Calorie Counting for Pets

A cat eating

Calorie Counting for Pets

Now 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?

A 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.

Snacks 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

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