When is a cup not a cup?

When is a cup not a cup? No, this is not a Buddhist koan. But it was a question that might come up when trying to feed your dog the right servings of their pet food. Many veterinarians believe that understanding how much your dog needs to feed is one of the biggest factors in the global pet obesity epidemic. Getting this right is really important to your dog’s overall health. It is therefore important to know not only the right amount of food to give your dog, but also how to actually measure it.

Confusing labeling from the pet food industry

The AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials) labeling instructions do not make it easy for consumers. You can find vague feeding guidelines on pet food packaging, e.g. B. “For a dog, feed 40 to 60 pounds 1 to 2 cups daily”. It is inaccurate not only because of the wide range of 40 to 60 pounds for the dog’s weight, but also because of the use of the generalized word “cup”. If you use one of the standard measuring cups in your kitchen – like a popular Pyrex measuring cup – and fill it with dog food, you may be underfeeding or (more alarmingly and likely) overfeeding your dog. This is a very important point as most measuring cups are designed to measure liquids, not dry weights.

What many of us consider a standard of measurement: “One cup is eight ounces” does not mean the same for dry matter (like nibbles and most ingredients like flour, sugar, etc.) as it does for liquids. A much more accurate way of making feeding recommendations is to give the directions in ounces or grams, e.g. B. “Feed 20 lbs. Dog 6 oz. eat daily ”and drop the word“ cup ”.

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What you also need to know is how many calories are in the food you are feeding your dog. It is the calorie density that must be indicated on pet food packaging in the metric form kcal / kg or kilocalories per kilogram according to AAFCO. The use of such metrics makes things even more difficult if the feeding amounts are given in cups themselves. Also, for those of us who don’t use metric measurements, we need to convert kcal / kg to kcal / oz. and feed accordingly. (The formula can be found at the end of the article.)

Imagine this possible scenario: the daily energy requirement (DER) for a 20-pound neutered adult dog is 586 kcal, and you may have calculated that the food you are giving her is 97.9 kcal per ounce. Hence, your dog should be fed 5.9 ounces of this food, not 8 ounces as it might if you used a standard measuring cup and filled it to the brim. Even slight variations in the number of calories a dog consumes each day can have a big impact over time. (For information on how to calculate your dog’s DER, see

As Susan Thixton, pet food consumer attorney notes on, AAFCO is considering including an explanation of the amount of calories per cup. Personally, I don’t think this will solve the problem as we are still with the “When is a cup not a cup?” Mystery.

Large selection of dog food weights in a “cup”

Some of the brands I checked with, including The Honest Kitchen and Orijen (made by Champion Petfoods) actually set their mug to around 4.0 ounces for the former and 4.2 ounces. For the latter, you can determine how many calories you are actually feeding your dog. A representative from The Honest Kitchen told me that this was a “standard” dry measuring cup, even though they don’t include that definition on their website or packaging, and there really is nothing like a standard “mug”. “And to make matters even more complicated, the fine print in the Small Animal Clinical Nutrition textbook (4th Edition) says,” An eight-ounce. Measuring cup can hold 3 to 3.5 ounces. by weight of most dry pet foods, or 3.5 to 5 ounces. most semi-moist pet foods. “It just goes to show that there is little consistency in the industry and that consumers are much more confused.

ZiwiPeak is one of the few companies that offers a handy scoop that is tailored for their food. This is very helpful as long as you remember to only use this shovel. Your air-dried foods have a density of 5,600 kcal / kg or a whopping 158 kcal / oz. Your scoop measures two ounces (or 316 kcal), which you write down on the scoop itself and on your pocket. As with many pet food bags, however, the calorie count is displayed on one side of the packaging under the Nutritional Guarantee Analysis box, and the feeding guidelines are listed on the other. You may have to search to find this valuable information. (Oddly enough, you can’t count on it to be found on every manufacturer’s website, so it’s doubly worth consulting the packaging and calling them to verify.)

Better option: use a scoop for pet food

Curiously, I conducted an experiment with a variety of common kitchen ingredients and a number of kitchen measuring cups and two scoop utensils specially made for pet food. The mugs included three popular slanted glass Pyrex mugs of various sizes and a variety of straight sided mugs (supposedly intended for measuring dry ingredients). I portioned out sugar, flour and different types of grain and weighed their contents digitally. To my great surprise, I found that each of the gauges had a different weight for each ingredient. Although the scoop cups are designed to measure dry weight, it is difficult to pinpoint exactly as the ingredients need to be leveled or packed / added with a flat edge, which can be much more complicated when working with dense or large grain size foods. Many websites devoted to baking (where precision is important) often find that weights can even depend on how you actually scoop an ingredient like flour from a storage container, so they always recommend using digital scales over standard measuring instruments. (If you really want to be grainy, a teaspoon of baking soda doesn’t weigh as much as a teaspoon of baking soda or salt!)

Next, I used a couple of sets of scoops from Petfactors (left) and Rypet (right) that are specifically designed for measuring pet food. They did a much better job, but given the wide range of nibble dimensions and sizes, they too can miss the mark – but they are much more accurate. Remember, when using these type of scoops, which should have gauge indicator lines, it is important to be very careful that you are going to the appropriate line, not over it (something that is not always easy to assess).

Best option: Weigh dog food directly on a digital scale

Here is the snack. Measuring volume can be tricky, especially with dry pet food with all of its myriad shapes and sizes like nibbles. or in granular dehydrated form; or flaky freeze- or air-dried varieties. My recommendation is to be the most accurate you need to portion out portions with a small digital kitchen scale – scales are inexpensive and very handy in a kitchen. If in doubt about how much to feed your dog, consult your veterinarian for your dog’s weight, body condition assessment and target calorie needs, and the amount of dog food you are feeding him in ounces or grams to confirm. And remember: knowing exactly how much food your dog needs can help keep him fit, fit and healthy.

Note: When giving your dog treats, think about their daily calorie needs. Remember, treats shouldn’t exceed 10% of your dog’s daily needs. So check the packaging for the number of calories per treatment. If your dog needs a total of 600 kcal per day, this means that all of the treats given in a day should not exceed 60 kcal. Most treats can be challenging. Hence, you need to break the treat up into smaller parts.

Important weight conversions: To convert kcal / kg to kcal / oz, divide the number of kcal by 35.27 (the number of ounces in a kilogram). For example, the label indicates that a food item has 3,456 kcal / kg; divided by 35.27, that’s 97.9 kcal / oz. And to convert grams to ounces, divide the grams by 28.35. Or even easier: use Google to do the conversion.


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