Calorie Counting for Pets

fat-cat-and-dog1Now that spring is here, the dieting we promised ourselves at the start of the new year begins in earnest. We also know that to lose 1 pound per week, we need to decrease our caloric intake by 500 calories per day to equal 3,500 calories per week, the equivalent of 1 pound.

What does this mean to our furry family members? Obesity is the major nutritional disorder of both dogs and cats and we need to be concerned about the impact of excess weight on their health. Overweight pets are prone to lung problems, arthritis, bladder problems and even some types of cancer.

How does our behavior affect the weight of the family pet?
beagle-ice-cream1A golf ball sized serving of ice cream contains 73 calories. If you give your 20 pound beagle a ¼ cup serving as a treat once a week, that translates to a 1 pound increase in body weight per year. That would equal 9 pounds for an average adult man.

A ¼ cup serving of whole milk contains 38 calories. If you give your 10 pound cat a ¼ cup of whole milk once a week for a year, that translates to just over an additional ½ pound per year to its body weight. That would be 7 pounds for an average adult woman.

So, how can you avoid packing the pounds on Fluffy or Fido?  First, only 10% of your pet’s daily caloric requirement should come from treats and second, the rest of Fluffy or Fido’s daily nutrients should consist of complete and balanced pet food to ensure your pet has adequate nutrition. You might also try substituting healthy snacks in limited quantities.

Calories in 1 small Milk Bone dog biscuit = 20
Calories in 4 baby carrots = 20
Calories in level cup of air popped popcorn = 31

A 40 pound Wheaton Terrier needs about 670 calories per day.  Therefore it should have no more than 67 calories of snack per day. Sixty-seven calories is equivalent to 2.5 small Milk Bones or 12 baby carrots or 2 cups of air popped popcorn.

cat-eating1Snacks for cats are more difficult due to their finicky nature. Your 10 pound cat needs about 205 calories per day. Therefore it should have no more than 20 calories of snack per day. This is ¾ cup of air popped popcorn. For example, the label on Pounce Treats indicates 18-24 treat pieces is 10% of this cat’s daily nutritional requirement. I suggest you count out the pieces at the beginning of the day and place them in a small bowl.  Then when they are gone, you know you have used up the treat allowance for the day.

What to Do if You Think Your Pet is Overweight
If you think your pet is overweight, talk with your veterinarian who can give you advice on a proper diet and exercise program. Your veterinarian will determine if there are any other medical problems contributing to your pet’s obesity and give you advice on how fast your pet should lose weight.

The Tina Santi Flaherty Rehabilitation & Fitness Service at The Animal Medical Center
The only facility of its kind in New York City, The AMC’s Rehabilitation and Fitness Service provides innovative and state-of-the-art therapies for cats, dogs, birds and exotic animals. The Service specializes in non-invasive therapies to prevent the need for surgery, and in cases where surgery has been performed, it helps to accelerate and achieve a more complete recovery. Therapies offered include hydrotherapy, treadmills and deep-tissue ultrasound, as well as holistic therapies such as Reiki and Acupressure.

The Service is directed by a team of professionals who are experts in the rehabilitative care of companion animals, including New York City’s only Certified Canine Rehabilitation Practitioners and Therapists.

The Rehabilitation and Fitness Service Staff
Deirdre Chiaramonte, DVM, DACVIM
Renee Shumway, LVT, CCRP
Taisha Gonzalez, LMT, LVT, CCRP
Shawna Sheridan, LVT

To reach the Rehabilitation and Fitness Service, call 212.329.8610 or email

For more information about The Animal Medical Center or to make a donation, visit

12 Responses to Calorie Counting for Pets

  1. Sorry your cat is so sick. You don’t mention any blood test or x-ray results from your trip to the veterinary office. If none have been done, I suggest you ask your veterinarian what are appropriate tests. If they have been done and are normal, I would consider an ultrasound. For cats that won’t eat, The AMC commonly uses feeding tubes so we can provide all the nutrition a cat needs in a way easy for both the owner and cat. Good luck and let us know what happens.

  2. margaret gold says:

    I am trying to keep my sickly 12 year old cat alive…he is the same cat except thinner and turning his head at all cat foods… he will eat treats…so I give his some along with several squirts of turkey babyfood by syringe…
    he has been to the vet and medicine made him throw up… I just want him stable and for his hunder to return…evn a little.
    any thoughts

  3. Elizabeth Swinney says:

    I spent hundreds of dollars trying to figure out what my dog was allergic to and went to the vet and got shots etc. then one day the milk bone treats ran out and I didn’t replace them for a few weeks. I found out in that two week period of time my dog stopped itching. go figure! All that money could have been saved if I only would have given it some thought.

  4. Calorie Calculator…

    […]Calorie Counting for Pets « Fur the Love of Pets[…]…

  5. […] the amount of calories to 10% of your pet’s daily calorie requirement. Your veterinarian can help you assess how many calories […]

  6. Qiana Lanzillo says:

    Awesome blog you got going on. This site runs on wordpress right?

  7. We are using a standard WordPress template, so if the problem persists, you may want to contact WordPress to remedy this issue. My apologies for the inconvenience.

  8. Elvin Strowbridge says:

    Hey, I’m having a problem viewing your site in my browser. Could you please check this. My browser is Opera 7 btw.

  9. Thank you so much for your comments and for reading the AMC blog!

  10. Judy says:

    Thank you for this great articles on pet obesity. I have a real ‘pet’ peeve with overweight, uncomfortable pets and the unnecessary health risks that can be so easily avoided. I wanted to let you know about this new pet-friendly scale, that they weigh themselves on, as a simple tool to keep an eye on your pets weight as it is easier to maintain proper weight than it is to implement and keep our furry friends on a diet regimen. I was hoping you would mention it as an option to everyone out there trying to figure out how to keep their pet fit, trim and healthy. It can be a real challenge and I am hopeful that this product will promote good health for more pets because of its ease of use.
    Thank you for taking such good care of our furry friends,
    Judy (NY, NY)

  11. Hi, Fiona!

    A friend of mine and Labrador lover always said, “Labs can gain weight on air.” I know of no scientific research that documents why Labs or any other obesity prone dog is likely to pack on the pounds. Clearly their tempermant contributes to it and so does ours…since it is so fun to give them snacks. Try throwing a ball or putting the snacks in a feeding toy to help limit calorie intake.

    Thanks for reading The AMC Blog!

  12. This is a really useful post. My labrador ZsaZsa is slightly overweight but eats the same as my little mongrel. However ZsaZsa is a bit of a snackoholic and I had no idea there were so many calories in little dog biscuits!

    Labradors are problem dogs in the food department though, aren’t they? isn’t it something to do with their having fat on the outside or something (she says desperately!)

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