19 October 2019

Studies show you've been feeding your dog the wrong amount of dry food

A new study reveals that while most dog owners think they're getting their dog's kibble portions right, it's not always the case.

Feeding time can be quite tricky for dogs as their requirements tend to change over time, and some people are unsure how much dry dog food to give their four-legged friend. Now, new research has shown that many owners have been measuring their dog's dry food incorrectly.

The study, published in the BMJ journal Veterinary Record, recruited 100 dog owners and asked them to use one of three measuring instruments to measure out dry dog food: 

  • A standard two-cup scoop with markings, sold at a pet store
  • A two-cup liquid measuring cup typically used for baking
  • A one-cup plastic dry-food measuring cup

The participants were asked to take the measuring device and measure out three volumes of dry dog food: ¼ cup, ½ cup and one cup. The volume of dog food measured by participants was then compared to the correct weights respectively. The portions of the participants varied, especially when they were asked to dish the smallest portion, which they got significantly wrong.

Lead author, Prof Jason Coe from the University of Guelph's Ontario Veterinary College, said occasional measurement mistakes may not seem like such a big deal, but when these errors are made on a daily basis, it could lead to undernourishment, weight gain or obesity.

Lots of room for error

The fact that the smallest portions were most often measured incorrectly is worrying for smaller dogs. "That finding has important implications for small dogs, since they typically receive smaller volumes of food. Even a small amount of over measuring for a small dog can be a considerable increase in their daily caloric intake, putting them at risk of weight gain from too much food," Coe said. 

Participants who used the two-cup liquid measuring cup were more likely to inaccurately measure all three portions. "The problem with trying to eyeball one cup or ½ cup in a two-cup device is that there is lots of room for error in deciding where the measurement line is, depending on how you're holding the cup," said Coe. 

The study participants were most accurate when they used a one-cup of dry food measuring device to portion out one cup of dry dog food. Another option used to improve accuracy is to use a dry-food measuring device matched to the amount that is needed. "The closer the measuring cup is to the portion you want to measure, the more accurate you'll be," Coe said. 

According to Coe, the best solution is to change one's approach to measuring a dog's dry food. The gold standard is to use a kitchen scale to weigh out portions. Scales are precise and leave very little room for error.


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