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Pet Food Feeding Recommendations Concerns


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  1. MARK

    I feed my 50 lb. Dalmatian WELL BELOW the recommendations on the bag of Wellness Dry food I’ve been feeding her for years. She maintains a very healthy weight

    1. Casey

      But then the concern is are you under supplementing vitamins/minerals?

      This is an interesting point and you’d think that regulators would be all over it…unless, of course, they only really cared about keeping BPF happy…

  2. Diane

    the biggest problem I have found is that many food makers have fallen into the “OMG the US has a horrible pet obesity problem” and they keep reducing the calories per cup to make up for the fact that the average pet home is for whatever reason unwilling or incapable of measuring their pets food and adjusting based on visual appearance.
    SO MANY foods are now UNDER 400 calories a cup and I consider less than 400 calories a cup DIET food. I want a nutrient dense food no less than 400 cal/cup but far prefer it to be 450-550/cup
    I was feeding Healthwise, but that is being discontinued in Dec so have switched my dogs to Nutrisource performance – 491 calories/cup

  3. Dean

    Susan; not to mess with the premise of the article but the other issue to consider is absorption rates of these minerals and vitamins. In most cases the pet food company is more likely to use products that are taken up in the blood stream very easily, expecting the excess to be exhausted through the urinary tract. In my opinion this the leading cause of crystals and urinary stones in pets. Without enough water flushing the system these minerals will ‘crystallize out’ as the saturation point in the fluid is achieved in the urinary organs.

    With a raw fed dog, we believe, the uptake of these nutrients can be modified in the digestive tract moderating the uptake as needed without the ‘forced absorption’. That also means though that consideration must be given the source of mineral/vitamin. For instance calcium. Many raw diets use the bone mass as the source of calcium which is fine; but many of the blends don’t consider the low uptake of calcium and phosphorus from the bone. Therefore under supplying, by taking only the value from the bone mass total without consideration to the availability. IMO

  4. Diane

    also the NRC recommendations are based on garbage foods like Dog Chow, pedigree etc where the product digestibility is low.
    For example when I fed ProPlan decades ago my dogs ate literally twice what they now eat (cup and calorie wise) to get the same body condition vs what they now get eating a better food.
    When feeding a highly digestible food the calories per lb needed go down a bit
    according to the NRC rec above my active 67lb dog would need 2059+ calories a day. The reality is that using a nutrient dense, highly digestible food she only needs 859- 1000 calories a day depending on what we are doing and those nutrient dense foods are calculated at feeding recommendations to match that in vit/minerals

  5. Laura

    My cat is having to stay in one room due to current living conditions that will hopefully change soon, and even though he’s young, athletic, and playful, having to be sedentary has obviously made him gain weight. His vet recommended his daily calorie intake to be reduced to 180 calories, but after browsing that PDF you linked and seeing the chart on page 7 of average daily energy needs for a cat, I’m very concerned. His overall body build is large, and his vet has told me his ideal weight is 11 to 12 lbs. He used to be 14 lbs, and is now around 12 lbs, but he still has some fat on his belly that hangs down. I’m worried that he’s actually lost some muscle instead of fat, because he’s a bit bony right around his lower spine, above his tail, which is like how he was when he was a stray. He has fat folds on his face (maybe loose skin?), but I don’t feel worried about that because he looked like that even when he was a stray. His vet said that the fat hanging down is just loose skin and that he hasn’t lost muscle, but I’m still really afraid that I’m feeding him a dangerously low amount of calories. Soon enough he’s going to be getting eyelid surgery, which will involve pre-surgery bloodwork and a weigh-in. Should I wait to see how much he weighs and what the blood results say before possibly adjusting his calorie intake, or should I go ahead and feed him the 260 calories the NRC recommends for a 12 lb cat?

    1. Laura

      For the record he’s still strong, fast, agile, and a good jumper, but that bit of boniness just has me anxious.

      1. Peg

        Laura, I am not a vet but I have owned cats all my life.
        I am so fed up with vets saying male cats should weigh 11-12 pounds.
        Some breeds are big and if yours is a mixed breed then genetically he could larger and therefore weigh a bit more.

        As an example, I have a rescued purebred Maine coon male who came from a horrible situation. Maine coons take up to 6 years to reach full growth and maturity. When I got this boy back in Dec he was 11 pounds and I was sobbing when tgey handed him to me. He is now 18 pounds and not quite as bony but is took 9 months to get this weight on him.

        Laura, your catboy has lost some weight, hence the droopy belly.
        Cats don’t do ab crunches, it’s that simple.

        My favorite rule of thumb came from the most wonderful vet I had years ago.
        He said feed all meat, only meat, and 1 oz of food/ pound of body weight to “maintain” the kitty’s weight.
        My boy Leo eats raw and I am currently feeding 24 oz/day because for his enormous size, and the need to gain weight, he should be at least 20-21 pounds now, this is what my vet suggested. As Leo nears the weight he should be for his size and age I will adjust the ounces accordingly.

        I just took a look at a can of Ziwipeak Rabbit and Lamb that I keep for emergencies and snacks. The feeding instructions on the can say 1/6oz can per 7 pounds of body weight for an adult cat. Kittens and pregnant/nursing need double the amount in 2-3 feedings/day. This is right along the line of what my vet said so many years ago.

        I hope this helps a bit.

        1. Peg

          Please accept my apologies for the typos.
          I could not find my glasses for the life of me!
          Leo found them and made them into a favorite toy……..they really don’t look like eyeglasses anymore………great big sigh

        2. Laura

          He’s mixed and is definitely on the larger side, though not as big as a Maine Coon. I guess I didn’t think to say this in my original comment, but even though he’s lost weight his belly looks the same. I think the only noticeable difference is, like I said, the bit of boniness.

    2. Audrey

      Are you feeding him kibble? If so, you should switch to a grain-free wet cat food or a raw diet. Dry foods contain lots of carbs, which contribute to weight gain. Cats thrive on high protein, low carb diets (cats actually require little to no carbs in their diets).

      I would avoid feeding your cat a reduced calorie formula, as they are typically plant-based (cats are obligate carnivores and as such, require a meat-based diet).

      My elderly Siamese slimmed down nicely when I switched her from kibble to wet food. She’s been on a raw diet for three years now and she looks great!

      1. Laura

        He used to only eat dry food. Now him and my other cat that I now realize could stand to lose a bit of weight eat both canned and dry, and I’m currently looking for a raw food to switch them over to.

    3. Deep Search

      My cat Hal is a bigger cat. I think he at least weighs 12-13 lbs, but his weight is under control. He does have the flabby skin that hangs down on his stomach, but that is genetic. It’s called the “primordial pouch.” Some cats get a lot of saggy skin and some don’t. His mom and sister have tight stomachs. Hal is pretty lean except for the fatty pouch, he is just on the large side. And my long hair cat Edward, who resembles a smaller Maine Coon, still needs to lose some weight, but has lost a decent amount on an all wet food diet. He primarily eats Weruva Paw Lickin’ Chicken– which is lean white meat– and Holistic Select and Halo Impulse pate formulas. The vet said he should get down to 14 lbs. He is a bit larger than Hal in general, but doesn’t have as much of a pouch.

      If your cat is confined to a room it is important to play with the cat to get them to exercise– but then it’s important to exercise all cats. Exercise maintains muscle. My female cat Dinah who usually does not want to eat wet food and is pretty sedentary has been on Orijen and Acana cat kibble and was able to lose weight through monitoring how much of the kibble she eats in a day. The foods are 80% and 70% meat, fish and egg ingredients, which is very good compared to the typical kibble which is half or more carbs. We had tried her on Primal freeze dried food, which also helped, but she didn’t like eating much of it with water added. I try not to feed much fish to my cats, but I also give her some wet food with fish as I am trying to get her to adjust to eating more meat wet food. That is the most effective way to maintain a healthy weight in cats.

      You could try switching your cat to a more nutrient-dense, cat appropriate food and go by the feeding instructions for your cat’s size and see if your cat is able to maintain his weight and muscle masss. Or you could wait for the blood tests and ask the vet about his diet and body condition to be sure he is getting adequate nutrients. Whichever you’re most comfortable doing.

  6. Gitta

    GREAT point Susan! I never thought about it in terms of vitamins and minerals. When you think about it for half a second it becomes so obvious. If a food is complete and balanced based upon the recommended amount – it can no longer be balanced if that amount is changed. It would probably mean the manufacturer is no longer responsible since the consumer did not follow their recommendations.

  7. Debbie

    Great article! This is exactly what I have been struggling with for a while now. My two 50 pound bulldogs have to eat considerable less calories than the manufacturer recommends or their weight gets completely out of control. So, not being able to find a veterinary nutritionist locally, I had to have the University of Tennessee Veterinary Nutrition Department come up with a plan to supplement their meals so they got adequate nutrition. They added fish and a dietary supplement to their food. This is a very real problem.

  8. Debbie

    I would also love to hear any suggestions from any of you about the feeding guidelines. The reason I had to seek out a veterinary nutritionist is that my bulldogs have joint problems and I can’t let their weight get out of control. One of them has already had TPLO surgery on one knee and the other one is being done this month. They are each about 50 pounds and eating 475 calories a day. This amount is maintaining their weight as is. But if I look at the feeding guidelines on one of the dry foods I have used in the past it shows feeding 5-6 cups a day for their weight and each cup is 375 calories. No way can we do that. Huge difference.

  9. orfan

    So if I (like other posters above) feed my dog less than the amount recommended on the bag so she can lose/maintain a healthy weight (per vet’s instructions), should I be concerned enough about insufficient nutrients to look into supplementing in another way? Should I first take into consideration the other items she consumes (treats, healthy “people food”, the joint supplements she’s already getting) when calculating how much she’s under the recommended amount of each particular nutrient? What about the fact that those items, while largely similar, change day-to-day? Is it worth buying a doggy multivitamin (which I’ve always heard aren’t necessary if you’re feeding a good food), or is it made of mostly human-created, unnatural vitamins (and other suspect ingredients)?

    And I’m not trying to be sassy or sarcastic; I really want to know.

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