Do you know how many calories are in pet food, particularly the one that you serve your dog? You’ve probably tried to determine the calorie content in your pet food but for many people, it tends to be confusing. In fact, you’ve probably given up trying to understand the calorie content and just went with the one that “has the highest calorie count”.
The problem with pet food is that expensive doesn’t always mean better. What’s more, pet caloric needs differ from one pet to another so even if you’re buying the most expensive pet food you can find, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re supplying the nutrition that your pet needs!
If you want to be able to give your pet the optimum nutrition that they deserve, you need to know how to count the calories in your pet food and whether these calories are the right ones for your pet.
How Many Calories Does My Pet Need?
There are many factors that can affect the caloric needs of a pet, such as their age, their weight, their breed, and their level of activity. Obviously, a large breed of dog that spends a lot of time outside running is going to need more calories than a toy breed that spends most of their times indoors. Caloric needs can even vary between animals of the same breed.
Aside from size and amount of daily activity, your pet’s health and physical condition will also dictate the caloric need. Overweight pets will need fewer calories while pregnant pets need a higher number of calories than normal to help maintain them through a healthy pregnancy.
Figuring out how many calories your pet needs daily is more than just adding some numbers, so it would be best if you spoke to a vet to determine how much to feed your pet. This is even more critical if you have a pet with special needs such as a pregnant pet or one with a chronic illness.
When you consult with a vet, you’ll need to supply important information such as your pet’s medical history and daily lifestyle. Combined with your pet’s breed, size, age, and weight, all these factors will help a vet determine how many calories you need to feed your pet on a regular basis.
How to Count the Calories in your Pet’s Food
If you want to know how many calories in dog food per cup, the easiest way is by checking the label. Unless you’re feeding your pet with a raw diet or a Biologically Appropriate Raw Food (BARF) diet, you’ll be able to find a breakdown of the calories. They are usually labeled as kilocalories or “kCals”.
According to the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO), it can be confusing to understand the caloric value of pet food if you just read the labels without understanding what the values mean. This is because wet pet food has different caloric values compare to dry pet food. Thus, if you try to make a side-by-side comparison between dry and wet pet food, even if the values look the same on the label, the actual content would be different particularly when it comes to the moisture content.
Considering this disparity in value, all pet food that is sold in the USA should be specified with three labels:
- Which animal the pet food should be used for
- The life stage or intended category purpose (pregnancy, maintenance, puppies/kittens, etc.)
- Whether it is wet or dry food
With these three labels, it would be easier for your vet to be able to determine which pet food would work best for your pet. If you are using a mixture of wet and dry pet food to feed your pets, your vet would need to take each different caloric value to be able to calculate the correct amount for your pet’s daily meals.
Understanding the Calorie Count
Here is an easy way to understand the dog food calorie content that you’re feeding your pet.
First, check the label of your pet food to check how many servings each package of your pet food contains. For this example, let’s say that that the package of pet food contains one serving that’s equal to 100 grams of the pet food.
Next, check the percentage of each component of the food. Typically, pet food is broken down into carbohydrates, protein, fat, ash, minerals, and moisture. You need to work the percentage of each component out of 100%.
Finally, you can find the calorie count by multiplying the number of calories that come from carbohydrates, protein, and fat. As a rule of thumb, here is how many calories are in each unit:
- 1 gram of carbohydrates has 3.5 calories
- 1 gram of protein has 3.5 calories
- 1 gram of fat has 8.5 calories
Once you have the number of carbohydrates, protein, and fat, you simply need to multiply the amount per unit to the corresponding number of calories to get the total number of calories in your pet food.
Now I Know the Calorie Count. Now What?
Now that you know how to calculate the dog food calories per cup in your pet food, you should be able to choose what kind of pet food would be best suited for your pet’s needs. If you have a pet that spends a lot of time outdoors, you need pet food that has a high carbohydrate content. If you have a pregnant pet, protein-rich pet food would be best. If you have a pet that has chronic liver disease, you need to choose pet food that is low in fat.
Knowing how many calories are in pet food is more than just making sure that your pet is fed well. It has a direct effect on your pet’s health and wellbeing. Being able to properly calculate the caloric content of your pet food means you will be able to choose the best pet food to use depending on your pet’s health needs. Remember, your dog’s health, development, and wellbeing will depend on how many calories in the dog food you’re giving them! Get more tips on pet food.