By Ann Hohenhaus, DVM, DACVIM
In my last blog I wrote about Pusuke, the world’s oldest dog and the role of breed and size in dog longevity. Every pet owner dreams of having their beloved cat or dog with them for many, many years. But do you know you could be doing something which might decrease your pet’s longevity? That something is overfeeding.
Every living creature needs food to survive. 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 its life.
Ideal body condition score
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. At The Animal Medical Center, we record the body condition score of each pet we examine using a separate system for dogs and cats.
Portion size matters
Portion control is critical to maintaining an ideal body condition. An article in the New York Times about kitchen scales made me think of another worthwhile use for your kitchen scale: weighing pet food. It is so easy to be too generous when you use a scoop or cup to serve up a portion of dry food nuggets. When I prescribe a cup of food, I mean a level cup, not the heaping one I suspect pet owners are serving. 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. Now, I prescribe pet food in grams – easily weighed on your kitchen scale. Busy pet owners might 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 by putting the feeding bowl on the scale using the tare button. 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.
Portion control will go a long way toward keeping your pet at their ideal body condition and healthy for a long time. If you need help deciding on the best kitchen scale for your kitchen, try Cook’s Illustrated.