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App Review: Doggie Dietitican
Good basic tool for tracking calories

Got a portly Pug, a meal-loving mutt, or perhaps a chubby Chihuahua? How about a Labrador who loves lounging a little too much or a rambunctious Rat Terrier always raring to go? How do you figure out how many calories they need?

The new Doggie Dietitian app by Dr. Sheri Cone is designed to take some of the guesswork out of calorie-counting with a program calibrated to your dog’s breed, weight and activity level.

Pros

  • Easy and intuitive to use.
  • You can store and keep track of multiple pets in your home.
  • Offers an extensive list of dry and canned commercial dog foods.
  • Offers many types of popular commercially prepared treats.
  • Offers a good list of commercially prepared raw diets.
  • Offers a brief overview of common toxic foods to avoid.

I feel this could be an especially useful app for people who have growing puppies. You can easily reenter their rapidly changing body weight and adjust their food amounts to meet their nutritional needs as they grow.

Cons

I found it was not easy to go back and add a treat to the list of the day’s food intake, which can be somewhat of a nuisance if your dog’s food intake changes each day. For example, if you feed 2 cups of kibble and 1 broccoli stem, but later add a slice of deli turkey and want to figure where you are calorie-wise for the day, you have to go back and reenter the amount of kibble, the broccoli and then add turkey. This would not be an issue if your dog’s daily food and treats remained steady each day.

If you find you are over- or under-feeding your pet, the app only gives you the option of adding or taking away a portion of dry food. I prefer to give additional “people foods,” so this fell short for my needs.

The app has a very limited list of people foods and I would beg for a more extended reference.

Finally, I feel this app would not be quite as useful for people who fully prepare home-cooked diets and treats from scratch. However, the app would give even home-cooks a target calorie range that they should be feeding.

One size doesn’t fit all

The Doggie Dietician offers a database of hundreds of dog breeds with their ideal weight. While this is good information, take the “ideal” weight loosely because every dog is different. For example, the ideal weight for a Doberman came out as 88 pounds. My boy, Bauer, is slim and trim at 97 pounds, while my girl, Dharma, begins to verge on voluptuous if she is over 72 pounds.

Putting it to the test

I gave this app a go using my two Dobies as, well, guinea pigs. I “plugged and chugged” the app’s recommendations of breed, sex, weight and activity level and compared it to the actual calories I feed my dogs on a daily basis. Here’s what I found as I worked through the process:   

The formulation I use to calculate my dogs’ daily caloric needs can be found in my previous blog (Weight Management Made Simple). This is a formula for “obesity-prone” dogs and is therefore a little more calorie-conservative than the app’s formulation.

For example: Bauer’s calorie requirements using my formula equates to needing 1,370 calories per day, while the Doggie Dietician recommends I should feed him 1,885 calories per day. Although the app accurately calculates a pet’s daily requirement needs, I can say from experience that if I fed the caloric amount recommended by the app, that he would begin to pack on a few pounds.

However, I don’t think that this should deter its use; I only mention this to highlight the point that it may take some adjustment to find your dog’s daily caloric “sweet spot.” I feel the app is a good starting point that will allow you to get a big picture and then you can fine-tune from that point based on your pets’ weight gains or losses. 

Quick fix

I get asked all the time, “How much should I be feeding my dog?” This app allows me to quickly and easily calculate the cups of food an owner should roughly be feeding his or her pet right while I’m in the exam room.

Although it’s a more basic app, I feel that it is one worth fetching, and for just under two bucks, I give it two paws up.

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Veterinarian Shea Cox has enjoyed an indirect path through her professional life, initially obtaining degrees in fine arts and nursing. She later obtained her veterinary medical degree from Michigan State University in 2001 and has been practicing emergency and critical care medicine solely since that time. In 2006, she joined the ER staff at PETS Referral Center in Berkeley and cannot imagine a more rewarding and fulfilling place to spend her working hours. In her spare time, she loves to paint, wield her green thumb, cook up a storm and sail. Her days are shared with the three loves of her life: her husband Scott and their two Doberman children that curiously occupy opposite ends of the personality spectrum.

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