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 (but what dog wouldn’t love the taste over kibble). It also doesn’t seem like it will cost too much more because of the small amount they say you need to feed your dog.
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 you 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, their lack of proper research and development, working with animal nutrition experts and having a properly trained culinary team to produce the food creates many problems with ensuring your dog receives the calories and nourishment they need.
Did you know that calories from Metabolizable Energy (ME) is how your pet’s food requirements need to be calculated? Likely not, and you would not be alone if you didn’t know what ME even is.
But first, here is a quick bit of information around the science of calories and what we need to know about a calorie.
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 not 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.
Metabolizable Energy is the point at which digestion is complete and the dog receives the ACTUAL calories that are required to 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 dog receives the amount of food they need for their age, breed, sex, activity levels, etc.
The pitfall with many small businesses that make raw or cooked pet food is that they haven’t invested money into proper animal nutrition software and hired an expert in animal nutrition to ensure the calories listed on the package and the feeding instructions based on the USEABLE energy from the food, or the ME. Many of these small companies may not even understand that they need to use Metabolizable Energy when calculating caloric levels.
So chances are that your pooch is still hungry 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 you should have direct access to the owner and you can ask about how they determine their calorie content and daily feeding requirements. If the answers are not clear and comforting, find another pet food company that is transparent and trustworthy!