Our pets love it when we feed them – but it can be a trap if we overdo it.

When your dog or cat is clamouring for their dinner, it's easy to overdo the spoonfuls - and pet health experts recommend keeping a close eye on portion control.

Accidental overfeeding - especially giving pets too much food as a way of showing love - is a common among pet owners and is be easy to do.

Just as we think about our own overall energy intake to maintain a healthy weight, we need to keep an eye on how much our pets are eating, says Sam Boston, pet advisor at the Real Petfood Company, manufacturers of the Jimbo's brand.

She frequently receives calls from pet owners concerned about their animal's weight, and asking how to manage it.


"I deal with this on a daily basis," says Boston. "People might think they are doing the right thing and only feeding their cat or dog quality pet food but what they might not realise is that they are giving them too much."

On its own packaging and website, Jimbo's includes suggested daily feeding guides, based on the size of the pet and on a moderate activity level.

For example, a small cat might only require 1.5 dessertspoons (120 g) a day of raw beef cat food, and a medium-sized dog just four dessertspoons (350 g).

A less active pet, such as one recovering from surgery, would need less food; more active, working dogs, for example, need more.

"You can tell if your dog is at a healthy weight by running your hands along its sides - you should just be able to feel their ribcage. It's not a bad thing to be able to feel a dog's ribs," she says. Cats tend to develop a bit of a tummy when they are overweight, so check your feline is not getting too rotund.

"People tend to err on the side of feeding too much rather than too little, but overfeeding is much more detrimental to their health than many people realise," says Boston.

Another mistake owners make is adding snacks and treats to their pet's diet, without reducing the amount of their regular feed to compensate.

"It's a bit like human diet - if you add something onto it, unless you eat a little less somewhere else, that will result in weight gain," Boston says. "We recommend that no more than around ten per cent of an animal's total food intake is in the form of healthy treats - and that meal quantities are reduced accordingly."

A further no-no is slipping your pet morsels of human food, whether it's scraps after dinner or a little bit of what you're munching on the couch.

"Dogs and cats have no need for vegetables or carbohydrates and they certainly don't need sugar," says Boston. "They get all the nutrients they require through protein sources.

"Also, when you cook meat, it de-natures the proteins in it, so they are less digestible for pets. Cooking also makes any bones in the meat more brittle, which can be dangerous."

Boston says while feeding might be an act of love, and many pet owners express their affection for their animals through food, it is much kinder to keep them healthy.

"For your pet, being overweight is just going to cause them health problems in the long term. It is much kinder and more loving to give them what they need to stay healthy."