Puppies are at a critical stage in their lives when their body organs are continuing their development until they reach full maturity. Young dogs are also at risk for different diseases because of the rather immature nature of their immune system. Their bones are also not yet that strong while the muscles have yet to reach optimum strength and tonicity. In other words, puppies need all the crucial nutrients that they can get from both their mommy and the food that pet parents give them. While it is easy to choose the best dog food for puppies, one very important question remains: how much food should puppies receive?
Feeding by Cups
Whenever we talk about the amount of food that puppies or dogs need to eat every day, we always talk in terms of “cups”. You will often see in the feeding recommendations of dog food for puppies that a puppy weighing less than 2 lbs should receive only ¼ cup of dog food per day. But if you get another brand of puppy food, the feeding recommendation might be a little different. It may say that the same puppy should eat ½ cup of the dog food per day.
Relying on cup measurements does not also take into account the puppy’s actual weight. Consider this, for example. There are those who say that a 5-lb puppy should get anywhere between half a cup to 5/8-cups of dog food a day. But what if your puppy is a 6-pounder or a 7-pounder? How much dog food should you add to the “half-cup” or “5/8 cups”? The next recommendation is for 10-pound puppies at ¾ cup to 1 cup. So, if your puppy weighs 7 pounds, should you give it more than 5/8 cups but less than ¾ cups?
If we concentrate on using cups as the standard of measure for feeding puppies and dogs, we are not giving them the right amounts of calories and nutrients that they need. We are basing our “judgment” on what the dog food manufacturer says our puppies need.
If we are going to give our puppies a different brand of dog food, we may have to give them a different amount. It is very obvious that this is not the way puppies need to get their nutrition. A much better way is to compute for their Total Daily Energy Requirements.
Feeding by the Puppy’s Daily Energy Requirements
Determining the amount of dog food to give to your puppy requires more than relying on “cups”. Computing for the puppy’s Total Daily Energy Requirements will allow you to determine a more accurate amount of dog food to give.
There are two steps to this method. First, we have to compute for the puppy’s Resting Energy Requirement. This is equivalent to what we humans know as Basal Metabolic Rate or BMR. The puppy’s RER is a reflection of the total amount of energy that it needs to sustain the different functions of its vital organs. In other words, this is the amount of energy that puppies need to survive. It includes energy for the proper functioning of the puppy’s heart, lungs, brain, kidneys, and other vital organs.
Since puppies also perform activities other than “to survive”, it is important to adjust the RER. This is to take account for other “non-essential” functions such as running, jumping, barking, and many others. It is not easy to make the necessary adjustments. However, there are “factors” that one can multiply on the RER to obtain the Total Daily Energy Requirements of the puppy. The factors are the following.
- 0 – For puppies less than 4 months or 16 weeks old
- 0 – For puppies at least 4 months or 16 weeks old
Let’s try to put this into action using a hypothetical case. Suppose we have a 20-week old Labrador Retriever puppy that weighs 30 lbs.
We need to compute for this Lab’s RER first. To do this, we will do the following:
- Convert 30 lbs into kilogram by dividing 30 lbs by 2.2 to obtain 13.64 kilograms.
- Raise 13.64 kilograms to the ¾-power, resulting in 7.1.
- Multiply 7.1 by 70 to get 497.
In this case, the RER of our 20-week old, 30-lb Labrador Retriever puppy is 497 calories per day.
The second step is to adjust the RER to obtain the Daily Energy Requirement. We will multiple 497 calories by 2.0 (the factor for a >16 week old puppy) to get 994 calories. What this means is that this puppy will need about 990 to 1000 calories per day.
But what if the puppy is 15 weeks old and weighs only 20 lbs? Let’s compute for that, shall we?
- Convert 20 lbs into kilogram to get 9.1 kilograms.
- Raise 9.1 kilograms to the ¾-power to get 5.24.
- Multiply 5.24 by 70 to get 366.8 or 367 calories per day.
We’re not done yet. We also have to multiply 367 calories by the factor or 3.0. This gives us 1,101 calories per day. Hence, a 15-week old, 20-lb Labrador puppy needs 1,101 calories per day.
Can you see the difference here? The younger the puppy, the more calories that it needs. This supports what canine nutritionists say about puppy nutrition. They need more calories than their adult counterparts. Why is that?
Puppyhood is a time of very fast growth and development of all the body organs. These processes require energy which the puppy gets from its dog food.
Translating DER Computation into Cup Measurements
Using the computation for the puppy’s Daily Energy Requirement, it is now possible to determine the actual “amount” of dog food that you need to give your puppy.
Suppose a particular brand of dog food lists in its Guaranteed Analysis that it contains 400 calories per cup. In our example of the 20-week old Labrador Retriever, we know that it needs 994 calories per day. If we divide this by 400 calories, we will get 2.485 or about 2.5. This is the number of cups that we are going to give to this puppy per day.
If we are going to feed the puppy three times a day, then we should give it about 4/5 cups every meal. If we feed it 4 times a day, then we need to give it about 2/3 cups per meal.
In our second example of the 15-week old Lab, it needs 1,101 calories per day or about 2.75 cups per day. If you feed this puppy 3 times a day, then it should receive about 9/10 of a cup every meal. If you will feed it 4 times a day, then the same puppy will need a little over 5/8 cups per meal.
It is clear that doing the math first before determining the number of cups to give to puppies is a much better way to ensure they get the right nutrition.
Understanding the Importance of Getting the Right Amount of Food for Your Puppy
While computing for the Daily Energy Requirements of puppies is a helpful tool, it’s far from perfect. It’s important to realize that the formulas only take into consideration the puppy’s weight. The factors 2.0 and 3.0 are also very rough estimates as to how the Resting Energy Requirement can be adjusted to account for other factors. These will not give you a very clear picture of how your puppy will be utilizing the nutrients and calories it is receiving.
For example, you may have two puppies of the same breed, age, and weight. However, one is more rambunctious or active than the other. Yet, both of them will have the same energy requirement. Should it not be that the “more active” puppy receive more calories than the puppy that’s “less active”? If so, how do you know how much you should add to its food intake?
Sadly, it’s very difficult to determine the actual factor to use when taking into account the puppy’s activity levels. Nevertheless, using the DER method will give you a much clearer idea as to how much food you have to give to your puppy.
This leads us to the most important question of all. Why is the amount of puppy food such a big deal?
It’s very simple: feeding puppies less than what they need can result in a host of nutritional and medical problems. Vitamin and mineral deficiencies can produce problems in the brain, heart, muscles, skin, coat, and many more.
On the other hand, feeding puppies more than what they need can also lead to health issues. The first of these is obesity. In the US alone, 56 percent of all dogs are either obese or overweight. This means that about 1 in 2 pet dogs is at risk for developing obesity-related health conditions. These can include osteoarthritis, intervertebral disk disease, Cushing’s disease, congestive heart failure, cruciate ligament ruptures, skin disorders, and many more.
Determining how much to feed your puppy depends on a number of factors. It’s difficult to consider all of these factors into one all-encompassing formula. However, computing for the puppy’s Daily Energy Requirements and translating these into customary or imperial measurement units make the determination easier.