How much food should you give your pet? Here's a hint: it's a lot less than what's printed on the bag!
First thing to do: use your eyes and hands to find out your dog or cat's body condition score. Use the picture below to compare your pet's body shape.
Now, is your pet underweight, ideal, or overweight? We'll be happy to assess for you if you're unsure. While highly athletic pets can be healthy at underweight, very thin pets are ill and need to be checked out as soon as possible. All overweight and obese pets need to be helped to lose the excess weight - you will lengthen their life by as much as 2 years for a large dog and decrease painful arthritis.
Your next step is to grab a measuring cup. Find out how much food you are currently giving in a day, and then find the calories/cup on the label. Some foods contain around 300 cal/cup, but others can be as high as 600! Next add in all the treats and snacks your pet receives. It can take some work to find out how many calories are in each treat, but the manufacturer can tell you if you call them (and if they can't, you probably shouldn't be feeding it to your pet). For example, a small milkbone has 20 calories, and a large one has 125.
Your individual pet may need more or less depending on activity level, but here's a rough guideline to calorie needs:
Approximate Daily Caloric Needs for Indoor Pets
Treats should total no more than 10% of your pet's daily calories. The secret to success is portion control - choose the tiny size milkbones (7 calories), or break larger treats into tiny portions. Green beans and baby carrots (3 calories) make great treat alternatives.
If your pet is overweight, a good starting point is to decrease the amount of food and treats by 25%, and then reassess in 2 weeks. For example, if you currently feed 1 cup of food per day, you would go to 3/4 cup per day. You can add green beans and carrots as healthy fiber if your dog seems hungry.
For weight loss, your pet will need to consume fewer calories than he or she is using. Increased exercise in combination with decreased food and treats will be the most effective. The best tool for cats are food-dispensing toys. Portion the day's kibble into several toys and let your cat chase them around the house. Meals will take longer so your cat will be more satisfied, and he will be exercising while he eats. No more food bowl required!
If you have more questions about what and how much to feed, give us a call. We can talk about your specific pet's needs and come up with a plan together.