How do I reduce calories and maintain nutrition? - German Shepherd Dog Forums
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post #1 of 14 (permalink) Old 02-20-2019, 03:38 PM Thread Starter
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How do I reduce calories and maintain nutrition?

My 4 1/2 yr old gains weight on the recommended daily feeding of her kibble. Last spring, she was up to 78 lbs, so I gradually cut back her kibble over the course of 6 months and she lost down to 68 lbs. Actually I think 70 - 72 lbs is the ideal weight for her. So as this past winter approached I gradually increased her kibble, knowing that she needed more during the cold months. I was also concerned that she might have a deficit in the amount essential vitamins and minerals she was getting when I was feeding less than the manufacturer recommended. Fast forward to now and she weighs 78 lbs again.

So I'm right back where I started and seeking advice as to how to get her weight down and stabilized at an appropriate level. She does get a moderate amount of exercise (walks daily and games of fetch when it isn't too wet and muddy where she runs fast and hard). As for her kibble, it is not high calorie - 287 kcal/cup (Royal Canin Select Protein Potato Rabbit). She has a very sensitive gut and environmental allergies. At around age 2 we went through experimenting with foods before finally trying this one at the vet's recommendation. I know it isn't the "best" nutritionally, but on it she has no diarrhea, 2 very firm bms a day which was absolutely not the case on the other foods. Because of this I don't want to change her kibble. I also give her supplemental Glucosamine/Chondroitin, Taurine (because her food is mostly potato) and Wild Salmon Oil.

My plan is to cut back her kibble gradually again but this time be more careful to check her weight as we go and try to stabilize it. My question is about supplemental vitamins. The manufacturer recommends 4 5/8 cups/day for a 66 lb dog. Obviously 1327 calories / day is going to cause her to gain weight so she is going to be getting less than this for the long term. I've read that the manufacture's recommended amounts are not only to ensure a certain number of calories, but also to ensure the essential nutrients needed for a dog of that weight. Since she will be getting less than the recommended amount, I am wondering if I should give her a multi-vitamin and if so how do I determine how much as I know overdosing on some can be harmful? How have you handled reducing calories, but maintaining nutrition?
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post #2 of 14 (permalink) Old 02-20-2019, 04:11 PM
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By finding a food with lower calories per cup.
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post #3 of 14 (permalink) Old 02-20-2019, 10:11 PM Thread Starter
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Yes, a lower calorie food makes sense, but in my case, I'm already giving her a lower calorie food. And actually I'm not sure if that makes a difference in relation to the nutritional value of the food. My other pup eats Annamaet Encore which has 414 kcal/cup and actually recommends feeding a lower caloric amount than the Royal Canin. For example, the Annamaet recommends 2 3/4 - 3 1/4 cups for dogs 61 - 75 lbs. That amounts to 1139 - 1346 calories a day for dogs of that weight. In comparison the RCPR At 287 Kcal/cup recommends 4 5/8 cups for a 66 lb dog and 5/14 cups for 77 lb dog for a whopping 1327 - 1507 kcal/day.

I'm not sure if the manufacture recommendation is needed to achieve minimal nutritional levels or is strictly for caloric content or both. I may truly be over thinking this but I've been following Monica Segal on FB and she seems to think it is a big deal to ensure the needed nutrients even when lowering calories. I'm just not sure how to do it. I have written to Royal Canin to try to get the stats on the food I'm feeding. It may take a while, but I thought that if could compare the data with the recommendation form AAFCO, then I'd have something to go on. Otherwise, I'm just guessing. I really don't want to switch foods with her history of foods causing loose stool.
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post #4 of 14 (permalink) Old 02-23-2019, 06:22 PM
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I know you don't want to change food, and for good reason with the allergies and stomach issues, but I would think a higher protein food (yours is only 19.5% protein) would trim her down, keep her satisfied and be better nutrition. The first ingredient being potatoes in your current diet would make the carb level high in this food and contribute to weight gain. As far as the suggested feeding rates go just about all foods recommend more than the average dog requires unless they are very active or young dogs. I would not worry about vitamin supplementation if you cut back on the recommended feeding amount. There are more than enough vitamins/minerals added to suffice. What I would worry about is the protein level she's getting since it's already low in this formula.
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post #5 of 14 (permalink) Old 02-23-2019, 07:46 PM
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The bag says so many cups=so many calories. This sounds like a weight watchers commercial

Look, medical professionals claim a woman my age needs max 2200 calories a day. Unless I am sitting still that simply will not do. But my friend who is 1 year younger and works out 4 times a week cannot lose weight on 1800.
Our bodies are all different. If the recommended amount is too much then cut it back. They make multivitamins for dogs, give her one a day and be done with it. Unless you plan on feeding her the bottle I seriously doubt you will overdose her.
I have to ask though, do you worry this much about your own diet?
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post #6 of 14 (permalink) Old 02-23-2019, 11:20 PM Thread Starter
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Good points, Sabis Mom. I don't worry as much about my own or my family's diet, but we do eat a variety of healthy foods ourselves and supplement with a multi-vitamin. I think most of my concern stems from the fact that I don't think the kibble that she is own is the best for her nutritionally (mostly potato, low protein, etc). Back when she had so many GI issues, I resisted trying it for long time, but once I did and all the issues stabilized I've been reluctant to switch. I do supplement her diet with daily small servings of raw vegetables (she will drool for broccoli) and she gets one boiled egg a day. Yes, I consider these too in the overall calorie intake. The vegetables don't amount to much and the egg is only 70 Kcals. I think these are critical for giving her nutrients. I suspect that crittersitter is right on in his assessment of the high carb being the culprit of her weight gain. Ultimately I feel guilty over not making a homemade diet for her, but that isn't feasible at the moment so she'll have to make do. For now I'll just slim her down again and do a better job of maintaining her weight. She is active and healthy so I shouldn't worry about it. Mostly I was curious as to how others dealt with this. Thanks for the feedback.
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post #7 of 14 (permalink) Old 02-24-2019, 10:32 AM
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Maybe call the manufacturer and ask. I've had to drop food amounts on some food that is less than the recommended amount, but I've never had to do it drastically. It sounds like the food is low in calories already but almost 5 cups sounds like a lot. I know when my vet was looking at vet diets for my senior, she looked at Royal Canin and Hills. Hills had more calories and required less food than RC so that might be an option if they have a similar food.
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post #8 of 14 (permalink) Old 02-24-2019, 11:29 AM
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In the past with kibble, I've sometimes dropped below recommended amounts as dogs get older sometimes and have metabolism slow with aging...but I'm rethinking that, after the UC Davis paper came out on DCM finding that one of the common denominators of dogs that developed DCM was they all were fed less than the minimum caloric calculation for that food. They were also all fed higher-end foods -- with Acana being the highest-frequency food, but many other "good" brands represented.

The researchers hypothesized that not following the recommended guideline might cause micronutrients to dip below recommended levels, contributing to heart problems and DCM. It's a paper about correlations, not causation, so we can't take too much from it -- but it is thought provoking. It's linked and discussed in the back end of this mega-thread:

It is a conundrum -- feeding recommended amounts creates fat pets sometimes. Obesity is epidemic in pets, and it causes a cascade of health issues (from orthopedic problems to metabolic disorders and contributes to cancer risk). I honestly think the national trend of keeping pets obese is a low-grade kind of well-intentioned neglect given how bad it is for their health. There's also research showing lean animals live a lot longer. So...keeping them lean is good for them -- but it's hard to do with kibble feeding at recommended guidelines as they age. And yet if we fall below recommended guidelines, they may not be getting enough micronutrients and could even end up with a deadly heart problem. It's one of those things that making me wonder if our over-reliance on kibble is really the problem. I'm skeptical that it's carbs per se but suspect that the low-quality, highly processed and fractionated, heat-degraded forms of them combined with fragile formulations of synthetic nutrients -- like for humans, sugary kids cereal vs. plain, organic oatmeal with sliced fresh berries on top (both have carbs but....radically different nutrition).

So here's an out of the box idea: if you have a hard-keeper that has a lot of allergies or other issues with various kibbles, thus limiting your choices, how about taking the dog off kibble? Feed an alternative diet that's complete and balanced. You can do this with a basemix (The Honest Kitchen, Sojo's, etc.) plus meat -- it's very little work, and takes only an extra 5 minutes per meal for rehydrating the mix (or you can save those minutes by rehydrating the night before and refrigerating so that it's ready on a busy morning). You can also accomplish this with well-formulated frozen commercial meat diets or dehydrated diets like Ziwi.

A base-mix/pre-mix like The Honest Kitchen or Sojo's plus meat is about as close as you can get to a home-made diet with some assurance that it's complete and balanced (though I would add taurine to THK while the DCM research is ongoing, as there's doesn't have any; I also think it needs some EFA like fish oil added).

Sojo's (with grain) is by far the most affordable base mix on the market. I don't have experience with it, but I've fed a lot of The Honest Kitchen's Preference. It feeds out really well for tender-tummied dogs as long as you find a meat source that agrees with him. Dr. Harvey's Paradigm is also fantastic, but the most expensive of all of them.
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Last edited by Magwart; 02-24-2019 at 11:45 AM.
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post #9 of 14 (permalink) Old 02-24-2019, 12:47 PM
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another thing to keep in mind is the ingredients that make up those calories. Foods like Royal Canin tend to be high in fillers and that can easily = a plumper pooch because of the nature of those calories. Those foods tend to be high in carbs and plant proteins which aren't used in quite the same way by the body as meat proteins would be.
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post #10 of 14 (permalink) Old 02-24-2019, 08:45 PM Thread Starter
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Barnyard, I did contact Royal Canin to try to get the actual statistics, i.e. actual amounts of AAFCO recommended nutrients per cup of food. I haven't heard from them, and suspect they will evade the question. I haven't heard anything from them yet, but I have considered calling.

Magwart, Thank you for your informative response. I totally agree with you about letting pets become obese. Yes, it is tantamount to abuse. At 78, Dasha isn't obese, but she does look heavy. I noticed last year that as she lost weight she ran more and more vigorously during exercise sessions, illustrating how weight gain creates a self-perpetuating problem. I've considered THK and didn't know about Sojo's. I will definitely keep them in mind as things progress, but for now I'm most likely going to stick with the kibble and possibly give her a vitamin supplement. I do think she gets good nutrients from the raw vegetables and the egg that I give her daily. I just need to be able to do the math to make sure she's getting enough and not too much. I'll probably run this by my vet too, but I think she'll just say, reduce the calories and don't worry about the other.
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