An important part of camping with your dog is nutrition. When it comes to backpacking dog food, the starting point of your planning your dog’s nutrition is how much to feed them! The nutritional value is definitely important, however you want to ensure you feed them enough in the first place.
Figuring out dog caloric requirements is a science, but you make it an art
You can find a lot of dog food calculators around the web, but not many tailored towards highly active dogs. This calculator shows you the difference between baseline calorie requirements and your dog’s needs on trail.
We created this hiking dog food calculator by borrowing from OSU’s Veterinary Medical Center. However, this calculator will only tell you your dog’s rough calorie needs. Emphasis on rough.
You can find a lot of dog food calculators around the web, but not many openly address highly active dogs. This calculator shows you the difference between baseline requirements and your dog’s needs on trail.
Use the calculator, and check the results against your current dog food to make sure your dog’s estimated calorie needs are correct. If you’d like to get into the science behind the dog nutrition calculator, all of the formulas used are listed at the bottom of this post.
Dog hiking calorie requirements
You have the time and experience with your dog to have a general understanding of their food requirements, so it’s important to apply your personal experience. In general, when I take my dog on short day hikes I expect him to burn 25-50% more calories than the average day. Longer hikes, especially if off leash, could double his normal daily intake! When in doubt, consult your vet.
OSU describes the results as “zip-code” level estimates of dog calorie needs. When planning for hiking, especially backpacking, bring extra food along! Active breeds also play a part in determining calorie needs. Keep in mind that inherent natures of breed can impact energy intake requirements.
Calories in Dog Food
Make sure you find out how many calories are in your dog’s food by serving size. You can look up your dog’s food brand here. Most popular brands have 300-500 calories per cup. That’s a huge range!
The baseline formula for calculating dog calorie needs:
First calculate Resting Energy Requirements (RER), which is energy used for essential body functions and does not include activity
RER = 70(dog weight in kg)3/4
Multiple the RER by factors from the following table to get total daily energy needs. (Note: I used lower 1.4 for fixed dogs and 1.6 for intact dogs per Pet Nutrition Alliance)