When Hunger Strikes – Incorrect Feeding Information Causes Confusion By Small Pet Food Makers
You are excited because you found this great little raw or cooked dog food business at the local farmers market or online and your dog loves eating it (what dog wouldn’t love the taste over kibble).
But there is one thing that has you confused – you are feeding your pet based on the instructions provided but they are constantly hungry, maybe even losing weight. You’ve maybe even gone back to supplementing with kibble (not exactly what your plan was meant to be). So what is going on?
Every day there are new entrants into the raw and cooked pet food business because people are turning away from kibble and other overly processed pet foods in large numbers and are looking for alternatives. Although these new small pet food businesses start with the greatest of intentions, they can lack the proper research and development needed to create nutritionally appropriate diets for our animals! It is so important to work with animal nutrition experts, as well as have a properly trained culinary team to prepare and handle the food safely. Due to a lack of regulation in the pet food industry, it is very easy for pet food to be incorrectly balanced, prepared, or stored which can lead to malnutrition, illness, and in severe cases even death.
Your pet’s food requirements need to be calculated from Metabolized Energy (ME). If you don’t know what Metabolized Energy is, you’re not alone!
Metabolizable Energy is the point at which digestion is complete and the animal receives the ACTUAL calories that are required by their body. This is what needs to be included on pet food packaging and how feeding instructions should be calculated and is the only way that you are ensuring your pet receives the amount of food they need for their age, breed, sex, activity levels, etc.
Here is a quick bit of information around the science of calories and what we need to know about them.
Simply put, a calorie is a unit of energy. All living creatures require calories to live. Every calorie comes from one of 3 sources: fat, carbohydrate or protein. Both protein and carbohydrates contain 4 calories per gram and fat contains 9 calories per gram.
Still with us? Good.
Now it gets trickier because there is also different forms of energy that a calorie has because of HOW the body can use that calorie.
Gross Energy includes all the energy in a food but it is not all available as an energy source for the daily calories needed.
Digestible Energy is the food’s energy that does not end up in the feces because it was absorbed by the dog.
Metabolizable Energy (ME) is what is left after accounting for the food’s energy that couldn’t be digested and was lost in the dogs feces, urine and gasses.
The possible pitfall with many small businesses that make raw or cooked pet food is that they may not have consulted with an expert in animal nutrition to ensure the calories listed on the package and the feeding instructions are based on the USEABLE energy from the food, or the ME. Many small, new companies may not even understand that they need to use Metabolizable Energy when calculating caloric levels.
So if you’re finding that your pooch is still hungry, it might be because the feeding instructions provided are too low for the actual calories they need daily!
The great part of buying from a small pet food business is that it’s much easier to have direct access to the owner. You can (and should!) ask about how they determine their calorie content and daily feeding requirements. A company that has done the appropriate research and work in formulating their pet food products should be able to give you clear answers. If you find that you are left unsatisfied with their response, you might need to explore other options!
There is a lot of responsibility that comes with being a pet owner, and choosing the right diet for them is a part of that. It’s important to always do your homework, and ask lots of questions. Transparent, and trustworthy pet food companies will be able to walk you through their process.