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food calories
daily calorie intake
weight loss diet
magic number
dog food
pet store
ideal weight
how many calories
vet
overweight
exceptions
Calculate Dog Food Calories - A Self Help Guide
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Calculate Dog Food Calories  -  A Self Help Guide

Do you know how many calories your dog needs daily? Do you know how many calories are in the dog food you use? If you are the owner of a fit healthy dog and are following the advice on feed labels, there's probably no reason why you should know. I however am the owner of a Labrador on a strict weight loss diet and I have to monitor his calorie intake every day.

Now it’s bad enough when humans diet and start to count calories. Believe me, it’s even more difficult doing it for your pet. This article is all about the problems I had calculating calories and some of the solutions I came up with to make the whole process a little easier.

How to work out how many calories your dog needs per day?

Option 1 - Talk to a vet

Daily calorie intake depends on factors such as the dogs weight, age and activity level. As a general rule, the younger the dog, the more calories they need per day and the older and less active dogs need less. There are always exceptions to the rule and a vet will tell you the calorie intake tailored to your pet.

The daily calories my dog needs based on his ideal weight are 1377. Unfortunately he's overweight, therefore the vet calculated that he needs 1160 at the moment to lose weight.

Option 2 - Search online

When I was searching around for advice I found quite a few websites offering free calorie counters for dogs. You type in factors like their age, weight, activity levels and hey presto it gives you the magic number of calories required per day. They were simple to use and I found that they came up with very similar numbers to the ones that my vet had calculated.

How to work out how many calories per food serving

Initially, I bought a recommended weight loss food from the vet and he worked out how many calories and servings were needed per day. Unfortunately, the dog could not get along with this brand so I bought a weight loss dry food from a pet store, but then had to work out calorie intake for myself.

After hours of reading dog food labels, all I can say is that the advice on packaging varies vastly from one manufacturer to another. Some food has little or no guidance whatsoever about calories. Some manufacturers have calories listed as Kcals per pound or Kcals per Kg. Dry food packaging often lists calories per 8oz measuring cup.

So given all of this confusion how can you work out the calories per serving. Taking the dry diet food I currently use as an example here's how I calculate the number:

According to the packaging there are 365 calories per 8oz serving. The dog’s calorie intake is 1160.

So my calculation is 1160 divided by 365 which equal 3.18 cups per day. The .18 of a cup is not easy but it’s just less than a fifth of the entire serving, so I estimate.

While I think this example is reasonably straight forward to work out, it's more complicated if the calories are given per pound or per Kg.

Beware the treats

Many labels on dog treats do not indicate calories and many dogs are overweight due to high fat treats. By doing some quick research online I found that most vets agree only 10% of dogs calorie intake should be from treats. So a dog on 800 calories per day should have no more than 80 calories from treats per day.

My dog is on a weight loss diet, so no treats at all for the time being. When he gets to his ideal weight I will try using more healthy snacks. Four baby carrots for instance have a grand total of only 20 calories.

Scavenging

I have a Labrador. A breed well known for eating anything and everything. When out for a walk, whatever he scavenges counts as calories. Unfortunately, I have no idea what he has eaten half the time, so this really confuses things. If necessary, I now keep him on a lead to stop his foraging instincts. I try to keep the kitchen floor clean and bins are emptied regularly. He gets no scraps from the table.

Remember, whatever they eat has calories.

In conclusion

I never realised how many calories my dog needed until the vet put him on a diet to slim him down. I now know that dogs get fat for exactly the same reasons as humans so the solution is the same - count calories and exercise more. The vet calculated that, previous to the weight loss diet, my Labrador was eating around twice as many calories as he needed given his age and level of activity.

If you want to know about daily calorie intake for your pet, or if you want to know if your dog is overweight - talk to a vet. They will be able to provide you with all the information you need. Failing that, go online for advice. If you do end up counting dog calories - refresh your maths and dig out that calculator!


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