Small dogs and their energy demand?

Small dogs consume with regard to their body significantly more energy than large dogs, especially in cold and/or wet weather, that is in autumn and in winter. Their energy conversion is also faster. In general, the smaller and more active the dog and the lower the outdoor temperature, the higher the need for quickly available calories. There are two reasons for this.

First, the proportion of the body surface and body weight is different than the one at middle-sized or large dogs. This can even be proven scientifically: While a large dog, such as a Great Dane, has an energy demand of 0,20 Megajoule (MJ) per kilogram of body weight, a dwarf poodle requires with 0,37 MJ per kilogram of body weight much more energy than the large dog. More specifically, the small poodle must receive per kilogram of his body weight at least 85% more energy!

Yorkshire Terrier vs. Labrador

Secondly, the small dog already loses much more body warmth under normal conditions because his body surface is much more larger in comparison to his body weight. In order to express this in figures: a small Yorkshire Terrier with a body weight of 1 kg has a body surface of 0,1 m², while a Labrador with a body weight of 35 kg has a body surface of 1 m². If the ratios were to be the same as for the Yorkshire Terrier, the Labrador should have a body surface of 3,5 m² – but he has a body surface of less than a third from this, namely of 1 m²!

This example shows clearly that much more warmth, i.e. energy is lost over the proportionally very large body surface of the small dog. Particular attention should be paid to this, especially in cold or wet weather and in situations in which the small dog either consumes more energy (playing, running, long walks, cold, windy or wet weather) or receives smaller amounts of energy (digestive disorders or lack of appetite, and especially after anesthesia). This applies especially to small dogs with low body weight (< 10 kg) and very fine or short fur without much underfur (e.g. Chihuahua).

Small dogs require warmth through energy

Two things are important: small dogs must be frequently supplied with rapidly available energy, e.g. Energy Snacks, and then a warm coat can also be very useful here. For the same reason, small dogs must be warmed particularly well during an anesthesia and after that until they are completely awake and, in an ideal case, their body temperature should be continuously monitored via a monitor with alarm, sam for their energy metabolism via regular measurements of the blood glucose level. If your small dog will require an anesthetic: If the above-mentioned particularities are taken into account, there are no higher anesthetic risks for small dogs than there are for larger dogs.

However, due to their small body mass, small dogs can’t save energy as well as middle sized or large dogs, and they are therefore dependent on a continuous supply of energy. If their blood glucose level drops too much because they haven’t received enough energy or because too much energy is consumed by the muscles when freezing and trembling, a small dog can enter very quickly into a dangerous energy deficit situation with hypoglycaemia that could trigger in an extreme case a collapse or a coma.

Article by Mrs. Dr. Birgit Leopold-Temmler, Veterinary specialist for small animals

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