Pet parents often inquire as to feeding or fooding guidelines. It is important to understand that there is NO international standard defining how feeding and fooding indexes are calculated. In the McKibble and McCan world, manufacturers take different approaches, using different assumptions, even the basic guidelines differ between the US and the European industries and legal requirements. You will find that different McKibble and McCan offerings will have different recommended feeding amounts of energy for the same animal, and often result in either and over- and under-estimate of their energy needs.
The closest guideline we have available today, is some of the work and research offered through the Waltham Institute, funded by McKibble and McCan. The basic principle that does apply, whether for huumans, masters, muggles, mutts, pups or nobles, is that real food contains predictable energy values. One can mathematically calculated these values using one of two energy calculations . In the raw fooding world, a simple system of percentage of body weight was adopted, but as with the McKibble and McCan world, can often result in either and over- and under-estimate of their fooding needs.
At Raw Food for Pets, we have taken all these anomalies into account, and use a combination of the global methods, as well as years of adjustment to the formulas based on feedback from our pet parents. We have not published our database yet, simply lacking funds at this point in time. However, we have created simple online calculators that will assist you with your initial assessment of the fooding requirements, or as we like to call it, consumption guidelines.
Our basic assumptions, principles, and variables, that apply are:
- Real food contains an energy value that is based on both the bioavailability of the food as well as the nutritional value of the food.
- Real food can be rated based on the “energy density” of the food. For example, real lamb is less energy dense than real beef. Real quail and rabbit has the highest energy density of food available to huumans and pets. In science, this principle is expressed in terms of joules or calories.
- The size of your pet determines how much energy would be needed for them to run, roam and play. Depending on the source of research you read, this requirement is either referred to as Maintenance Energy Requirements (MER), or Daily Energy Requirements (DER), or some publications refer to it as the Estimated Energy Requirements (EER).
- When calculating energy needs, one also need to factor in the energy requirements at rest. There are many formulas and names available here;- Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR), Resting Energy Expenditure (REE), Resting Daily Energy Expenditure (RDEE, Resting Energy Rate (RER), etc. Simply put, when resting, the body still consume energy.
- Your pets’ activity levels also determine energy burn rates. An ADULT couch potato will require less energy than an ADULT sight hound playing at an airport landing strip, even if they weigh the same and are the same age.
- Your pet’s size and age also influence energy levels. For instance, a small dog at seven years, for example a Boston Terrier, will require more energy proportional to its size than a larger dog, for example a German Shepherd, at the same age. Both will burn energy at the same rate (activity levels), when considering their maintenance energy requirements, but when the energy requirements are expressed as a percentage of their body weight, then the smaller the breed, the higher the percentage.
- The final variable that apply is the state of the gut. To demonstrate, take the most healthiest huuman consuming a boiled egg. Even though the egg is 100% bioavailable, 100% nutritional, only roughly 85% of the egg is processed by the gut, and between 8% and 15% waste created. The same is true for our pets. An unhealthy gut might only be able to retain or process 60% of the fooding value, a healthy gut perhaps 85%. So when calculating the daily energy requirements, we need to factor in that, even though 100% bioavailable, only roughly 85% of the fooding value will be retained.
The most common formula that apply to daily energy needs require two calculations::
Resting Energy Needs (RER or kcal per day) = 70 (kcal) * (Bodyweight in kg) to the power of 0.75. This the total energy needs for the day at rest.
Maintenance (or Daily) Energy Needs = Resting Energy Needs (RER) * Activity Factor (X). Once we know the energy requirements at rest, we apply an activity factor to determine the total daily energy estimation.
There are more complicated dependencies that should enter the discussion, such as thermal neutral zones, etc, but we will address these in another article about fooding working dogs.
How do we define the X Activity Factor? There are many offered on the internet today, but for the purpose of our article, let’s assume the following (based on energy needs):
- Low Activity (playing or walking for at least 1 hour per day), would mean 95 kCal of energy is needed.
- Moderate Low Impact Activity (playing or walking for at least 3 hours per day), would mean 110 kCals of energy is needed.
- Moderate High Impact Activity (playing or walking for at least 3 hours per days), would mean 125 kCals of energy is needed.
- High Activity (working dogs, sheep dogs, playing, walking or working between 3 to 6 hours per day), would mean between 150 to 175 kCals of energy is needed.
- High Activity Under Extreme Conditions (racing sled dogs, extreme cold), would mean between 860 kCal to 1240 kCals of energy is needed.
None of the above address the requirements for growth though. Many of the assumption that apply to the concept of maintenance is of course not relevant of the energy needs for growth. Essentially, the energy needs for growth is tied to “weight-for-age” based on breed size energy needs, to which an activity factor needs to be applied. In the “percentage of body weight” system which most raw feeders use, this translates to having some knowledge of the specific breed in question. The simple system assumes, for demonstration purpose, that at month one, 10% of the TARGET body weight would be need as the daily energy need, at month two, 8% of the TARGET body weight, etc. Hence, most online calculators require you to identify the breed of the animal. This system does not factor in breed growth curves though to reach skeletal maturity. For example, a Yorkie will reach skeletal maturity at around month ten, whereas a Boerboel will only reach skeletal maturity at around month 36. Some Mastiff breeds only reach skeletal maturity at around year 5. Skeletal maturity simply indicate that the animal is now mature, and we can switch the energy calculation from growth to maintenance.
Once the total daily energy needs have been established, we then take this information, and based on the energy value of the food or feed, calculate the total consumption of food based on weight. To demonstrate, assume our Floyd is an adult medium size breed weighing in at 13.5 kgs, in good shape, so ideal body score, and low activity – meaning he walks or play around for no more than 1 hour per day. Based on the food he eats, the total energy density being 3585 kcal/kg, he would need roughly 186 grams of food per day. How did we get here? For moderate activity, we assumed that 95 kcals of enery is needed as the X factor. 95 kcals x 13.5 kgs to the power of 0.75 = 95 x 7.04 = 668 kCal maintenance energy needs. We assume that the food contains 3585 kCal per Kg, and then apply 668 x 1000 / divided by the energy value of the food, 3585, resulting in total consumption needs of 186 grams.
Maintaining a healthy pet requires constant monitoring, as all of the maths and science available to us as pet parents only provide you with a crude guideline to estimate their daily consumption or fooding needs. Their needs, just as ours, change over time. It is therefore extremely important that you will need to remember to observe and adjust their daily allowances to keep it in a healthy, moderate body condition score. You can read more here about managing your fur kids weight.