What is “Kcal” on My Pet’s Food Label?

October 13, 2014

The kilocalorie (kcal) count on your pet’s food can help you determine healthy serving sizes.

Kcal in pet food is the same measurement as calories in human food. On human nutritional labels, calories are measured in kcals, but we shorten the word to “calories” in common use.

Calories, or kcal, measure how much energy is present in a serving of food.

When you’re feeding your pet, size, activity level and diet can all affect how much he or she should eat. You can give your pet a healthy portion by feeding the proper amount of kcals to provide energy for his or her day.

KCal on Packaging

The AAFCO added a requirement to include calories on pet food packaging in 2013. Many states have not yet adopted the new rules, and some will be slow to implement it once they do, allowing companies time to switch their labeling. Regardless of whether the information is on the bag, it can be obtained from the manufacturer.

When looking at kcal, pay attention to the serving sizes that are being measured, not just the number of kcals. The serving size is often by the can or the cup, but it can vary. And “can” can refer to an 8 oz. or 12 oz. can.

Dry food typically has a higher calorie count than wet food, because the wet food also includes more water, which doesn’t add any calories.

What Kcal Count is Best for Pet Food?

A more kcal-dense food means your pet will need to eat less to be healthy and active. So, a nutritious and kcal-dense meal can save you money on trips to the store.

But calories alone don’t tell you much about the nutritional value of the food, so that’s only a part of the consideration.

For example, Ancestry food has an unusually high kcal count:

That high kcal count is because Ancestry is full of proteins from meat meal, which is pre-dehydrated to get rid of excess water before being added to the kibble, and also extruded at a higher pressure to maintain a higher density. So, the extra calories in Ancestry foods are coming from a high percentage of meat. But some brands get higher kcal counts from fat. You want to be sure your pet is still getting essential nutrients.

How Many KCals Does My Pet Need?

Pet food manufacturers often provide feeding guidelines to help you estimate how much your pet will need to eat. These recommendations are based on your pet’s weight and activity level. But this is a guideline, not a rule.

What guidelines do not account for is your pet’s metabolism, which can also change over time. You will need to monitor your dog’s weight and health, and adjust feedings based on how he’s doing. But if you have any questions, consult your veterinarian.

When starting a new diet, there are plenty of other things to consider: Pets will need to eat more kcal if they perform strenuous activities, or if they are growing or pregnant. A neutered pet needs to eat slightly less. And your pet may also have special conditions that affect his energy needs.

How many calories does your pet eat everyday on a healthy diet?

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