Every pet owner dreams of having their beloved cat or dog with them for many, many years. But most pet owners are doing something every day (sometimes several times a day) which might decrease their pet’s longevity? That something is overfeeding.

Every living creature needs food to survive. It is the rare animal (humans included) that will correctly ration their daily caloric intake. But research has shown overweight and obese pets do not live as long as their thinner counterparts. Maintaining your pet at an ideal body condition score will help to lengthen and greatly improve its quality of life.

Your veterinarian may have talked to you about your pet’s ideal body condition score (BCS). Body condition assessment is used by veterinarians to quantify under and overweight pets. It serves the same purpose as the BMI your doctor calculates for you. Most veterinarians record the body condition score of each pet we examine using a separate system for dogs and cats.

Portion control is critical to maintaining an ideal body condition. The best approach to maintaining your pet at a healthy weight is to measure out each serving of food. Dogs should eat twice a day and ideally cats would be able to snack throughout the day. This can be accomplished by a portion control pet feeder or by using a toy that dispenses the food. This prevents your pet from inhaling all of their daily calories at once and helps them feel fuller throughout the day.

It also encourages pets to move around during the day rather than just sleep in one spot while you are away from the house. If you use a scoop to measure out food STOP IT! It is so easy to be too generous when you use a scoop to serve up a portion of dry food nuggets.

When the package says feed one cup per day, it is usually means a level cup not a heaping cup. If your measuring cup is so full that kibble is spilling out you are probably overfeeding. Not all cups are created equal and some cups have the measuring line just below the top of the cup – allowing you to feed more than the cup you think you are feeding. You can get a more accurate serving size if you use a kitchen scale to determine how much your pet should get.

You can ask your veterinarian for help if serving sizes are not available in ounces or grams. Busy pet owners might even want to premeasure pet food servings into plastic bags or storage boxes, kind of like Weight Watchers or Jenny Craig meal plans for people. This will make it quick and easy to feed your pet easy at the end of a busy workday.

The kitchen scale can also be used to measure canned food just make sure you take into consideration the weight of the bowl when determining how a portion size. The kitchen scale should be used if your pet’s daily portion is a little more or less than an easily measured amount like a ½ can at each meal.

Keeping an eye on how many of those snacks that our pets love to eat will also go a long way in managing your pet’s weight. Some snacks should be broken and given in pieces. For example meat sticks are graded so they can be broken and portions can be given according to an animal’s weight. Check the package for portion sizes.

Portion control will go a long way toward keeping your pet at their ideal body condition and healthy for a long time.

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