Find out what should determine portion size.
You may be the one holding the food bag, but your pet is definitely the one with the power. All they have to do is turn those big, sad eyes on you, woof (or meow) sadly and you’re ready to give in. But how do you know when they’re actually hungry and when they’re just scamming you for more? There are a couple of factors to consider.
For starters, are you actually feeding your pet based on their food’s guidelines? It’s the chart on the back of the bag that designates how many cups per day a dog or cat should eat based on weight and activity (and it’s not just there for decoration). By using that as a guide for your average day, it’s easier to decide how much you should increase (or decrease) on special occasions, if needed.
Are you using a measuring cup to figure out portions? Guess-timating portion size could mean you’re varying how much you feed your pet without even realizing it. Little differences in serving size can mean big weight gains for small dogs. Also, if you want to get really precise, you can even try an autofeeder, which measures the food out for you.
Once you’re sure that your pet is getting the recommended daily amount, it’s time to look at what could be speeding up (or slowing down) their metabolism. One explanation is that it’s just in their genes. After all, even dogs of the same breed are built a little built differently. Some are lean, some are roly poly some are in the middle. That’s because we all metabolize food a little bit differently, even pets.
Age is another factor. The guidelines on food bags are often set for adult animals, so if you’re feeding a younger or older pet you’ll need to adjust accordingly. Puppies and kittens need a lot of calories to play hard and grow big, so that could mean 2 – 2.5 times the usual amount. Meanwhile, a mellow senior dog or cat whose main sport is napping will need a little less than the recommendation to avoid piling on the pounds.
You should definitely consider activity level for dogs (not so much for cats). If your canine pal is begging for extra mileage on walks as regularly as they beg for more food, they really may need more than the usual amount. However, if you have a couch potato on your hands, they might benefit from less than the daily recommendation.
Same goes for season. In the summer, your dog hits the dog park like you hit the gym and burning extra calories means they’ll need extra food. But come winter, their walks get shorter as the days get colder and that could mean cutting down their normal portion a little.
Also, don’t forget about treats. If they’re filling up on dessert, they definitely don’t need extra dinner. Add in the calories they’re getting from treats just like it was part of their meal.
In the end, there’s one really simple way to tell if you’ve increased or decreased your pet’s food too much—their weight. Do regular weigh-ins and watch their bodies for any changes. Plus, always be sure to report any weight issues to your vet.