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How to Feed Your Pet

Many of us have gotten spoiled just leaving bowls of food (and water) down so that our pets can nibble or sip whenever they choose throughout the day. But is this really the best way to feed them? There are two schools of thought about the best way to feed your pet. Keep in mind, what works best for one animal, may not work well for another.

Some veterinarians will recommend “meal feeding” – offering a measured amount of food at a specific time usually for 20-45 minutes twice daily. Although it may involve more work and forethought, it has many benefits. Below you will find some of the benefits of meal feeding:

  • There may be a decreased frequency of constipation.
  • This is the best way to control the amount of calories that are ingested. For pets on a weight loss plan this is crucial.
  • Many veterinarians feel this is a more natural way for cats and dogs to eat as this is how they would eat in the wild.
  • You will know if your diabetic pet has eaten before insulin is given. This is very important to avoid low blood sugar and possibly an emergency situation. In addition, the food then becomes a reward after the injection.

Other veterinarians recommend “free feeding” – food being accessible throughout the day and night. Here are the benefits of free feeding:

  • It is more convenient for an owner on a busy schedule.
  • Diabetic animals have will access to food when their blood sugar may be low.
  • Some pets will fight with each other when awaiting a meal. (This can be also be solved by putting food out quickly, having several feet between bowls and making sure each pet has their own bowl or plate.)
  • Some pets like to nibble throughout the day and may not adjust well to eating on a schedule.
  • Some pets are less anxious when food is available at all times.

If you are considering changing the way you feed your pet it must be done very gradually. Never start a meal feeding plan and take the food away if your pet will not eat, expecting that they will eventually eat when they are hungry enough. Serious health consequences such as “hepatic lipidosis” can occur. This condition is also called “fatty liver” syndrome and can strike cats especially quickly, even after only a few days of no food. Instead, offer food several times daily over the course of days to weeks until they are comfortable with this new arrangement and you are sure they are eating enough. If you are going to begin feeding this way because your pet is diabetic and you want to make sure they eat before an injection, it is best to wait until your pet is well stabilized. Special attention must be paid during those times of feeding changes as blood glucose levels may fluctuate. Whichever way you choose, mealtime should be a pleasant experience for your pet; after all, they too deserve a fine dining experience!

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