If you’re like most people, at some point in your life, you'll live with a pet whose weight or appetite is a problem.
The top question clients ask during puppy visits is "How much should I feed my dog?” and it is also a top Google search.
The simple answer is that it is different for every pet. There are general rules, but that’s how many pet owners get into trouble. If you assume the directions on the side of a bag of food are to be strictly followed, chances are you'll have a fat dog in no time.
1. Consistency is the key
You need to make sure the food you give your pet is prepared more or less the same way every time, so, if you home cook, that means being careful about preparing consistent portions. You should also be vigilant about feeding your pet the same brand of food, as well as keeping an eye on the calorie counts of different brands if you swap.
2. Treats Do Count
Treats are food, too, and they’re often more caloric dense.
3. Purchase a Complete and Nutritionally Balanced Food
Whether it’s a veterinary nutritionist’s recipe or an off-the-shelf commercial formula recommended by your vet, stick to something that’s complete and nutritionally balanced. (It will usually say so on the side of the bag or can.)
4. Assess if You're Feeding Too Much or Too Little
Ask your vet to tell you just how fat your pet really is through a body condition score and to show you how to measure this accurately. A high score (BCS) means your pet needs to lose weight.
5. Expect Age-Related Changes
As they get older, a pet's metabolism (like our own) slows down — and that means a little less food every year. Or you could switch to a senior dog food, which is lower in calories.
6. Learn to be flexible
The right amount of food is almost always determined through trial and error. In other words, you may have to increase and decrease food amounts over time until you hit on the right daily amount. So you may start with one can of food a day, but your vet says your cat is too fat. So you reduce the food by 1/4 can a day, prompting her to lose weight. After about a month, you and your vet both think she’s getting a bit skinny, so you add back in a tablespoon a day and so on.
7. Add Moisture to Feline Food
A 2010 study conducted at the Waltham Centre in the U.K. found that cats who were fed moistened diets — even if it was just dry food mixed with water — were more active and weighed less at the end of the study.
8. Factor in Exercise
Most of the above takes into account a regular amount of exercise. If your pup is jogging along with you each morning as you train for a marathon, for example, you may want to increase the amount of food that is poured into the food bowl.
9. Measure, Measure and Measure Again
This is essential when you’re trying to figure out how much to feed, so use a proper measuring cup you want to get your pet's meal just right.
10. Every Animal Is Different
I have owned Labradors who will eat until they explode. Some dogs require very little food and some burn up the calories by just looking at food – just like us. Remember this when designing your pets total caloric intake.