Do you know what you’re feeding?

Do you know what you’re feeding?

We’ve talked about pet obesity, and we’ve talked about food. Putting the two together is where all of the understanding and agreement from clients falls apart. No matter how much we talk about good foods and proper feeding, I still see that about 80% of my patients are overweight.

When I was fresh out of school, I had the arrogance to think that I could control what was happening in a client’s house (or possibly that I had a right to dictate that). I’d flatly state that the owners should stop giving treats altogether. Hahaha…no. It just wasn’t happening! In some cases, pets would come back later and be heavier than when I saw them. Where’d I go wrong?

I went wrong in assuming that I could or should stop a positive interaction between a pet and owner. Positive in terms of pet and owner enjoying the experience. It’s not always positive results for the pet — quite the opposite, usually.

Where I’ve gone right in the past few years is to offer owners a choice. The “command” from me is : Less Calories. I don’t care whether owners cut out dry food or treats, or switch to a lower-cal food, or low-cal treats. I can’t, and shouldn’t, stop owners from giving treats.

I SHOULD educate you on what it is you’re feeding. We’ll make it simple-ish this week.

How many calories does your pet need? That’s the starting question. There’s a simple bit of math you can use for any pet over 4.4 lbs in weight. This is the basal metabolic rate, meaning the amount of calories a pet needs to simply maintain the body with *no* exercise. Interestingly, most of my patients do NOT end up needing a lot more than this amount when we figure out their food intake. Pets that are truly active — hours of exercise a day — will need more. (Exercise like running agility, hunting, running along with bike rides, long walks, etc. Not just chasing a few squirrels!)

Here’s the math:

Take your dog’s weight in pounds.
Divide that by 2.2
Multiply that number by 30
Add 70

So, for a 66# dog:
66 divided by 2.2 = 30
Multiply by 30 = 900
Add 70 = 970

So, for a 66# dog, we need to feed 970 calories to maintain that body weight, if exercise stays the same. That’s it, yes. 970 calories for a 66 pound dog.

Most adult dog foods are 350-500 calories per 8oz cup. Knowing that, if we divide the calories needed by the calories per cup, we know how many cups of food to feed. If you’re calculating for the actual food you feed your dog, you need to know how many calories per cup that food is! It may be on the back of the bag, but if they don’t tell you specifically kcal per cup, you’ll have to email or call the company for that information.

Let’s just assume the average calories per cup is 425. So, 970 divided by 425. You’ll get 2.3 cups of food per day. For simplicity, we’ll say 2 1/4 cups.

Simple, right? I agree. Until we have to figure out what kind of impact treats have on the total daily calorie intake. Every treat you give means you should take away some food. How much? You might be surprised! Here are a few examples:

Treat Calories
Milk bones (small) 20
Greenies Jumbo 272
Greenies Large 145
Greenies Regular 91
Greenies Petite 54
Greenies Teenie 25
Blue Bones Mini 19
Blue Bones Small 49
Blue Bones Regular 71
Blue Bones Large 118
Scooby Snacks 20-40
Apples (1 medium) 80
Baby Carrot 4 each
Green Beans 40 per 8oz cup

Keep in mind our 66# example dog. Just to put this in perspective, you would have to feed 24 cups of green beans to equal the same amount of calories as the dry food. In contrast, one Greenie Large is equal to 1/3 of a cup of dry food. That’s 15% of the daily calorie intake, just from one treat! The Blue large size is also about 12% our dog’s daily calories. Just 5 milk bones is 100 calories, or 10% of the calorie intake per day.

So, what can you do to limit calories? For every treat you give, you have to take roughly that much dry kibble away from the daily feeding. Try to just match it up by size. Or, you can feed low-calorie treats. Cut up baby carrots, use green beans, even small pieces of apple are far less calories than a milk bone. I prefer these veggie options over our low-calorie treats, too

Be aware of the impact that treats have on your dog’s calorie intake. Every bite matters when we’re headed for the life-shortening consequences of obesity.



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4 responses to “Do you know what you’re feeding?

  1. Sue and John Foster

    Thanks – great information as always!

  2. Being Dr. Hutch’s Mom, I try to very aware of my little Sheltie’s weight. She was a rescue and is very timid. Treats are the one thing she has responded to. She does agility now and she gets a fair amount of treats. She started to gain weight about a year ago. I have cut back on the amount of food she gets, because she gets more treats. I get soft treats that can be broken into 4 parts, I go so far as counting them when we go for a walk or do agility to try to control the calories. It isn’t easy, she really likes treats. I am lucky because I can give her a fair amount of exercise walking daily, but still have to watch the amounts of food. I dehydrate sweet potato pieces in the oven, she loves them and they are low in calories and have lots fiber, I can get away with giving her very little pieces. For special training, (agility), I boil a chicken breast and cut it up into very small pieces. All of those things are extra work, but I feel it is worth it. Abby is healthy and my son doesn’t tell me she is too heavy !! I never knew how to figure out the calorie intake before, so thank you for putting that in your post. MOM

  3. Thanks for the comment, mom. It’s definitely not easy to control calorie intake when the dogs and the people enjoy the interaction of giving a food treat. You’ve done a great job with Abby! It’ll pay off. You’ll have her longer and she’ll be healthier! 🙂

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