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Dog with kibbles

A Guide to Kibble Density, Proper Feeding, and Healthy Treats

A Guide to Kibble Density, Proper Feeding, and Healthy Treats

An potentially-overlooked yet crucial aspect of your dog's health is how much your dog eats. Important considerations that impact this include the energy (and nutrient) density of the food they are fed, as well as the quantity they eat each day. While it may seem very straightforward, there are important elements here that can easily lead to overfeeding if we aren't careful. Commercial products in particular are very rich in energy and tend to be quite dense, meaning that a comparatively small volume of food can provide all the energy and nutrition your dog needs - but this can also result in excess intake if a few extra kibbles enter that dog's bowl! Understanding the concepts of nutritional and physical density, along with proper feeding, is pivotal in ensuring your beloved pet thrives. Whether you're navigating the nuances of plant-based diets or seeking ways to prevent overfeeding, this blog might help you by offering practical tips for healthier, happier furry companions. 

What is Kibble Density and Why Does it Matter?

Kibble density can refer to two different, but related, concepts. Physical density refers to the physical size, shape and mass of the kibble, which impacts how they fit into a bowl. Generally, large kibbles are less physically dense, since there is more air within the kibble, causing the expansion into a larger shape, while small kibbles are often very dense with little air trapped within the structure. Energy density refers to the amount of calories within a kibble, which is determined by the ingredients in the diet and the diet's formulation. There is a pretty close relationship between physical density and energy density, with kibbles that are physically dense also typically being quite energy dense, while kibbles that have low physical density (larger, 'puffier' kibbles) are generally less energy dense. However, when comparing two different kibbles of similar size and physical density, there can still be a range of energy these kibbles would provide, based on their nutritional composition. These concepts are important to understand in order to provide appropriate quantities of food (energy and nutrients) to each dog, and to be able to compare apples to apples when changing diets, as different diets might have different densities, necessitating different feeding strategies. 

Feeding the Right Amount

Many pet parents worry about underfeeding, but overfeeding is more common, especially when dogs are fed kibble products. Signs of overfeeding include weight gain, fat accumulation and a body condition score greater than 5 on a 9-point scale (see: In ideal condition, a dogs ribs are easily felt with minimal fat covering, their waist can be easily seen when viewed from above, and from the side an abdominal 'tuck' is present - meaning the dog tapers from their sternum up to their hips. When dogs are overfed, fat can be deposited under their skin making their ribs less easy to feel and their waistline less visible, and, along with intra-abdominal fat accumulation, they lose that abdominal 'tuck'. This overweight status is associated with a host of negative health outcomes, including a pro-inflammatory state, compromised immune function, higher risk of chronic diseases, earlier onset of orthopaedic disease and ultimately a shorter lifespan. In comparison, underfeeding can lead to weight loss, and when underweight a dog's ribs, vertebrae and pelvic bones can be easily seen without any fat covering and, if severely underfed and for long enough, the dog will start to lose muscle mass. To find the sweet spot, observe your dog's energy levels, weight, and overall health. Adjust portions gradually and monitor their response. Consistency is key in feeding. For large dogs, a standard measuring cup can be appropriate, but for smaller dogs the variability when measuring by volume can easily result in large variation so measuring by weight, using a gram scale is more precise. Adjust intake as needed to maintain a healthy body condition. If necessary, weight loss can be achieved based on your vet's advice. Regular check-ups are crucial to ensure your dog's diet is meeting their nutritional needs.

When enhancing your dog's diet with additional toppings and supplements, such as healthy food items like yeast, algae oil, fruits, or vegetables, it's vital to factor these into the overall calorie count. These additions, though beneficial, can significantly alter the caloric intake, potentially leading to overfeeding if not accounted for. For example, as a fat source, algae oil contains around 9 Calories per mL, giving 1 tsp of oil approximately 45 Calories. In comparison, an entire 8 inch long cucumber also contains 45 Calories! Similarly, treats, while a great tool for training and bonding, can also be calorie-dense. It is generally recommended that a complete and balanced diet make up 90% of a dog's daily intake, leaving only 10% for treats, supplements or toppers. Keeping a log of these extras and consulting with your vet can help balance the diet while ensuring your dog is getting a variety of nutrients. This comprehensive approach to meal planning supports your pet's health, addressing both their nutritional needs and taste preferences.

Handling Begging with Care

As hard as it is to resist those puppy-dog eyes, it's important for your dog's health to avoid overfeeding. Instead of always giving in with food, when your dog comes seeking your affection, try also rewarding them with a play session, go for a quick walk, tug a toy or toss a ball. When treats are given, try offering healthy options like fresh fruits and vegetables or our Smokey Maple Bacun Bites, Herb Roasted Chick'n Bites and Farm Fresh Veggie Bites. These not only satisfy hunger but also add variety to your dog's diet. If begging is a nuisance, the only way to stop the behaviour is to ignore it. Consistency is crucial – if you don't want your dog to beg, you can't reward the behavior. Instead, reward your dog for suitable alternative behaviours, like sitting quietly on their bed. 

We hope this guide helps you feel more confident in feeding your dog. Explore our range of hypoallergenic, plant-based pet food products designed for dogs with sensitivities and those seeking a healthier lifestyle. Share your experiences, questions, and stories with us – we're here to support you every step of the way. For more tips, stories, and updates, remember to subscribe to our e-newsletter and follow us on social media.
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