6 Surprising Things You Didn't Know About Feeding Your Pets

By Sarah Jeanne Terry

According to a new study from Banfield Pet Hospital, our pets have started to get pretty chubby. In fact, 1-in-3 of our pets are now obese, which a pretty big problem.

If you're looking for reasons behind your pet's weight gain, the easiest place to look is their diet. Like us, diet is one of the biggest factors in causing our pets to gain weight. So here are some simple things to know about your pet's diet to keep them svelte and healthy.

1. Like people, overeating makes our pets obese.

If your pet's looking a little pudgy, it's likely because they're overeating. And who's to blame for that? We are. Although we humans show our love with food and treats, we have to be careful not to give our pets TOO much. Because overeating leaves them susceptible to various health problems. And we don't want that!

2. Pets don't need as much food as we think.

We most likely think of our human levels of food when we feed our pets, but unless our pets are very large, they really don't need that much. Here's a calorie breakdown of the food our pets need:

  • Cats (10 pounds): 224 calories
  • Small Dog (10 pounds): 342 calories
  • Medium Dog (30 pounds): 779 calories
  • Large Dog (50 pounds): 1,143 calories
  • Giant Dog (90 pounds): 1,777 calories

To put that in perspective, one cup (8 ounces.) of Merrick Chicken and Sweet Potato dry dog food has 460 calories. A cup really isn't that much when you look at it. And since many of us mix in treats and even wet food, that means even less of the food to balance everything out.

3. Pets shouldn't eat too many treats.

According to Banfield, treats should only make up about 10 percent of our pet's daily calories. So use them judiciously. If you're training your pet (and using lots of treats), make sure to find small treats that have only a few calories each.

4. People-food calories add up quickly for our pets.

Just look at this chart above from Banfield. If you gave your medium dog a tablespoon of peanut butter and a beef jerky, that's 25 percent of their calories for the day. And we all know they eat it so fast, it doesn't seem like it! And if your dog is even smaller or you have a cat, just a small piece of cheese could be more than 33 percent of their calories for the day.

So take care not to give your pets too many snacks from your plate.

5. Choosing quality food is important, but you don't have to focus too much on diet trends.

We all want to give our pets the best nutrition we can, which means buying high-quality pet food with the nutrients we need. The best approach might be talking to your vet about your specific pet's needs. But Banfield insists we don't need to worry too much about fad diets, like raw food or grain-free. Unless our pets have a specific reaction, it's perfectly healthy for them to eat cooked food and grains. And eliminating foods can have consequences. So always talk to your vet before trying a specific diet.

6. Rewards shouldn't only come in the form of food.

Because we do like to use positive reinforcement for our pets, that can be tough while also keeping their food on target. Try developing ways to show your pets that they did good in non-food ways. Maybe a belly rub, an ear scratch, or some time with their favorite toy can help substitute for the treats you might have given them.

hungry dog with bowl
credit: damedeeso/iStock/GettyImages

Armed with solid knowledge about your pet's diet, you should be able to keep them at a healthy weight for life.

Are you interested in learning more about what you're reading? Then scroll through this article about 10 dog breeds with the most expensive veterinary bills. Also, like us on Facebook and join our newsletter to learn more about your pet's behavior.