There are a multitude of dog foods available with a wide variety of protein and fat levels. It is often difficult to determine which is the best level of fat or energy for a particular dog.
The energy requirements of dogs can vary greatly with their size (breed), age, activity level, body condition and season. The following information should help to explain each energy requirement factor.
Activity Level Differences in Energy Requirements (ME)
If an average dog in maintenance relative energy requirement equals 1, a puppy’s energy requirement would equal 2, a very hard working dog or lactating dog’s energy requirement would equal 3, an active or pregnant dog’s energy requirement would equal 1.5 and an inactive or older dog’s energy requirement would equal 0.75.
Body Condition Differences in Energy Requirements (ME)
Overweight or obese dogs can lose weight if energy intake is reduced to 75 percent of suggested feeding rate. Controlled feeding is an effective method to reduce energy intake. Under-conditioned dogs should be fed a higher energy diet until proper body condition is achieved.
Dogs eat to meet their energy needs. As activity increases, their need for food also will increase. Likewise, an inactive dog will eat less. Another way to change energy consumption is by changing products. An active dog could be changed from a low energy product such as Hubbard® Life Maintenance dog food to Hubbard® Life High Energy dog food to increase energy and other nutrients.
Many dog owners wonder if they should feed a supplement in addition to their dog's normal diet. This supplemental feeding may include vitamins, trace minerals, extra energy, treats or scraps. There is a desire to provide something extra for their animals.
In most instances, this supplementation is not necessary and may actually be harmful to the dog – harmful because canine diets are actually balanced far better than human diets. Humans tend to consume foods they prefer, versus those foods they should eat.
Canine diets are balanced based upon the actual nutritional requirements of the animal. Each Hubbard Life® product is formulated and manufactured to meet the nutritional needs during various life stages, such as gestation, lactation or growth. The nutrients have been carefully balanced to provide the most efficient utilization.
By supplementing the diet with additional products, this sensitive balance may be offset. This creates an excess of one nutrient while limiting the utilization of another key nutrient.
One of the most common items supplemented is fat to provide extra energy. During cold weather or periods of stress, the animal requires more energy. Fat is a concentrated source of energy and may be used to increase energy intake. However, there are several factors to be considered when doing this.
First, nutrients other than energy may also be limited during these periods, especially during stress. Fat does not supply other nutrients such as amino acids or B-complex vitamins. Fat also has the effect of reducing food intake since dogs tend to eat to meet their energy requirement. Supplementing high levels of fat has the effect of increasing calories, reducing appetite and thereby reducing total food intake, which may lead to nutritional deficiencies.
Instead of supplementing fat, another way to increase energy intake is to feed high energy diets, such as Hubbard Life High Energy. In this way, not only is energy increased but the other important nutrients are increased also.
Meat or meat scraps are also commonly added to dog diets. Meat has the image of the ideal food for dogs. We all think of dogs as meat eaters. Therefore, meat is thought to be the perfect supplement to a dog's diet. However, meat is not nutritionally balanced for dogs. It is high in fat, protein and phosphorus, but it is very low in calcium.
If high levels of meat are fed without additional calcium, a severe calcium phosphorus imbalance will result. This can result in weak bones and teeth. This is especially important in lactating and growing animals.
As you can see, good intentions are not enough when supplementing an animal's diet. One must consider all of the nutrients in the animal's diet before introducing additional foods. Adding one or more nutrients without knowing the effect on the nutritional balance may be harmful to the animal.
Supplements should only be provided when recommended by a professional who is familiar with the current feeding program and the physiological state of the animal.