Feeding Guide for Dogs and Cats:
How Much to Feed for Optimal Health
A well-balanced diet with the proper nutrition is important for a happy,
healthy dog or cat. Knowing how much to feed isn't always easy. Taking a
flexible, common-sense approach to a feeding guide
for dogs and cats can help you figure out what works best for your pet.
Most people feed commercial pet foods, either those that are purchased in
pet supply stores or the supermarket brands. They can vary significantly in
nutritional value (here is one person's
take on rating dog foods). Your vet is one source of information about
appropriate diets - even better, ask a veterinary nutritionist if you can
People choose to feed different foods for varying reasons. Without
analyzing those reasons, here are a few general tips for feeding your
dog or cat. There is deliberately an emphasis on keeping your pet at
a healthy weight. This is because excess weight can lead to
weight-related health issues. Examples of these include joint issues
and respiratory problems.
- Limit table scraps.
"People food" is not formulated to meet the nutritional needs of your pet...
and it's often too greasy or too rich. This can cause digestive upset in your pet,
and too many table scrap treats can lead to your pet becoming overweight. Your
pet may also refuse to eat regular pet food once he or she has developed a taste
for human food.
- Don't overfeed treats. Treats are often
salty and fatty, and once again, they can cause your pet to gain weight.
They're fun to feed and pets love them so it can be hard to stop altogether...
but if you find you're feeding too many one day, cut back on your pet's meal
to compensate. Obviously it's better for your pets to consume a nutritionally-balanced
meal rather than treats, so try not to make too many treats a regular
- Homemade and raw diets must be carefully balanced.
It's hard to provide all the nutritional requirements for your pet. A pet
nutritionist can help you figure out appropriate recipes for your pet, as
well as what supplements to include, if any.
Even if you primarily feed a homemade or raw diet, consider occasionally
feeding a meal of commercial pet food. The reason for this is that it's
not always practical to feed homemade or raw diets - for example, if your pet
is staying with friends or family, or with a pet-sitter, or even while traveling
with a pet. A pet that's accustomed to an occasional meal of kibble or canned
food won't be fazed if that's what's given to him.
- Do not feed cat food to your dog, or dog food to your cat.
Cats and dogs have very different nutritional requirements. Most dogs
really love cat food so try to keep it out of reach.
- Don't feed cooked bones to your pet. Cooked
bones splinter easily and can potentially cause serious problems such as
intestinal blockages, internal punctures, choking, vomiting, and so on.
Some dogs, and even cats, consume raw food diets where they eat raw meaty
bones as well as enjoy raw recreational bones. There is still controversy
about whether or not feeding raw bones is safe; here is an opinion from
- Kittens and puppies require more food and
extra nutrients. Growing animals have special needs in order to
develop properly. Some commercial pet foods are specifically formulated
for kittens or puppies.
Free-feeding is when pet is left out all the time so that pets can
eat whenever they like. Some pets will never overeat; others will
eat everything in sight, every chance they get. Free-feeding a
pet with the latter tendencies can very easily result in obesity.
- Set a feeding schedule.
Kittens and puppies should be fed several times a day, with the number
of meals decreasing as they get older. Adults need only be fed once or
twice a day.
- Use feeding guides as just that: a guide, and not a rule.
Pet food bags and cans often recommend that you feed your pet a certain amount of
food per day. This is only a guide; every pet is an individual and has different
caloric needs. For example, a dog that goes for a run 2 or 3 times a day will likely
need more calories than one who prefers to nap the day away on the couch. If your pet
gains too much weight, decrease the amount you feed. If he's too thin, increase it. If
he's too heavy but always seems hungry, add some healthy fillers like green beans,
pureed vegetables, or a tablespoon of pureed pumpkin (pumpkin is very high in fiber
and help him feel fuller for longer - make sure it's not pumpkin pie filling, just
pure, pureed pumpkin).
- Always provide fresh water. Wash the bowl daily and
make sure that cool, fresh water is always available should your pet want it.
- Consult your vet if your pet has special needs.
Some pets require "senior's" food; others a low-calorie diet; still
others are allergic to certain foods. Your vet will be able to advise you on
what food may be best for your pet.
There's no universal feeding guide for dogs and cats. Each pet is an individual
and the amount fed needs to be catered to each individual pet. Pets who are ill,
injured, recovering from surgery, etc... may have different nutritional and
caloric needs which your veterinarian can discuss with you.