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Energy Requirements Of Puppies
Providing the correct amount of puppy food to meet the energy requirements of such an early life stage, is important to help ensure a healthy growth rate and avoid underweight or overweight puppies.
The amounts of puppy food given in feeding guides are calculated based on knowing the amount of energy (calories) required by a puppy and the calorie content of the food. This article summarises the findings of several studies that provide new information on the energy requirements of puppies, which GA has used to review and revise their puppy feeding guides.
Energy requirements of a puppy
Currently, the equation below, as set out in the National Research Council (NRC, 20061), is widely used for estimating the energy requirements of puppies:
MER (Kcal) = 130 x actual BW0.75 x 3.2 x (e-0.87 x (actual BW/expected mature BW) – 0.1)
where BW = body weight (in kg) and e = base natural log (2.718).
However, over recent years a number of studies, outlined below, have found that the energy requirements calculated using this equation did not reflect the actual energy intakes of puppies fed to maintain an ideal body condition score during growth. The studies indicate that puppies of different breeds (sizes) have different energy requirements and this is not accounted for in the above equation.
Dobenecker and colleagues first reported a difference in the energy intakes of beagle puppies (medium-sized breed) compared to Foxhound-Boxer-Ingelheim-Labrador cross-breed puppies (large-sized breed) required for the puppies to grow in accordance with the recommended weight curve for each breed. In addition, the energy intakes of both breeds were considerably lower than that calculated by the NRC equation.
Difference In Energy Requirements
Further differences in energy requirements between puppies of different sized breeds have been reported. The energy intakes of both miniature schnauzer (medium-sized) and Yorkshire terrier puppies (toy/small-sized) were significantly lower than Labrador puppies (large-sized) in the period up to 29 weeks old.
When compared with the energy requirements calculated using the NRC equation, the actual energy intakes of Labrador puppies were found to be quite close. In contrast, the NRC equation markedly overestimated energy requirements of miniature schnauzer puppies between 8 – 15 weeks, Yorkshire terrier puppies between 10 – 20 weeks and Norfolk terrier puppies (small-sized) between 10 and 52 weeks.
In a study of privately-owned puppies (rather than research colony dogs in the above studies) covering a wide range of breeds and sizes, it was also reported that the NRC equation tended to overestimate the energy, by approximately 20%, in puppies below six months old. This study also found that energy intake of puppy food significantly increased as the expected mature body weight increased and significantly decreased as puppies aged.
Together, all of these studies indicate that the NRC equation is not ideal for calculating the energy requirements of puppies as for many breeds/sizes, this would likely result in puppies being offered more food than required. Over-feeding can lead to more rapid growth, which may harm skeletal development, particularly in large breed puppies. It can also result in excessive weight gain/obesity, which is associated with detrimental effects on the health and lifespan of dogs.
Puppies of different sizes/breeds
Many of the above studies recommended that the NRC equation needs revising or that breed-specific equations for estimating energy requirements of puppies should be developed. While breed-specific equations may be a long way off, the team of veterinary nutritionists that gathered and analysed the data collected from many breeds/sizes of privately-owned puppies during growth did provide some recommendations of energy intakes for puppies with different expected adult bodyweights and age categories.
They also found a linear relationship between realised growth (actual BW/expected mature BW) and metabolisable energy (ME) intake per kg BW0.75. From this, they developed an equation to calculate the energy intake for puppies grown according to recommendations.
ME intake (MJ) = (1.063 – 0.565 x [actual BW/expected mature BW]) x actual BW0.75
where BW = body weight (in kg).
DogStuff® highly recommend Jacksons UK for your dog food. They have a full range of puppy recipes with feeding guides in line with that of the study above.