How Much Should I Feed My Dog or Cat?

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The amount of food you should feed your pet depends on many different factors. In general, you should consider your pet’s species, breed, size, body composition, age (life stage), activity level and environment. Foods have different calories and nutrient densities so the volume of food needed can vary widely among various brands. With this in mind, you can use the manufacturer’s recommendations as a guideline to determine the amount of food your pet needs, but it’s important to remember that these guidelines are developed on the needs of the average pet.

General tips

  • Based on your pet’s age and weight, look at the food’s packaging label to determine the amount to be fed.
  • Most dry food manufacturers recommend a certain number of cups per day.
  • Using measuring cups, measure the amount of food that your pet receives per day. Eyeballing the amount can result in over- or under-feeding.
  • Free feeding, or ad-libitum feeding, is not recommended, as this allows your pet access to excessive amounts of food. Over-consumption is one of the key contributing factors to obesity.
  • If feeding twice a day, give half of this amount at each feeding.
  • The label can also tell you the amount of calories (kcals) found in a cup of the food.

How much should my dog or cat eat each day?

Growing puppies and kittens need more calories and nutrients than adult pets and should be fed three to six times per day with food specifically formulated for puppies/kittens. Larger breeds can be fed three to four times daily, while toy breeds should be fed more frequently (four to six times daily) to reduce the potential for low blood sugar. As puppies mature, the feeding frequency can be reduced. After reaching adulthood, feeding twice daily is commonly recommended for healthy pets.

Like people, pets that are very active may require more food, and those that are less active or considered “couch potatoes” will obviously need less.

Cat and dog treats

Treats are generally high in calories so the number of treats that your dog or cat receives should be limited to less than 10 percent of the daily caloric requirements. When giving your pet treats, the amount of food fed each day should be reduced accordingly by 10 percent.

What should I do if my pet isn’t eating?

If your pet does not want to eat, a visit to the veterinarian is in order. There are many medical conditions that can cause a lack of appetite. Cats, in particular, can get sick very quickly if they stop eating. If you have noticed a change in your pet’s appetite, we recommend scheduling an appointment at your local pet hospital so that your veterinarian can determine any possible causes and recommend appropriate treatment.

The bottom line on feeding

If your pet eats all its food and wants more, it is important to avoid overfeeding. Although begging might be cute, it can lead to other behavior issues and obesity. Feeding smaller amounts more often or using a toy or bowl that requires your pet to work for its food can help.

Personalized Pet Nutrition Counseling

Because Banfield believes in a holistic preventive care approach, our veterinarians are ready and willing to provide you with nutrition counseling based on your pet’s specific needs. Beyond recommendations on the type and amount of foods to feed your pet, our veterinarians can also provide practical advice on exercise routines, how to switch foods and how to encourage your pet to drink and eat.

Find your nearest Banfield location to make sure your pet is getting the nutritional care he deserves.

Learn More

To stay up to date on food-related pet health trends please visit our Overweight & Obesity section at stateofpethealth.com.