How Much Should I Feed My Pet?

by Tim Kirby

If you live in Western Europe, the chances are that anytime you switch on your radio or TV, you will be bombarded about the “obesity” crisis in humans. This trend which is directly related to poor or badly managed diets is also now trending at an alarming rate in “pet health”.

As veterinarians, we are seeing more and more pet related weight issues, which are often as a result of confusion regarding the amount and type of food which should be fed to pets.

In broad terms, a pet is like a human, in that they are individuals. No two pets are identical, and in that sense, their specific dietary needs will also be different. When we wonder how much food we should feed a pet, it is important to remember that the age, breed, size, activity level and actual feed type will influence this decision. For example, younger and smaller breeds of dogs require a lot more calories than an older dog will. Likewise, people are often surprised to hear that smaller breeds require more calories per pound body weight than larger breeds need!

Without a doubt, many owners now choose commercial dog foods, which come pre-packed and with ready to use instructions. Many have “feeding guidelines” attached to the product information, advising how much of the food a pet should be fed. It is important to realise that such guidelines “assume” that all pets of a certain weight require the same amount of food. As a rough guideline, this is acceptable, however as a specific measure for your individual pet, it can be misleading. Therefore, I always advise that the individual pet owner is by far and away best positioned in deciding how much food their pet should receive. Starting at the lower end of the “recommended daily amount” as described on the packaging, and monitoring your pet’s body weight over time is a good approach.