the good, essential fats, and the bad ones that will do more harm than good. You might need to read the list of ingredients to see where it mostly comes from.
Crude fiber - fiber, the indigestible part of plant foods, it crucial in keeping the digestive system in good shape. It aids healthy bowel movements, and allows for the balanced growth of healthy gut bacteria.
A note on using the dog calorie calculator
Please note that there are some special cases in which the results obtained from this calculator will not apply. These include pregnancy or nursing newborn pups. In these cases, your dogs nutritional needs differ from usual, and may be influenced by a variety factors, such as the number of pups, the moment of pregnancy, etc. The same applies to dogs with underlying health conditions - if your dog has some sort of lingering health issue, they probably need a special diet. Please keep in touch with your veterinarian, and, if your dog is pregnant, nursing or has any other kind of special needs, make sure their diet complies to the vet's recommendations.
How to tell if my dog is obese?
Surprising as it may be, many owners cannot tell whether their dog is the correct weight or not. The easiest way to estimate whether your pet's weight is healthy is to go to one of the many available Body Condition Score Charts. The Pet Food Manufacturer's Association provides a very detailed insight into this system. Remember, however, that this is just a guide, and should not be used as a definitive judge of your dog's health! If you're unsure of your dog's body condition, the best idea is to consult your veterinarian.
Most body condition charts go by the following standards:
1. VERY THIN
- CHARACTERISTICS: Very easily seen ribs, spine and hipbones, obvious waist and abdominal tuck, no fat can be felt under skin.
- WHAT TO DO?: Seek a veterinarian's help immediately! Your dog is likely malnourished, and should be checked for possible medical causes.
- CHARACTERISTICS: Very easily seen ribs, spine and hipbones, obvious waist and abdominal tuck, little fat can be felt under skin.
- WHAT TO DO?: Your dog might be underweight, although this state may fall under a naturally lean physique. Seeing a veterinarian for a checkup is advisable.
3. IDEAL BODY CONDITION
- CHARACTERISTICS: Ribs, spine and hipbones easily felt upon touch but not visible, visible waist and abdominal tuck, some fat can be felt under skin.
- WHAT TO DO?: If your dog looks like this, its weight is most likely ideal - congratulations!
- CHARACTERISTICS: Ribs, spine and hipbones are hard to feel upon touch, barely visible waist and abdominal tuck, broad back, layer of fat can be felt under skin and is visible under the belly and at the base of the tail.
- WHAT TO DO?: Your dog is most likely overweight. Contact your veterinarian to give your pet a health checkup and discuss possible lifestyle changes to help them get back to their ideal weight.
- CHARACTERISTICS: Ribs, spine and hipbones are extremely hard to feel upon touch, no visible waist, significant belly, broad back, heavy layer of fat can be felt under skin and is visible under the belly and at the base of the tail.
- WHAT TO DO?: Seek a veterinarian's help as soon as possible! Your dog is most likely obese, which may have serious health consequences. Your pet requires a thorough medical checkup and lifestyle changes.
Exercising is fun! Ideas for activities that will help your dog lose weight healthily
If your dog is over its ideal weight, providing it with more active fun is the way to go! Even in the tough times of quarantines and limited time outdoors, it's possible to keep your dog active and healthy. Check out these ideas for fun and stimulating activities, both for those with their own yards, and those who need to make do with staying indoors.
1. Indoor exercise ideas - whether it's because of quarantine or bad weather, it's possible to have fun and exercise with your pup indoors too! 🐕
Tug - dog's love a good ol' game of tug-o-war. Pet stores offer plenty of ropes and soft toys designed specifically for this purpose.
Inside fetch - if your place is big enough, you should have no problem with playing fetch inside. Sure, your dog may not run quite as much as outside, but it's still a good amount of activity. Remember to remove any potentially breakable items and use a soft toy.
Bubbles - many dogs find themselves absolutely entranced by soap bubbles. Chasing them and jumping to catch them might provide your dog with just the right amount of activity.
Learning physical tricks - contrary to the popular belief, it's never too late to teach your dog a new trick. Try some more physically demanding ones, such as spins, rollovers weaving between your legs.
Puzzle toys - available in most on-line pet stores, puzzle toys with treats stored inside them as a reward will provide your pup with both physical and mental stimulation they need to stay healthy.
2. Outdoor exercise ideas - when the weather is good, there are countless ways to get both your dog and yourself moving! On top of providing your pup with the much needed activity, walking with your pup is one of the best ideas for an outdoors activity in the times of social distancing. 🚴
Fetch - not many dogs are able to resist running after their favorite toy. It's perfect if your dog can walk unleashed, or if you have a fenced area (for example a dog park) which you can use in close proximity.
Hiking - a great way to make a regular walk more exciting. Check out whether your local hiking trails accepts dogs, and, if your and your pet's health allow it, enjoy a long walk surrounded by nature! Visit Petfinder for more advanced tips on hiking with your dog.
Swimming - if there is a dog-friendly lake nearby, why don't you make use of it and take your friend there? Swimming is an effective and fun exercise for most dogs, and serves as the perfect way to get some activity in the hot summer months.