A common question a veterinarian gets asked is what and how much should I be feeding my dog?
The answer varies based on their breed, age, activity levels and whether their current body condition is ideal.
Good quality commercial dry or wet food diets are put through rigorous testing to ensure they meet the nutritional needs of the size and age of animal they are targeted at. These diets come with well-developed feeding guidelines. These are often written on the packaging or are available on the products’ websites.
Examples of quality diets are Delicate Care, Hills Science Diet and Royal Canin. For a young, fit and healthy animal the feeding guidelines in grams suggested by the manufacturer for that age of animal can generally be followed to start with. Weighing your pets’ food on a small kitchen scale is the best way to be completely accurate about the amount they are receiving. This is more accurate than using cup measures. By tracking your pet’s weight and body condition score adjustments can then be made up or down to maintain ideal body condition score.
Body condition score can be ranked on a scale from 1-9 as follows:
2/9 Very thin
4.5-5/9 Ideal weight
9/9 Severely Obese
To determine what score your pet is requires observing them and palpating them and this is best done by an experienced professional. Your veterinarian will start by observing your pet from above. Do they have a waistline that curves behind their ribs to give them an hourglass figure or is their waist as wide as their ribcage? Then they will look at your pet from the side. Does their tummy tuck up or does it sag down? Next your veterinarian will palpate your pet. A pet at a healthy weight should have ribs that are easy to feel by spreading your fingers over them. There should only be a thin layer of fat palpable with the ribs felt right below that. It should feel similar to making a fist with one hand and feeling your knuckles with the other.
Feeding the correct amount for your pet is the most important step to maintaining their ideal body condition. As well as feeding the correct amount of a good quality diet, it is important to avoid feeding extra foods in between their meals like table scraps and excessive treats. At minimum these will cause weight gain, in some cases some foods that we consume can be toxic to your dog or cat. If training your pet, you can use a small portion of their normal meal as the reward.
Maintaining your pet at their ideal body weight provides them with life-long benefits. They are less likely to succumb to diseases like diabetes, heart disease and arthritis and are likely to have more energy to enjoy life with you the way they love to!