How much should I feed my dog or cat?

Dog and cat choosing between veggies and meat

Veterinarians decide how many calories your pet needs by looking at their current weight, their body condition (are they over or under-weight or just right?), and what they’re currently eating. You can get a head start on finding out how many calories your pet needs using one of a few online calculators. They’re easy and fun, and will give you a starting point to figure out what your pet needs. Keep in mind that just like for people, energy needs can vary quite a bit, even among animals of similar age, size, and breed. Regardless of what you get with a calculator, the actual amount of calories that your pet is eating and his or her weight and body condition score is going to be a better indicator of what your pet actually needs! Don’t worry if you find your pet needs more or less than the recommended amount to keep a healthy weight. This calculator is an average, so depending on how active your pet is, their needs may be different and may even change over time.

If you’d like to feed treats, you can reserve 10% of the recommended calories for healthy treats. Otherwise, 90% of the calories your pet takes in should be from a complete and balanced pet food. This means they get the right amount of essential nutrients in the right proportions.

We recommend the Pet Nutrition Alliance Calorie Calculator. The Pet Nutrition Alliance is a group of nutritionists, veterinarians, veterinary technicians, and experts that created a site to educate and assist the veterinary healthcare team to integrate nutritional assessments and dietary recommendations for every patient as the standard of care. They also wanted to create awareness that veterinarians and veterinary technicians are the most credible sources of information for advice and recommendations for pet nutrition.

Their helpful link for pet owners can be found here: http://petnutritionalliance.org/calculator/

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Posts authored by the Clinical Nutrition Service team are by Dr. Lisa M. Freeman, DVM, PhD, DACVN, Dr. Deborah E. Linder, DVM, MS, DACVN, and Dr. Cailin R. Heinze, VMD, MS, DACVN

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