2. Food

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What Every Cat and Dog Needs Every Day…

The Right Kind and Amount of Food to Maintain Body Weight

Malnourished dog


A well-fed dog is not overfed or underfed. Too little or too much food can negatively impact the welfare of a dog. You should be able to feel a dog’s ribs and see their waist when viewed from above. How much and what kind of food a dog needs will depend on its health, size and how active they are.

Foods a Dog Should Not Eat

Many foods that are good for people are not good for dogs. Some of these foods are simply not easily digestible for dogs while others can be fatal. Don’t feed dogs human food such as:

  • Grapes and raisins
  • Chocolate
  • Anything with caffeine in it
  • Onions, garlic, chives
  • Raw or undercooked egg
  • Raw fish
  • Nuts and salty snacks
  • Alcohol
  • Anything with the sweetener Xylitol (an artificial sweetener that can be found in many products from gum to peanut butter)
  • Yeast dough
  • Products containing Cannabis.

A dog needs to eat at least once a day (ideally twice) and to eat without disruptions.

What does the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association’s Code of Practice for Kennels say about feeding? 

“Good nutrition is an essential component in the raising of healthy dogs. Nutrient requirements differ from dog to dog and vary with age, activity level, environmental conditions and physiological state (e.g., pregnancy, lactation and weaning). Food type, amount, and frequency of feeding should be adjusted accordingly. A veterinarian or qualified animal nutritionist can help choose an appropriate diet. 

Excellent, high-quality, commercially prepared dog foods are widely available that meet the nutritional requirements of puppies, adults and senior dogs. 

Puppies and growing young dogs (up to 18 months of age in the giant breeds) require the extra protein, calcium, phosphorus and energy provided in good-quality puppy food. 

Pregnant and nursing bitches also require appropriate nutritional supplementation and need to be free-fed a high quality, highly digestible, nutrient rich puppy food during the last three weeks of pregnancy and while nursing puppies.

Dogs should be fed a minimum of once every 24 hours and ideally should be fed twice daily.

Some large breed dogs are prone to gastric dilation (bloat) and should be fed smaller meals 2 to 3 times per day. 

After weaning, puppies should be fed a minimum of three times per day until they approach two thirds of their ideal adult weight, and then twice daily through to mature weight.

If an owner chooses to feed a homemade diet, it must be complete and nutritionally balanced. A properly formulated recipe must be appropriate to the life stage of the dog, and the correct ingredients must be used consistently. Substituted or omitted ingredients can unbalance the ration, especially over time. A veterinarian should be consulted for recipes and advice, and meat must be cooked thoroughly to eliminate bacteria and parasites. Raw diets should not be fed due to nutrient imbalances and deficiencies as well as the risk of foodborne pathogens.” 

Excerpts obtained from the Code of Practice for Kennel Operations (3rd Edition, 2018), Canadian Veterinary Medical Association.


Cats are physiologically designed to eat several small meals a day. A weaned kitten or adult cat needs to eat at least twice a day, unless a veterinarian suggests otherwise. The food should be:

  • Free from contamination (any substance that might harm the cat).
  • Wholesome and appealing to the cat.
  • The right amount to help a kitten grow or to maintain an adult cat’s body weight.
  • In a clean bowl. To keep a cat’s food bowl clean, sanitize it often by putting it in the dishwasher or washing it with hot soapy water. A dirty bowl can allow mold and bacteria to grow, or old cat food to cake onto the sides.

Foods a Cat Should Not Eat

There are some human foods that a cat should not eat. Some of these foods are simply not easily digestible for cats while others can be fatal. Don’t feed cats human food such as:

  • Grapes and raisins (can cause kidney failure in cats)
  • Chocolate 
  • Anything with caffeine in it (can be fatal)
  • Onions, garlic and related root vegetables
  • Green tomatoes and green (raw) potatoes 
  • Raw eggs or raw fish (can cause food poisoning from bacteria)
  • Alcohol (has the same effect on cats as it does on humans, except that cats are much smaller, so a few teaspoons of alcohol can harm or even kill a cat)
  • Human medicines (some pain killers have ingredients that can kill a cat)
  • Products containing Cannabis.

A cat needs to eat at least twice a day, in a place where it does not have to compete with other cats for food.

Cats are solitary hunters and do not enjoy eating in groups. It’s important to provide a space for your cat to eat so that other cats are not in close proximity. 

Despite what we see in the movies (cats drinking saucer of milk), many adult cats cannot tolerate milk and dairy products. Their digestive system does not process the lactose in dairy foods. If cats are provided with meat, all fat should be trimmed off first.

All bones, and chicken bones in particular, can splinter and tear a cat’s internal organs and therefore should be avoided. Cats are obligate carnivores and require more protein in their diet compared to dogs. Therefore, a cat should not eat dog food regularly as it lacks sufficient protein, as well as vitamins and fatty acids that cats need.

What does the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association’s Code of Practice for Catteries say about feeding?

“Weaned kittens and adult cats should be fed at least twice a day, unless otherwise specified by a veterinarian. Food should be free from contamination and should be wholesome, palatable, and of sufficient quantity and nutritive value to meet the normal daily requirements for the condition and size of the cat.

Food must be provided in sufficient amounts to ensure normal growth in kittens and maintenance of normal body weight in adults. 

Feeding dishes are to be kept clean. Self-feeders may be used for the feeding of dry food and should be sanitized regularly to prevent mold, deterioration or caking of food.”

Excerpts from the Code of Practice for Cattery Operations (2009) by the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association have been used with permission.

Photo courtesy of Erica Cheung

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