This methodology calculates the number of calories or kcals a dog particularly needs each day and foods are selected that work together to fill the nutrition recommendations that the National Research Council (NRC) published in their Nutrients For Dogs and Cats volume of their animal nutrition series.
Working dogs, overweight dogs, underweight dogs; and fast or slow metabolism breeds are a few examples of the types of dogs that may benefit more from the caloric feeding method than the ratios feeding method. Puppies and pregnant/lactating females are always best fed via the caloric method following NRC based standards.
If you are a raw feeder who wants to get specific with your dog’s daily nutrition needs then consideration of calories is the way to do that.
It can seem daunting but there are many resources out there that can help make it easier to learn and comprehend feeding via calories.
BUT (isn’t there always a caveat or an area of grey in all nutrition conversations?!) there is approximately a 30% fluctuating variance for your dog’s specific daily energy requirements; so even with calorie calculating you have to still consider the dog in front of you that you are feeding.
Breed, age, activity, intact, fixed, growth stage, maintenance stage, pregnancy/lactation, and aging pet years; all of these are examples of factors used to determine your dog’s energy needs. Activity is an absolutely imperative factor to consider when figuring out your dog’s Daily Energy Requirements (DER).
Simplifying it for the Average Raw Feeder
Sometimes when people start reading terms like “daily energy requirements for dogs” or they get asked “how many kcals does your dog eat a day?” or they are presented in an online group with abbreviations like RER & MER; they get nervous and feel like they are about to get in over their head. DON’T BAIL, I’M GOING TO HELP YOU!
Let’s get into it from the ground up; beginning with what a Calorie is
A: the amount of heat required at a pressure of one atmosphere to raise the temperature of one gram of water one degree Celsius that is equal to about 4.19 joules —abbreviation cal
— called also gram calorie, small calorie
B: the amount of heat required to raise the temperature of one kilogram of water one degree Celsius : 1000 gram calories or 3.968 Btu —abbreviation Cal
— called also large Calorie, Cal, Kilogram calorie, Kilocalories, & kCals. <—-This is what we use when raw feeding dogs. Calories and kCals are used interchangeably in casual conversation.
Now that you know what a Calorie/kCal is & that we use it for measuring a dog’s energy requirements; we need to talk about Resting Energy Requirements (RER).
Resting Energy Requirements (RER)
Resting Energy Requirements that I am going to refer to as RER from now on is the minimum energy your dog needs for its body to provide essential functions to live. This is the minimum amount of kCals needed to sustain life in a resting state.
The Allometric Formula for Determining Resting Energy Requirements for Dogs (RER)
—-> RER (kcal) = 70 X (current body weight in kg)*0.75 <—-
Growth stage, pregnancy, lactation, & activity level all increase a dog’s energy requirements from the RER to what is known as Maintenance Energy Requirements.
In a nutshell —-> RER is the minimum number of kCals your dog needs to function. Any type of activity increases that number. Increased activity from a resting state means the dog is burning more energy and therefore needs more kCals to maintain.
Maintenance Energy Requirements (MER)
Maintenance Energy Requirements that I am going to call MER here forward, are the kCals needed for a dog to maintain their ideal weight based on their current life stage & their activity level. MER requires more kCals than RER because the dog is doing more than life sustaining functions. Other factors affecting MER are activity, growth, pregnancy/lactation, climate, and health.
In a nutshell —-> MER for a 4.5 year old old fixed dog who is a couch potato in Southern California is less MER/kCals than a 2-year old unaltered dog who is hunting daily in Alaska.
It’s important to have a grasp on what calories are so you can best make food selections for your dog. Metabolizable Energy (ME) is the portion of total energy your dog’s body retains to function. This ME is what is measured in kCals/Calories. kCals = 1,000 Calories. kCals is the unit of measurement we use when feeding dogs. The metabolizable energy depends on what the diet is comprised of and the dog’s digestive system.
Dogs with the same body weight can have variations regarding their Daily Energy Requirements (DER), which are affected by factors such as, age, neutering status, physiologic status (growth, gestation, lactation, illness, etc), activity, environmental temperature, & underlying conditions. Estimated DER needs to be adjusted based on the individual dog.
Water • Protein • Fats • Carbohydrates & Crude Fiber • Vitamins • Minerals
Of the above nutrient classifications, only protein, fats, and carbohydrates provide energy to dogs. Water while vital to life, does not provide energy; nor do vitamins or minerals.
Factors that should be considered when building a caloric based raw diet include activity, growth stage, reproduction/lactation, old age.
Puppies and pregnant, lactating adults, need to be fed a specific diet for that stage of their life. It’s best to consult with a raw diet professional to have your puppy or pregnant or lactating female’s diet correctly formulated. We formulate for puppies & pregnant/lactating females via NRC or FEDIAF standards.
Animal Nutrition Seventh Edition
Small Animal Clinical Nutrition, 5th Edition
Ohio State University Veterinary Medical Center