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Have you walked down a pet food aisle lately? Not too long ago, your options were limited to wet and dry food. But these days, there are tubes, boxes and cans of gluten-free, grain-free, organic, all-natural, limited ingredient and raw food. It’s enough to make your head swim. So we turned to two leading pet nutritionists for their take on feeding your four-legged friend, and got their expert advice on how to do it the right way.
How much should I feed my pet?
Pets are natural-born beggars (we’re looking at you, pup!), and it’s all too easy to give in when they ask for scraps. But too much food is just as bad for your dog or cat as too little, says Dr. Tony Buffington, a board-certified veterinary nutritionist and professor at Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine.
So how much should you feed them? Short answer: Whatever it takes to keep your pet lean, Dr. Buffington says, meaning you can easily feel its ribs and see its waist when looking from above. For specific amounts, just ask your vet or follow the food manufacturer’s suggestions on the label.
When you’re shopping for food, don’t forget to look at the calorie count. It can vary by brand anywhere from 250 to a whopping 500 calories per cup. Not sure how many calories your pet should consume? Check out the World Small Animal Veterinary Association’s Nutrition Toolkit for general guidelines.
How often should I feed my pet?
For pets under 6 months of age, consult your vet. Otherwise, a good rule of thumb is twice daily for dogs and cats older than 6 months, according to Dr. Laura Eirmann, a board-certified veterinary nutritionist at Oradell Animal Hospital in Paramus, N.J. But don’t worry if your pet doesn’t finish its meal every now and then, so long as it’s otherwise healthy and not losing weight. Keeping dry food out for all-day noshing is okay for one-pet households, she says. Just be sure you’re keeping track of your dog or cat’s weight, so you don’t overfeed.