Simple tips on how much to feed your dog or cat
Following on from our post on how to assess your pet’s weight, in this post we’re going to discuss how to work out how much to feed your dog or cat.
So many of us overfeed our pets whether it is a kibble diet or meat diet. Obesity in pets is a big problem and it is causing many chronic disease problems.
By learning how much to feed your dog or cat, you can help prevent many problems such as:
- musculoskeletal problems like arthritis, cruciate disease, IVDD, patella luxation
- breathing issues such as brachycephalic obstructive airway syndrome and tracheal collapse
- heat intolerance,
- liver disease
- increased arterial blood pressure
- urethral sphincter incontinence (can’t control their bladder and dribble urine)
- some cancers such as transitional cell carcinoma of the bladder
Watch the following video to learn just how to calculate how much kibble to feed your pet. If you prefer to read, below I have the written version.
Working out how much to feed your dog or cat or cat can be very confusing. It seems like everyone has a different opinion and every bag of food has different instructions. In this post I will explain how to read a label and work out how much your pet needs.
Remember Calorie is King.
Calories are how much energy a food contains. So to maintain a certain weight, the calories your pet ingests need to equal energy expenditure (how much exercise they do).
If your pet eats more calories than the amount of exercise they do, then they will put on weight very quickly.
How to read a pet food label
On the back of a label you will often see:
- the weight range for the pet
- how many cups of food are required for that weight range
- how many grams of food are required for that weight range
To work out how much to feed our pet we need to work out how much the vessel (cup) we use, weighs.
Step 1: work out how much your measuring cup holds
The first step is to work out whether your measuring container is actually weighing the same as what the bag indicates.
The easiest way to do this is to pop your container on some scales and zero the scales so the weight of the container isn’t considered.
Then fill the container up to the top and note how much a full container of biscuits weigh. (In the video you can see that this container holds 102 grams of biscuits).
If we go back to the label, you can then double check how many grams 1 Cup is supposed to weigh. In our example, 1 Cup weighs 100grams, and our cup holds 100grams so we know that this is a good measuring cup to use.
You might find that your measuring cup only holds half the weight of the biscuits that the label states. Perhaps it holds double the amount?
This is why it is so important that we check how much the cup we use weighs.
If our cup weighs double the amount, then we know we need to decrease the volume of biscuits by half of what the label tells us.
to use another vessel then see this one here
Step 2: How many calories does my pet need?
For this calculation, you need to know the weight of your pet. Pop down to your local vet clinic, they will let you weigh your pet. Some pet stores also have a set of scales you can use.
For this example, we are going to pretend we have a dog that weighs 15kg.
We need to work out how many calories our 15kg pet requires for resting energy requirements (RER).
We use the following calculation to work this out:
Resting energy requirements = Body weight to the power of 0.75 multiplied by 70
RER = BW0.75 x 70
For our pet that’s 15kg the equation looks like this:
RER = 150.75 x 70
RER = 532 calories/day
Now we need to remember we are only talking resting energy requirements. These are the requirements that our pet’s body needs to function, no more no less. This value needs to be multiplied by 1.2 for cats, or 1.6 for dogs to account for any activity that they do.
We aren’t expecting our dog or cat to be working hard running around, being pregnant, or lactating. The RER is the amount needed to survive.
Step 3: How many calories does the pet food contain?
In our example in the video, we can see that one cup of these particular biscuits contains 363 calories.
We also know that our pet, in our case our 15kg dog requires 532 calories for resting energy requirements.
That means he needs about 1.4 times one of these containers just to have the amount of energy to support all his bodily functions ie. his RER.
Let’s not forget that our pet actually needs more food than just the RER amount, to account for any exercise they do during the day.
When working out a volume to feed a pet the food company utilises averages:
- the average amount of exercise a pet will have per day ie. dogs it may be 30min-1 hour a day, cats – mmmmm not much!
- average metabolic rate
In reality, the only times your pet needs to be fed more is when:
- they are in the last trimester of pregnancy
- they are lactating
- they are a working dog doing high volume exercise for long durations
We know that 20-30% of animals will have a metabolic rate that swings either side of the average.
Essentially, that means for one out of every four pets they will either be getting TOO much food and will be getting FAT. Or they will be struggling to get enough food to meet energy requirements and they will get skinny.
In our video example, we can see that a dog that is 14kgs needs 2.25 Cups of food which is 225grams.
Remember, this is a starting point.
Assess your pet after two or three weeks on this diet and note whether their body condition score has increased or decreased and adjust how much you feed.
Feeding tips to remember
- WEIGH YOUR CUP and cross-reference with the weight of a cup on the bag of food. It is super important that you know how much is in a cup so you can feed the appropriate amount as per the bag.
- If your pet doesn’t require a full cup – cut the cup down to size i.e. if they only need 1/2 a cup – cut the cup to half. This way, no one is tempted to feed more!
- Every brand and every type of food (within the brand range) has a different energy density (amount of calories). One cup of one type of food is likely to contain a different number of calories than another type of food. When you change brands or types of food, you need to recheck how many grams a cup holds and adjust your feeding accordingly.
Feeding your cat or dog the correct amount of food isn’t difficult. Understand that you need to know the weigh of size of the vessel and that will help immensely.
If your pet is overweight or struggling with keeping weight on, we will be covering these topics soon. Tell us how you keep your pet from eating too much in the comments below.