Conversions and Calorie Counting for Canines

Daisey has managed to be converted to RAW food as of the last two days--after having none of it when we started 1 month ago.  In defrosting some ground chuck tenders that had cooked slightly from the process, I elected to give this to Daisey.  I mixed in her Nupro, some no-salt green beans, and she ate with gusto.  The second meal was the raw  ground with the same accoutrements.  She ate it with no problem.  The last meal was ground chicken, bone-in, with liver/giblets and ground in snaps.  She ate it all. (Update:  this a.m. she refused the ground chicken)

Happy Dance!   (tempered with a minor stamp of the foot).

There is no question about it, this RAW feeding is a commitment...and a responsibility.  I would be lying if I didn't say that I had some concerns about missing something important their diet.  I've addressed this with supplementation, both with Nupro, Vitamin E and fish oil.  Most importantly, I'm using their poop and body condition as a guide.

The chicken at Restaurant Supply comes from Mountaire Farms. The chicken is minimally processed, and these are "jumbo" leg quarters.  They are packed in a 40lb case with heavy duty blue liner to keep the juiciness in.  However, these are not sealed bags, so if they tip....   The ground yield on 40lbs of leg quarters (to include the back) is just about 34ish lbs.  Taking the skin/fat off of most of the quarters  (I leave it on about 4 complete quarters) yields waste of 4ish lbs of fat/skin on the quarters.  Further, there is an additional 2ish lb of  retained water.  I save the juice and use it to make the NUPRO slurry.  I used to mix it in with the meat, but it really does make it very soupy. 

I'm channeling Adam Smith in trying to be more efficient in my production of this food.  Measuring the production yield against raw ingredients, determines storage, amount of other additives needed (organ meat).  I have added a page to this blog to consolidate some of the references that I have found that I want to easily share as well as find for myself.

After processing, the mix has to be stored properly.  Though I bought 1 qt containers, I have quickly realized that as I'm going through 4 lbs a day, this is not effective.  I purchased some Cambro one-third storage containers and tops. One 40lb box of legs (with their reduced yield) fills 3 of these plus a portion.  Each holds 10lbs of food.  They are easy to fill, cover easily, and freeze.  I can defrost in the fridge while I use my non frozen stash as current food.

Now for rubber hitting the road, and doing things that make my head hurt.  If you are going to feed RAW, then it is worth noting what your pet is getting nutrition-wise and calorie wise.

Angel is acting a bit hungry on this diet.  I'll use this space to share some resources with you and to do some calculations.  I have been feeding her 12-14 oz of food for her 72 lbs at each feeding (2x per day)  using a rule of thumb of 2% of her body weight.  (or 23 oz).   She's an older, sedentary dog.

According to Ohio State University's website, a pet's caloric need is based on the pet's resting energy requirements (RER) multiplied by activity level.  The following is what they say about RER and the calculation:

Pets’ energy (Calorie) needs to maintain a healthy weight for their life stage depends upon several factors.  First, the energy to perform essential body functions like digestion, respiration, heart functions, brain functions, etc. (Resting Energy Requirements or RER), which can be calculated by multiplying the animal’s body weight in kilograms raised to the ¾ power by 70, for example, a 10kg (22lb) adult neutered dog of healthy weight needs RER = 70(10kg)3/4 ≈ 400 Calories/day. (My note:  this is actually 393 calories) One also can use the charts below to estimate resting calorie needs. Source:

Let's Do Math!

. . . . . and see how this equation can be used to guide our evaluation of Angel's situation. Remember, you cannot improve what you cannot measure.  Doing THIS math gives us empiricism for calories per feeding.  It does nothing to tell us of the quality of the feeding.  Remember, I'm showing you MY process for feeding my dogs and evaluating what I'm doing and what resources I am using.  Please ensure that you do your own due diligence on any feeding regimen that you do for your dog.

Step 1:  Firs, let's figure out Angel's Resting Energy Requirements (RER) using the Ohio State University basic calorie counter linked above.(You have no idea how happy I am to find this resources)

We start by solving the equation for Resting Energy Requirements.  We will need to do some conversions along the way, but we are intrepid!!

Equation  [ RER = 70(dog's weight in KG)3/4 ≈ ????? ] 

Angel weighs 72 lbs.  That's not in kilograms, so let's convert.

Step 2:  Convert lbs to kg.  Now, I have had a Microsoft calculator which I keep pinned to my sidebar.  I've used this for years for simple stuff.  Until recently, I had no idea of the power of this tool.  No longer will I go to websites to get conversion is all right there in the calculator!!! Just select the "view" to do use scientific, statistical, conversion calculations. How did I now know this!!???  We will need to do a little of both here!  Let's convert to grams:

Okay, Angel weighs 32.7 Kilograms.

Step 3:  complete the equation.  (Use the calculator!) 32.7 kilograms to the .75(3/4) power = 13.67.  Multiply this result by 70, and we get Angel's resting caloric needs of 957.

RER= 32.7kg (.75) x 70 = 957

As a dogs' resting caloric needs, I presume, are evaluated similarly to our own relative to keeping basic processes going at the baseline and then adding energy for other expenditure, then, anything less means that vital functions of the body are not fueled. (Bad!)  Accordingly, we then have to multiply our activity factors to determine what we need to maintain our weight at our current activity level. For those of us who are not active, then we are simply programing weight loss. Never should your diet contain less calories than needed to maintain your body processes on a sustained basis. (Don't even get me started on how Jenny Craig had my stepmom on less than 900 calories).

Calories are calories no matter what the species.  And for those living on the edge, these base measurements matter.  Let's see what Angel needs to keep going--she's not living on the edge, but she has lost weight on this diet (not excessive) and she is grunting like a pig to tell me she is hungry.  (IN fact as I review this post at 4:14 p.m.  she is in her 'feed me' grunting mode.) This behavior is new.  She is mostly inactive due to her age, so we will use the following formula that OSU gives us as the  link from above:  Inactive/obese prone | 1.2-1.4 x RER

Step 4:  Apply factor for the dog's activity level.  Let's split it in the middle and use 1.3  Angel needs 957 calories to stay alive in a full state of rest, and another 30% to fuel activity.  957 x 1.3 = 1,244 calories.

Step 5:  Evaluate the dog's current caloric intake:

According to this USDA Website (see my pet nutrition page for links), raw, skinless chicken quarters have 34 calories per ounce v 61 calories per ounce if I were to leave the skin on. She gets some other things, but not that much, but let's just say that she is just getting the following:  34 calories x 23 to 28 ounces or 952 top end calories. No wonder that girl is vocalizing.  Shame on me.  She has lost weight which is to be expected (and RER x 1 is the weight loss computation). She now has very good body definition. Her energy level has been higher than ever this past month. That's good! However, this girl is vocalizing her hunger despite that I have been feeding  2% of her body weight which is what is recommended. That's bad!  However, I have been taking the skin and fat off of the chicken, so there is a large calorie loss in that--as skin and fat comprise 44% of the calories of skin on chicken leg parts. 

Step 6:  Make Adjustments as needed. Now that I have found reputable resources (USDA) that have very good information that I can use, I'll recalibrate the amount of fat that I'm pulling off the chickens that I'm processing.  Note that if I were feeding her 23 ounces of skin on meat, I would be feeding her at 1395 calories at the low end, which is too much. I presume too that includes the normal fat accoutrements.

Conclusion:  DO YOUR HOMEWORK The above shows why few things (feed 2% of bodyweight RAW).  Always do your own due diligence and never be afraid to do your own math!   To be clear, though, even if I had NOT gone through the math, her behavior and her observed weight loss were cues that she was getting suboptimal calories.  However, my preference is to work with known quantities.  I'm glad to have done this exercise on the blog.

Angel is going to be happy that I did the math!

P. S.  I'm pretty happy too at doing this math.  With a detailed nutrient profile of the foods that I'm feeding my dogs, I feel that I can monitor their calorie intake and calorie composition to ensure that they are getting what they need.  I also understand that I'm predisposed to being a geek about this, and I would not expect most to do this level of analysis.  



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