Does it seem as if your dog is perpetually begging? Does your cat meow and come racing through the house at 100 mph every single time she hears the crunch of a bag or the refrigerator or microwave door open? Chances are you do have a hungry pet with large mournful eyes scanning your clothing for microscopic crumbs that have escaped the sliding board of doom into your stomach.
It’s at times like these, or when you notice that your dog’s tummy is dragging along the floor as he runs, that you wonder if you’re feeding your pet too much. What is the right amount of times per day that you should feed your dog or cat?
Let’s ask the experts first. Most agree that you should feed your dog two times a day – once around breakfast and once around supper time. If you’ve got a new dog in the house who isn’t accustomed to this schedule, put down the morning bowl of food for just 10 minutes, and then take it away. Do the same with the supper bowl. You new dog will quickly learn to eat when that food is offered. Of course, remember that if you are training your dog to eat at regular times, then giving her treats throughout the day ruins any chance you might have to regularize your dog’s diet. Also, a dog that eats at a certain time will also poop at a certain time, just like clockwork, and that, my friends, is a very good thing!
Let’s move on to pets of the feline persuasion. Most healthy adult cats will do well being fed twice a day, and once a day after they’ve reached the age of 7. If your cat eats only dry food, it’s essential that you give them plenty of fresh water. If you feed your cat canned cat food, note that your typical can is 70-80% water. It is a truism that cats are finicky eaters, especially if you compare them with dogs. A finicky cat who turns up his nose at dry food at one serving may be enticed with canned cat food at the next meal. Some cats might even enjoy a mixture of dry and canned food. Just remember, the trick is to not overfeed! Fat cats are prone to many diseases, which we’ll discuss below.
Kittens and puppies are a whole other kettle of fish (and how’s that for a species confusing sentence?) Kittens need more food than adult cats to support their growth. and will need to be fed more often throughout a day. Feed the youngest kitties three meals a day until they get to be 6 months old – then you can cut their feedings back to twice a day. The same goes for puppies if they’re under 5 months old. They can be fed 3-4 times per day, or however many times your vet thinks is appropriate. Don’t leave a bowl of food out and open all day. Not only does that make it impossible to normalize your dog’s schedule, but you’re leaving an open buffet for unwanted visitors like mice and cockroaches.
It’s time to discuss different feeding patterns for dogs and cats that have health problems. If your cat suffers from diabetes, then he needs to fed depending on what time his insulin is administered. Your vet will be happy to discuss this with you. Cats that have hyperthyroidism have an insatiable appetite, and want to eat all day long. It’s important to get the appropriate medication so that your cat’s appetite will become normalized again. Elderly cats might have teeth that go bad, or they might get gum disease, making it difficult to chew their regular dry food. If this happens, change to wetter canned food or mix up their dry food with water for easier chewing. Very old cats will probably be happy with just one meal a day.
Smaller breeds of dogs, like Yorkies or Chihuahuas, may have to be fed smaller amounts more frequently because of their digestion, and also because they’re not able to eat enough at one sitting to sustain a normal blood sugar count for extended periods of time. If your dog has a megacolon, or inflammatory bowel disease, then she will need smaller, more frequent meals to help with absorption, digestion, and nutrient use. If your dog is recovering from a bout of pancreatitis, he should be fed 1/4 or even 1/8 of the normal amount of each meal, increasing the amount slowly, day by day. If your dog has had diarrhea or vomiting, it is necessary to switch the a highly digestible food to help to prevent any irritation to his sensitive intestines and stomach. A vet or dog food store owner can help you with making this switch in diet.
If your dog has liver disease, it should not be fed kibble or any type of processed dog food. Instead, it should be fed natural, raw, organic non-medicated meats, fish, eggs, or poultry. Bone broth is very beneficial, and ought to fed to any sick dog. Dogs with kidney disease should be given small, lower calorie snacks throughout the day, life miniature marshmallows, rice cakes, baby carrots, zucchini slices, green beans, bananas or apples.
One of the most important things to remember about feeding your at or dog in general is – Don’t feed them too much! There is a current epidemic of feline obesity, with over 50% of adult cats considered obese or overweight. Being overweight causes the same kind of diseases in dogs and cats as in humans – arthritis, other joint problems, diabetes, respiratory and heart problems, gastro-intestinal problems, and compromised immune systems. A rule of thumb when feeding our pets is to provide approximately 24-35 calories per serving per body weight pound of your animal to keep them happy, healthy, and functioning at a normal weight.