New Horizons Veterinary Behavior Solutions

300 Somonauk St.
Park Forest, IL 60466



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HOW MUCH TO FEED??   The "BIG" Question!


Determining the right amount to feed your dog or cat can be confusing!  There is no single answer that will fit every pet or breed. There are many factors that must be considered including:

  • Age and Lifestage--Is your pet a growing baby, is your a young adult, middle aged, senior, or geriatric? 
  • Lifestyle--is your pet a working dog, does it spend much time outside, or is your pet a couch potato?
  • Sex--spayed and neutered dogs and cats have lower metabolic rates than intact or breeding pets 
  • Genetics--certain breeds have predisposed problems with obesity
  • Current stresses or Illnesses 
  • Exercise--some dogs excercise less in the winter so the amount fed may change with the seasons and activity levels.
  • Calorie content of the food being fed. 

We can help you determine your pet's ideal weight and how much to feed your pet.  Schedule a weight and diet consult with your veterinarian!

Be sure to always accurately measure your pet's food.  For dry foods, use only a standard 8 oz kitchen measuring cup!  Please DO NOT measure by the handful, bowlful or scoopful!  We need to be able to discuss how much to feed by using a uniform standard measure.  

Adjustments my need to be made depending on progress and with changes in age and seasons that may affect exercise and metabolism.  We can help teach you to feed your pet to maintain an ideal body condition and weight.  It is important to realize that the amount you feed will likely need to change over time.  Periodic weight checks to make sure you are maintaining an ideal weight will be important over your pet's lifetime. 

The key to lifelong healthy weight maintenance is to regularly weigh your pet monthly so that you catch changes early and can adjust the feeding amounts before a difficult problem develops! 

Below are some estimates of calorie needs for cats and dogs.  When using the charts use your pet's ideal body weight.  Ask us what your pet's ideal body weight should be.  Remember, these are only starting estimates and adjustments may need to be made for indidvidual pets.  Ask your veterinarian how many daily calories are right for your pet.  Try the recommended amount for a month, then recheck your pet's weight to see if the estimate is right for your pet's goals. 

For more informaton read the expert advice from the Nutrition Faculty at the Univ. of California at Davis School of Veterinary Medicine on Nutritional Management of Weight

Daily Calorie Estimates for Dogs  For estimate purposes only, ask your veterinarian what is right for your individual pet!

Daily Calorie Estimates for Cats  Ask your veterinarian if these estimates are proper for your Kitty's needs!

Weight and Calories  Click this link to learn more about what your pet should weigh, how many calories should your pet be fed daily, and calories contained in popular treats.

NOW WE NEED TO KNOW THE CALORIE CONTENT OF THE FOOD FED!   Finding the calorie content in pet foods is often difficult.  In some cases you may be able to find it on the product label, or on the Manufacturer's website.  If it is not readily found, try calling the toll free consumer phone number often found on the label.  If you still cannot find your pet food's calorie content, ask us to assist you! 

Below is a link to information from the Association for Prevention of Pet Obesity (APOP) with listing of calorie content of popular pet foods.  But use caution, this information is very difficult to keep up to date and we recommend verifying the current calorie content of foods directly from the manufacturer.

For dry foods, the calorie content will be in calories per 8 oz standard kitchen measuring cup so be sure to accurately measure! Canned foods will be measured in portions of a can.  Be sure to let your veterinarian know what size can you are using (i.e. 3.5 oz, 5.5 oz, 12.5 oz, etc.)

Calorie Content of Popular Pet Foods

If you feed your pet dog biscuits, chews, and rawhides, these calories must also be calculated into the daily total!

BODY CONDITION SCORING (BCS) is important to learn!  You are feeding an appropriate amount of food if your pet is maintaining an ideal body conditon score!     

Studies have shown most owners underestimate their dog's true body conditions score.  Try to score your pet and then see if your veterinarian agrees with the score!

Canine Body Conditions Score (BCS)  Click on this link from Purina Veterinary Diets to learn about the body conditions score system.  This is the 9 point scoring system. See if you can determine your pet's body condtion score.

Puppy Body Condition Score (BCS)  Click on this link to learn body conditions scoring for puppies for Purina Veterinary Diets.

Example of a 9 Point Feline Body Condition Score (BCS) System


Example of 5 point Feline Body Condition Score (BCS) System


How to Evaluate Your Pet's Weight and Body Condition Score  This is another link to the Association for Prevention of Pet Obesity (APOP).  You will find out how to tell if your pet is ideal weight vs overweight.  It also has examples of the 5 point Body Condition Scoring (BCS) for dogs and cats.

If your pet is in need of help gaining, maintaining, or losing weight, schedule a consult appointment with us to tailor a weight managment plan for your pet.  

 If your pet is overweight, also visit our Weight Loss webpage.

If your dog is in need of weight loss, you also will need to know What to Feed for Weight LossClick here to learn the best diets to help your pet achieve its ideal body weight!