Thanksgiving Overfeeding

At this time of year, most of us look forward to a Thanksgiving feast! Many people enjoy indulging in special foods only to feel miserable after the meal. As much as we joke about it, that overstuffed feeling is anything but pleasant. Believe it or not, many pets feel that way on a regular basis! Most owners love their pets and don’t realize that they may be overfeeding them, sometimes to the point of discomfort.

How do you know if your pet is eating the right amount of food? A good general rule is that most healthy adult dogs should finish their food within a few minutes. Unless she is underweight or very finicky, any dog who leaves food in the bowl is probably being overfed. Cats tend to graze more but the total amount of food per day should still be limited.

People often worry that their pets aren’t eating enough, even when they are overweight. The pet communicates that he isn’t hungry by walking away from the bowl. The worried owners may then entice him to eat with additions of fatty meats, cheese, gravy etc. This is not generally a good idea, as it not only forms a problematic habit but could contribute to adverse health conditions.

A good starting point may be the amount recommended by the food company, but there is a good chance that it will be too much. Those portions are usually calculated for active pets, while many cats and dogs are fairly sedentary. Additionally, those recommendations are based on complete caloric needs for an entire day. If you give treats when you eat a meal or when you leave for the day, those calories all add up! Your veterinarian can calculate your pet’s caloric needs based on his weight and body condition, then calculate how many cups/cans of food he needs per day based on the exact type of food you offer.

As with us, healthy weight maintenance also depends on balancing the calories consumed with the calories burned. If exercise decreases for any reason, such as hot weather, injury, aging, or confinement to a smaller yard, the amount of food should also be reduced.

The most important thing to assess is your pet’s overall body condition (see below). If his body condition indicates that he is eating enough calories, put the gravy down and step away from the bowl! – Written by: Dr. Elizabeth Chosa