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January 14, 2020

The Scoop on Portion Control

Dog eating kibble in bowl with tongue out

accurately measuring kibble is harder than it looks

One of the best ways to ensure dog health, and prevent vet visits, is to feed your dog the right amount of food. Too little and they can suffer from nutritional deficiencies. Too much can result in obesity and related health problems.

So you might be wondering, ‘am I giving them just enough?

The answer is surprising and complicated: there’s a good chance you’re feeding your dog the wrong amount of kibble.

A recent study found that dog owners showed an “inaccuracy ranged from a 47% underestimation to a 152% overestimation in portion size,” when asked to measure dry dog food servings.

How could a task that seems straightforward (scoop, measure, repeat) leave such a wide -- and potentially harmful -- range of results?

As dog owners, we have inadvertently made this mistake with our own dogs in the past. Creating a simple solution is what led us to pallaby.

Read on to learn more about the research and how to ensure proper portion control.

Measuring cups

do these look familiar? - room for error

In the study published by the British Medical Journal, Veterinary Record, 100 dog owners were asked to use one of these instruments:

  • A plastic two-cup scoop with markings
  • A two-cup graduated-liquid measuring cup
  • A one-cup plastic dry-food measuring cup

The participants were then asked to measure ¼, ½ and 1 cup of dry dog food, which was then measured using a scale and compared to the correct weights for each serving. The serving sizes vary considerably between participants, especially the smallest portion, which was significantly inaccurate.

Lead researcher, Prof. Jason Coe from the University of Guelph's Ontario Veterinary College, had this to say, “Occasional measurement mistakes may not seem like such a big deal, but when these errors are made on a daily basis, it could lead to undernourishment, weight gain or obesity.”

If you are the owner of a small dog, these findings are most troubling, according to Coe, "Since [small dogs] typically receive smaller volumes of food. Even a small amount of over measuring can be a considerable increase in their daily caloric intake, putting them at risk of weight gain from too much food.”

However, despite inaccuracies in measurement, many participants said they were likely to use a measuring cup for their dog’s food in the future.

Please don’t follow suit. There are ways to ensure correct portion control.

room for improvement

According to Coe, dog parents should change their approach and use a kitchen scale to weigh each serving.

We agree! But, how much is the right amount for your dog, as they grow and change?

Most kibble bags include a chart meant to help you determine your dog’s daily caloric intake. But these are generalized guidelines. In human terms, the equivalent would be a cereal box that says, ‘eat 1-3 bowls of cereal for breakfast, based on your weight.’ Determining the correct serving requires is far more complicated than that. For your dog, you need to consider their breed, size, age, metabolic rate, activity level, and more over time, in order to pinpoint the appropriate portion.

Talk to your vet to find out how much your dog should be eating at this stage of their life. Or, join us at pallaby. We partner with veterinarians and do the math for you, so you can put the measuring cups back where they belong, by the baking soda.

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