Calculating a dog’s Metabolic weight (MW) is the first step in determining how much to feed your dog. It also allows you to determine the amount of calories to feed your dog a day. MW is determined based on-
- Your dog’s weight / metabolism
- Your dog’s activity level
- Lifestage should also be a consideration
You might be asking, why do I need to know this? Well, this is a good thing to understand if you make homemade dog food for your dog, have a special needs dog, or want to be proactive in your dog’s nutrition and health.
One of the keys to figuring out how much to feed your dog is to understand that this really depends on how much energy your dog burns in a day. Before calculating your dog’s MW and determining calories to feed based on MW, you should take note of your dog’s Body Condition Score (BCS), and Muscle Condition Score (MCS). More on this in a bit.
Also, please note I am talking about determining MW and calories to feed for adult or senior dogs. With puppies and growth diets it is more complex.
To calculate MW, take the following steps:
1. In a calculator on your computer click ‘scientific’ unless you have a scientific calculator at home
2. Type your dog’s weight in kg, then click x^y (to convert your dog’s weight in lbs to kg, a google search will tell you this)
3. Type in 0.75 and click equal
4. Write down this number – it’s your dog’s metabolic weight
Calculating Calories to Feed Your Dog
You will determine your dog’s energy number using a scale of 90 – 130. 90 is equivalent to a geriatric senior dog who might go for a short walk once a day or every few days. 130 is for a highly active, even working dog, doing multiple hours of exercise a day. You can go lower or higher than 90 and 130 if needed. Usually an average adult dog falls somewhere in the middle. Sometimes, a dog will even fall below 90 or higher than 130. Dogs that are spayed/neutered often have slower metabolisms and this should be considered as well.
This is where taking note of your dog’s BCS and MCS matters. If your dog needs to lose or gain weight or muscle, the energy number you choose should be reflective of this. You should also note how your dog is doing on their current diet. Does your dog burn through food quickly or easily put on weight even with activity?
Something that I have to also consider when determining my dog’s calorie intake is the season. During the fall/winter my dog’s activity level is less than the summer. They eat less calories as a result. So the number I choose for energy level is usually lower.
To determine the calories based on MW – you’ll take your dog’s MW number and multiply that by the energy level, and that equals your calories to feed.
Two of My Dogs as Examples
Jayne is a 2.5 year old spayed female, she exercises 45 minutes – 1 hour sometimes doing heavy running, she weighs 42lbs. She doesn’t exercise every day right now since it is fall/winter. She does not gain weight on her diet nor is she burning through her food. Her muscles are very well developed and her BCS is 5. Jayne also needs to be leaner and cannot be overweight at all because she has three legs.
Jayne’s MW is 9.118. I am going to multiply 9.118 (MW) x 115 (her fall/winter energy level) = 1,048kcals to feed Jayne daily.
Jayne is an easier dog to calculate for. Let’s look at Mylah and compare to Jayne. We can get very precise with nutrition when we start with MW and calories – which is what has to happen for a complicated dog like Mylah.
Mylah is 9 years old and has diabetes, EPI, and IBD and is spayed. Her BCS is 4 and she has mild to moderate muscle loss. She burns through calories very quickly without much exercise. She gets about 20 mins of exercise a 1-2 times a week in the fall/winter. Mylah weighs 32lbs or 14.5kg. Her MW is 7.43. Since I know Mylah needs A LOT of food in order to maintain her weight because she burns through calories so quickly – so I take her MW of 7.43 and multiply it by 130 which gives me 965kcal. This might seem like a lot for a 32lb dog but even after formulating a diet to 970kcal per day – she was losing weight. So, I upped her calorie intake even further. Now she is eating about 1200kcal a day and is maintaining her weight wonderfully. She has normal stools, great energy and her blood sugar is regulated well. This is a good example of a dog needing to be looked at a little differently when it comes to her nutrition and her MW being the starting point to where she needs to be. Nutrition is not a one-size-fits-all situation. Compared to Jayne, Mylah eats more calories and weighs less but both are such completely different dogs with different nutritional needs.
So there you have it! This is one of the very first steps in formulating a homemade diet for a dog and being on top of your dog’s energy needs.
Let me know if you’ve found this helpful in figuring out your dog’s MW and caloric intake!