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A healthy weight starts with healthy habits

Changed guidelines on energy requirements

01 May 2014, at 1:00am

Ian Williams in this fifth in a series from Royal Canin focusing on the latest knowledge on nutrients for cats and dogs looks at energy requirements and the recent changes to feeding guidelines...

ENERGY is constantly required by all animals as it is needed for growth and cell turnover as well as activity.

All body functions such as digestion and respiration also require energy. This means that even a sleeping animal lying down in a warm environment will still use some energy. The question is how much energy is needed?

The pets we see in our consult rooms today aren’t the same as those we did 10 years ago – their energy requirements have changed. An increase in urbanisation, a decrease in activity levels and the rise of neutering have resulted in pet obesity becoming an all too frequent issue. 

There are many reasons why this problem has increased in recent years. Pet owners often fill the food bowl, rather than measuring the exact amount required with weighing scales.

Families regularly share the responsibility of feeding their pet, with extras and treats becoming commonplace and there is frequently insufficient time and space for exercise, coupled with owners rarely checking their pet’s weight and body condition score.

What we can do...

As a profession, there are several things we can do to help tackle this. Most importantly, we can adapt caloric content and encourage rationing. However, alongside this, there will always be variations that need to be considered due to genetics/breed, age, sexual status and a pet’s lifestyle and environment.

For example, a Labrador uses less energy on a daily basis than a Boxer. Also, the requirements of a neutered animal are generally lower, whereas a growing puppy needs more energy than an adult animal.

These considerations – alongside discussion about a pet’s lifestyle and daily exercise levels – should all be covered with the owner during consults.

In essence, the energy content of a pet’s meal should cover its energy needs. If the owner provides too much energy by providing too much food, it will increase the risk of obesity. Of course, by controlling the diet, it is possible to provide more or less energy.

There are slight variations in the amount of energy produced depending on the source and quality of the nutrients within a diet; however, it is clear that fat provides more energy than protein or carbohydrate: 1g of fat will provide approximately 9kcal of metabolisable energy (ME) compared to 1g of protein or carbohydrate which generates approximately 4kcal of ME.

This means that fat provides more than double the ME of protein or carbohydrate.

Feeding guidelines

In order to address the changing lifestyles of our pets, Royal Canin recently took the decision to adjust the daily recommended feeding guidelines for cats and dogs.

The recommended daily allowance for a 30kg dog is now 1,217kcal, compared to the previous allowance of 1,692kcal per day. For a 5kg cat it has decreased from 275kcal per day to 243kcal per day.

Previously the allowance corresponded to 1-3 hours of daily activity, whereas the new lower guidelines better approximate the reality of today’s pets. It is important to remember that a guideline is just a guideline and the exact ration required will still vary from individual to individual.

In summary, it is true to say that whilst animal physiology hasn’t changed, the lifestyles of our pets have. The new feeding guidelines are a better fit for the majority of the pet population and it is the role of the veterinary practice to aid these changes with complementary rationing and lifestyle advice. 

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Royal Canin® Diabetic

Overweight pets are more predisposed to developing diabetes mellitus. In the case of a diabetic pet, dietary management is of major importance along with appropriate medical care.

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