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Nutrition Nuggets is the newest offshoot of petMD's Dog Nutrition Center. Each week Dr. Coates will use her expertise and wisdom to blog about the intricacies of dog nutrition.

Size Does Matter

September 21, 2012 / (7) comments

I love practical research. Don’t get me wrong, even seemingly esoteric studies can end up having great, if sometimes unforeseen, benefits, but when I see a title like "Size of food bowl and scoop affects amount of food owners feed their dogs," I rush to read the paper. An article entitled, "Array-based comparative genomic hybridization — guided identification of reference genes for normalization of real-time quantitative polymerase chain reaction assay data for lymphomas, histiocytic sarcomas, and osteosarcomas of dogs"… maybe I’ll get to that one later (but don’t hold your breath).

So about the scoop/food bowl paper — does size matter? You betcha!

Fifty-four dog and owner pairs took part in the study. Over the course of four visits, each owner fed their dogs a "normal" meal of kibble using a small bowl and small scoop, a small bowl and large scoop, a large bowl and small scoop, or a large bowl and large scoop, and then the amount they offered was measured. Statistical analysis showed that the mean "amount of food portioned using the small bowl and small scoop was significantly less than all other bowl and scoop combinations."

So, if you are trying to help your dog lose weight and/or are having difficulty maintaining his weight, switch to a smaller bowl and smaller scoop. You’ll still want to measure out the amount of kibble you are offering, but this study shows you might be more successful if you measure out the recommended amount, one cup for example, using a 1-cup measuring scoop and putting the food into a bowl that looks like it’s about to overflow in comparison to placing ½ of a 2-cup measuring scoop of food into an oversized bowl.

To explain their results, the authors cite the "Delboeuf optical illusion and the Ebbinghaus-Titchener size-contrast illusion." I guess even such practical scientists aren’t immune to technospeak.

A while back, I ran across another piece of useful research regarding canine weight loss (though I can’t find the reference and would love it if anyone could forward it to me). The gist of this paper was that exercise, at least at the level that most owners can provide on a routine basis, does not help dogs lose weight. This does not mean that exercise is not good for a dog’s mental and physical health, it absolutely is, just that when it comes to weight loss, results come from restricting calories.

So go ahead and walk your pudgy pooch; just keep him on his diet (and follow the small bowl/small scoop recommendation) when you get home.

Dr. Jennifer Coates

Image: Nestling Measuring Cups @ Swiss Miss