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How Much Should You Feed Your Dog?

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The number of calories a dog needs depends on his size, breed and activity. This section is a guide to how much food your dog needs to eat, according to these factors. Dogs need a balanced diet, and that means the right kinds of nutrients and enough calories to meet their energy needs. The number of calories dogs need depends on their size and the amount of exercise they're getting. Another important factor is their life stage-senior dogs, growing, pregnant and lactating bitches have their own energy requirements. This section will help you learn how much food your dog should eat according to these factors. Adult dogs with low activity Adult dogs with moderate activity Adult dogs with moderate to high activity Adult dogs with high activity Senior dogs of all sizes Pregnant bitches of all breeds and sizes Lactating bitches of all breeds and sizes Adult dogs with low activity Small dogs with less than one hour of activity a day A dog in this category needs from 110 to 620 calories per day, depending on his size. (Please ask your vet for his or her recommendation.) Since he has a relatively low activity level, make sure you don't overfeed him; otherwise, he could easily become overweight. Avoid giving him food scraps, as these can easily increase the energy intake quite a lot. If possible, try to increase the amount of activity your dog has to between 1 and 2 hours each day. And remember, all energy intakes are a guide, as individual dogs can vary, even for the same weight and activity level, and particularly among different breeds. Medium dogs with less than one hour of activity a day This category of dog needs from 620 to 1,230 calories per day, depending on his size. (Please ask your vet for his or her recommendation.) As he has a relatively low activity level, you'll need to make sure you don't overfeed him, or he could easily become overweight. Also, avoid giving your dog food scraps, because these can easily increase the energy intake quite substantially. If possible, try to increase the amount of activity he gets to between 1 and 2 hours each day. Remember, all energy intakes are a guide, as individual dogs can vary, even for the same weight and activity level, and particularly among different breeds. Large dogs with less than one hour of activity a day A dog in this category needs at least 1,230 calories per day, depending on his breed and size; this range is very wide. (Please ask your vet for his or her recommendation.) For example, giant breeds can weigh more than 200 pounds, and a dog of this size will need about 3,500 calories per day. As your dog has a relatively low activity level, you'll need to make sure you don't overfeed him; otherwise, he could easily become overweight. Avoid giving him food scraps, which can increase the energy intake substantially. If possible, try to increase the amount of activity your dog gets to between 1 and 2 hours each day. And please remember that all energy intakes are a guide, as individual dogs can vary, even for the same weight and activity level, particularly among different breeds. Adult dogs with moderate activity Small dogs with between one and two hours of activity a day This amount of activity is probably about right for a typical dog, and you should try to maintain it each day. Your small dog who gets this much activity needs from 125 to 700 calories per day, depending on his size. (Please ask your vet for his or her recommendation.) But in cold weather, you'll need to increase the amount of food he gets. This is because the amount of energy he needs to maintain a constant body temperature increases as the temperature gets colder. In these circumstances, simply feed your dog more of a complete and balanced diet. Avoid food scraps as, although they provide more energy, they probably won't supply all the other nutrients necessary for a balanced diet. Remember that all energy intakes are a guide, as individual dogs can vary, even for the same weight and activity level, and particularly among different breeds. Medium dogs with between one and two hours of activity a day Your medium-sized dog in this category needs from 700 to 1,400 calories per day, depending on his size. (Please ask your vet for his or her recommendation.) One or two hours of activity is probably about right for the typical dog, and you should try to maintain it each day. The amount of food will need to be increased in cold weather, especially if your dog sleeps outside the house in an unheated kennel. This is because the amount of energy he needs to maintain a constant body temperature increases as the temperature gets colder. In these circumstances, simply feed your dog more of a complete and balanced diet. Avoid food scraps as, although they provide more energy, they will probably not supply all the other nutrients necessary for a balanced diet. Remember also that all energy intakes are a guide, as individual dogs can vary, even for the same weight and activity level, and particularly among different breeds. Large dogs with between one and two hours of activity a day A large dog in this exercise category needs from 1,400 calories per day and up, depending on his size. (Please ask your vet for his or her recommendation.) This range is very wide. For example, giant breeds can weigh over 200 pounds, and a dog of this size will need about 3,950 calories per day. One to two hours of activity is probably about right for the typical dog, and you should try to maintain it each day. The amount of food will need to be increased in cold weather, particularly if your dog sleeps outside the house in an unheated kennel. Why? Well, the amount of energy he needs to maintain a constant body temperature increases as the temperature gets colder. In these circumstances, simply feed your dog more of a complete and balanced diet. Avoid food scraps as, although they provide more energy, they probably won't supply all the other nutrients necessary for a balanced diet. Remember, all energy intakes are a guide; individual dogs can vary, even for the same weight and activity level, and particularly among different breeds. Adult dogs with moderate to high activity Small dogs with between two and three hours of activity a day Your small, highly active dog needs from 150 to 840 calories per day, depending on his size. (Please ask your vet for his or her recommendation.) This amount of activity is higher than for the typical dog, and the energy requirement depends on your dog maintaining this level of activity every day. It's important for you to check your dog's weight and general condition regularly and change the amount of food you give him accordingly. Medium dogs with between two and three hours of activity a day At this higher than average activity level, your medium-sized dog needs from 840 to 1,680 calories per day, depending on his size. (Please ask your vet for his or her recommendation.) The energy requirement depends on your dog maintaining this level of activity every day. Check your dog's weight and general condition regularly, and change the amount of food accordingly. Large dogs with between two and three hours of activity a day If he's this active, your large dog needs from 1,680 calories per day and up, depending on his size. (Please ask your vet for his or her recommendation.) This amount of activity is higher than for the typical dog, and the energy requirement depends on your dog maintaining this level of activity every day. For giant breeds, it's less likely they will get this amount of exercise day after day. Whatever your dog's size, it's important for you to check his weight and general condition regularly, and change the amount of food he gets accordingly. Adult dogs with high activity All categories We define adult dogs with high activity as those who are very active-"on the go"--for most of the day. Their energy needs will be a minimum of 40% more than the corresponding requirement for dogs with moderate activity, depending on their size. (Please ask your vet for his or her recommendation.). And dogs who live in a harsh environment with temperature extremes have even higher energy needs. Under these circumstances, the amount of food your dogs needs will be very high (maybe 2-4 times the maintenance level), and he needs more than one meal. Feed your dog most of his daily requirements at the end of the working day after he's had time to rest and recover. Then feed him the rest of his food a reasonable time before the activity period begins. One particularly important thing to remember is to give your dog an unlimited amount of fresh water, as he'll be using up large amounts to keep cool. Senior dogs of all sizes As dogs get older, their energy needs decrease. This is due mainly to a decline in activity, and also to changes in their body composition, which can influence the metabolic rate. Here are the energy needs that take these age requirements into account and show at what age dogs of certain sizes are generally considered old: Small dogs: Considered old at 9-10 years. Need 100 to 560 calories per day, depending on their size. Medium dogs: Considered old at 7-8 years. Need 560 to 1,120 calories per day, depending on their size. Large dogs (25-50 kg.): Considered old at 7-8 years. Need 1,120 to 1,880 calories per day, depending on their size. Giant dogs (50 +kg.): Considered old at 5-6 years. Need 1,880 calories or more per day, depending on their size. (Note: Please ask your vet for his or her recommendation on how many calories your older dog needs per day.) Although older dogs need less energy than younger dogs, they can have a poor appetite, which impairs their food intake. For example, one investigation in the USA found that 16% of 12-year-old dogs at a veterinary hospital were underweight, while only 5% were overweight. So, the best type of food to feed older dogs is one they find delicious, is highly digestible, but has a reduced feeding scale to allow for the reduced energy requirements. This food also needs to deliver the right balance of essential nutrients in a reduced energy intake. Fortunately, there are special senior dog foods available, which are made to these specifications Pregnant bitches of all breeds and sizes Pregnant bitches need very little extra food during the first two thirds (5-6 weeks) of pregnancy. This is because the fetuses don't grow very much during this time. The major growth phase happens during the last three weeks. In this phase, the dog's energy allowance should be increased by about 15% each week. By the time the bitch gives birth (called "whelping"), she should be receiving 50% to 60% above the normal energy requirement. Lactating bitches of all breeds and sizes Lactation is the most demanding of all the life stages. The increase in energy needs will depend on the size and age of the litter. But at the peak of lactation, when the puppies are about four weeks old, the bitch's energy requirements may be as much as four times her normal level. That's why, during these exceptional circumstances, she needs to eat a very tasty, highly digestible, concentrated food in a number of reasonably sized meals, or even have food available to her all day long. A plentiful supply of fresh water is particularly important, as the bitch is losing water through milk production at a higher rate than normal.

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