July Keeping Up With K9 Kamp Wrap-up: Calories In vs. Calories Out

Chester's PlacematSo, here we are, at the end of the July Keeping Up With K9 Kamp challenge.

I thought I was sure I knew what I was doing with feeding Chester and Gretel. I did find a surprise or two when I compared the calories per day that Chester and Gretel require to what I was actually feeding them. Here are my results (warning: Dizzying math ahead)

How Many Calories Do They Need?

Both SlimDoggy (widget on the right sidebar of their blog) and Dog Food Advisor calculators require you enter some basic stats to calculate the calories your dog needs. Here are Chester and Gretel’s stats:

Age 3 years, 6 months
Weight 9.5 lbs (her ideal weight – rounded up to 10 lbs for SlimDoggy)
Daily Activity Level: Light to Moderate for 30 minutes a day
High intensity activity (Hiking) for an average of 3 hours, once a week

Age 10 years, 11 months
Weight 10 lbs (his ideal weight)
Daily Activity Level: Light to Moderate for 30 minutes a day
High intensity activity (Hiking) for an average of 3 hours, once a week

Here were the results:

Gretel average day: 301 Calories
Gretel hiking days: 439 calories
Chester average day: 301 calories
Chester hiking days: 439 calories

Dog Food Advisor
Gretel average day: 330 calories
Gretel hiking days: 524 calories
Chester average day: 342 calories
Chester hiking days: 545 calories


How Many Calories Are They Eating?

The next step was to look at how many calories I was feeding them and compare the two numbers. When I started to look at the calorie content of their food I second-guessed myself and got a little confused. I always thought the number on the back of the package was calories. I took a closer look and noticed it said “k” calories. I thought I had to do some math to get the actual calories but neither .423 or 423000 (forgot which way I needed to move the decimal) seemed reasonable for one cup of dog food. I did some more research into it and this and found that kCal = Cal. So….moving on….

I feed the dogs two meals a day. I either feed them grain-free kibble at both or kibble for one meal and raw for the other or raw food for both. Their kibble, Acana Grasslands or Ranchlands, contains 423 kCal/cup. Both dogs get about 1/4 cup per meal, or 106 calories. The raw food I use most is Honest Kitchen Embark which is 488 kCal per cup. Gretel gets about a 1/4 cup, or 122 calories per meal. You can see Chester’s ribs more so I tend to give him a little extra so he gets about 1/3 cup per meal, or 167 calories.

They each get between 40 – 100 calories a day in treats (closer to 100 if I am honest). Gretel gets at least one Kong a day for anxiety when we leave the house. I make my own Kong stuffing and have gotten it down to 50 calories each. Chester gets about 50 calories worth of treats when we leave.

The Bottom Line

Gretel is getting between 362 and 395 calories per day. Chester is getting between 362 and 484 calories per day. On non-hiking days, that is 20 – 130* calories more than the recommended for Chester. On non-hiking days, that is 30 – 100* calories more than the recommended for Gretel. *Depending on which calculator you use


On hiking days the food in vs. food out gap is smaller. However, I give them a lot more treats on hiking days. I probably give them an extra 100 calories worth.

Gretel and Chester are eating more than recommended calories a day by these calculators. However, they are at their ideal weight. This makes me think that perhaps the calculators are a little off – either just generally or, more specifically, are off for small dogs with naturally fast metabolisms. The other explanation could be that I underestimate their daily activity. I don’t really feel like that is the case though because there are 2 or 3 days a week where we don’t do anything (again, if I am being honest).

So after doing this exercise I am left more confused than I was before. It was a good experience to go through but I am going to stick with the “going by what they look like” weight management system. If they are getting a little soft then I cut back their food. If they are getting a little thin then I give them more. I keep this body conditioning score chart in mind when I am judging their ideal weight and my assessments are confirmed by my vet every time we visit.

Keeping Up With K9 Kamp Badge

This post is part of a new series, Keeping Up With K9 Kamp hosted by us, YouDidWhatWithYourWeiner.

As you may have heard, we are now official co-hosts of K9 Kamp with Kol’s Notes and Peggy’s Pet Place. K9 Kamp, a fitness challenge aimed at fighting pet obesity, happens a couple of times  year. However, we believe that canine fitness should be something you work on year-round. This is where Keeping Up With K9 Kamp comes in.

Keeping Up With K9 Kamp is a series of mini-challenges that take place each month that K9 Kamp is not in session. The mini-challenges will help you keep the goal of canine fitness fresh in your mind.

I will announce a mini-challenge on the fist Friday of each month and link that post to the Fit Dog Friday Blog Hop. There will be a wrap-up post on the last Friday of each month. You are encouraged to let us know how you did if you accept the Keeping Up With K9 Kamp Challenge by writing a post and linking it up the SlimDoggy Fit Friday Blog Hop any time during the challenge month or leaving a comment on this post.

Stay tuned for the August challenge next week.

About the Author

Hi, I’m Jessica. I’ve been studying the Dachshund breed since 2007, owned 3 of my own, and shared in the lives of thousands of others through their owner’s stories. When I’m not sharing what I know on this blog, you can find me hiking, camping, and traveling with my adventurous wiener dogs.


  1. Gizmo did participate and we posted our results a couple of weeks back…I found it a helpful and worthwhile exercise that confirmed what i knew…Gizmo is at a healthy weight and we’re maintaining it easily with our current feeding and treat regimen

    1. I remember reading your post. Thanks for refreshing my memory about it. This exercise kind of confirmed what I knew too but I think it is a good thing to check back in a couple times a year to make sure your feeding is on track. I do that with myself too. I spend a day or two now and then either tracking the calories I consume in a day or setting a calorie goal and measuring my food for that day so I know what X calories looks and feels like.

    1. Well, then our plan worked 🙂 I know a lot of people have never thought of tracking their pet’s calories. I don’t think a person needs to go nuts with it (unless their dog is obese or has another health issue) but it’s a good idea to check in with what you are feeding from time to time.

  2. It was definitely harder than I expected to figure it out – especially since the app we used came out so much lower than the equations I was taught in my nutrition classes (the UC Davis MER Calculation or the Waltham Equation). In the end, like you, I’m trusting my gut a bit. As long as Kol has a defined waist and I can feel a few ribs, I’ll know we’re on track. Thanks for kamping with us. Can’t wait for next month’s challenge!

    1. Hmmm…..I don’t know nutrition equations but when I did this exercise it did lead me to believe that I was overfeeding Chester and Gretel a bit. The thing is though that if I fed them any less they would waste away. I thought that maybe I was underestimating the calories burned but that didn’t seem realistic. Maybe it is that these calculators underestimated the calories my dogs need a bit.

    1. That’s great! I am most definitely NOT at my ideal weight. The dogs are in way better shape than me. Doing physical activities with them helps keep me motivated to exercise so it is important that I have an idea of the calories they are burning. I don’t want them to get too thin or do what I do and overcompensate for the exercise with too much food.

  3. The DFA calculator is far too generic as is the Waltham center approach. We actually use the Waltham center data as a start point but make it much more precise.

    Why did we do this? The Waltham Center groups dogs into categories like “exercises low intensity for 1-3 hours per day”. To me, that is not good enough. There is a huge difference between exercising for 1 hour or 3 hours!

    All that said, the key to proper weight management is to feed the proper amount over the course of time. 50 extra kcals per day could lead to 5 lbs per year! By definition weight change is insidious which is partly why it is a problem. It creeps up and before you know it, your dog has gained those 5 lbs.

    As evidenced by the APOP stats, using our ‘eyes’ isn’t cutting it for the general public- more than 1/2 of all dogs are overweight or obese and 46% (almost 1/2) of the owners of overweight dogs think that their dogs are at the perfect weight. While our fellow FitDog Friday and K9Kampers might do well with the eyeball method, the public at large has failed miserably with this approach.

    1. I agree with the eyebll method not working with a lot of pet parents out there. If it were that simple, there would be no overweight dogs. Education is key and honesty with ones self about where their pet stands on the body condition chart is key for those that even know it exist.

      I am glad to have some confirmation that my recommendation to Doxie parents to cut out 50 – 100 cal a day will make a difference in getting them to a healthy weight. A 5 lb weight loss in 6 months to a year is significant when your dog is small.

  4. Thanks for the mini challenge, “Coach”. This one was very interesting and a good exercise to go through as it really makes you think about what you’re giving the dog and how much activity they do.

  5. You were even more thorough than we were, I think! Phew, all that math, huh? 🙂 We don’t exercise every day either, but I just went with more a general approach to that part of the equation, kind of averaging it out. I think just going through the exercise is a big help. Even if you don’t follow your results to a T, it gets you looking at what you’re feeding, and what you’re doing for exercise, and can at least help to get on the right track. Even small adjustments to the amount of food, or exercise, could be a step in the right direction.

  6. Our results came out pretty even but neither GBGV or Kuvasz were available as breeds on the app. A Kuvasz is known to need less food than most dogs so we always feed her less than what we think she should eat and I am right around normal. My mom doesn’t count her calories or weigh herself, she goes by how her clothes fit, we go by how we look in our fur, combined with at least two weight checks per year at the vet. If we look like we have added padding, Mom cuts back but we really remain steady, so what we are doing works for us and that is the most important. The calculator is great, but it is more of a general guide in our opinion.

    1. I agree that it is more of a general guideline. In fact, I stated that when I announced the challenge. I do think it is a great exercise for people who have never really thought about how much their dogs eat before. Personally, I like to have an idea of what the calories SHOULD be for their activity level and size so I have a baseline for when I switch foods or activity levels and such. For example, if I know they require 100 calories more than the suggested serving on the package to maintain a healthy weight then if I switch to a new food I will also give them 100 extra calories of that.

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