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
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:
|Milk bones (small)||20|
|Blue Bones Mini||19|
|Blue Bones Small||49|
|Blue Bones Regular||71|
|Blue Bones Large||118|
|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.