How do you feed your pet?

While any container you can drink liquid out of can be called a cup, when it comes to feeding your pets, it is important to keep in mind that “a cup” is actually a defined unit of volume measurement.

Now it does get a bit confusing, since the 8 ounces in “a cup” refers to ounces of volume, rather than ounces of weight. And that confusion can be further compounded by the fact that the volume in a fluid measuring cup isn’t exactly the same as that in a dry measuring cup.

Fortunately though, those particulars aren’t really that important here. When it comes to your pet’s weight and their overall health, what is important is that an empty “Big Gulp” cup, an empty take out food container, and any other of the myriad of empty containers that people so frequently use to scoop their pet’s food are not the “cups” that the feeding recommendations on the back of pet food bags are talking about. These measuring cups are.

Use proper measuring cups

Why is this important? Because the pet obesity rate in the U.S. (and in many other countries, too) has truly ballooned to epidemic proportions. And while overfeeding a pet their regular food isn’t the only contributing factor, it certainly is a big one — and it’s one that’s easy to change.
You can help your pet (and yourself) by getting a set of dry measuring cups specifically for your pet’s food, they’re inexpensive and easy to find. Or you can make feeding even more precise, without spending too much more money, by getting a small kitchen scale to weigh the amount of food you’re feeding your pets (recommendations based on grams are also frequently given on the back of pet food bags).

Other simple steps to help your pets achieve and maintain their ideal weight and body condition

  • Do you give your cats or dogs any treats? Consider breaking those treats in half (or quarters). Or switch to low calorie or “training” treats. Pets care most about getting the treat and positive feedback from you, they don’t necessarily care how big the treat is.
  • Replace some (or all) of their higher calorie treats with pieces of carrot, green beans, or apple (no apple seeds, though). Or make your own dehydrated chicken, beef, or liver treats.
  • Take your dog for more frequent or longer walks. Get your cat moving by playing with a laser pointer or another interactive toy (just exercise caution when using strings or any other string-like objects).
  • Talk to your veterinarian to see if there might be an underlying medical problem that could be contributing to your pet’s excessive weight (such as a low-functioning thyroid, over-active adrenal gland, a build up of fluid, or one of any other number of possible underlying conditions). If not, talk to them about a safe and effective weight reduction plan.
  • If your pet is a “grazer” (they don’t eat all their food at once and eat slowly throughout the day) you still need to properly measure out their food to ensure proper nutrition and the correct amount of calories each day. Don’t just keep arbitrarily filling their bowl.

And should you have to get weight off your cat or dog, please note that weight loss in pets should be slow and steady to be safe and effective. Typically cats and dogs should lose no more than 1-2% of their body weight each week.

Source:, Authored by Jason Nicholas, BVetMed

Kitten Season is Here!

Spring marks the beginning of kitten season, when babies are born to community cats who have not yet been trapped, neutered, and returned. Taking home a kitten found outdoors is not necessarily a good idea. Alley Cat Allies offers the following springtime kitten-protection tips:


  1. Leave kittens with mom. Like all babies, kittens are best left with their mothers who instinctively know how to help their offspring grow up to be strong and healthy cats. Neonatal kittens, 4 weeks old or younger, need constant care and still depend on mom for 100 percent of their food. Kittens 5 to 8 weeks old can begin to eat wet food but are still being weaned. If you know the mother is present, it is best to leave kittens with her. To determine whether the mother is caring for the kittens, wait and observe for two-to- four hours to see if the mother returns. She could just be out looking for food. If she doesn’t return, the kittens could be abandoned. A young kitten living outdoors who does not have a mother present should be taken in and fostered. To determine the age of a kitten, use Alley Cat Allies’ Kitten Progression Chart
  1. Don’t bring neonatal kittens to an animal shelter. Most shelters are not equipped or trained to provide the necessary round-the-clock care for neonatal kittens. If a kitten can’t eat on his own, he will likely be killed at the shelter. Realistically, it’s never a good idea to take a cat to a shelter, no matter the age or level of socialization. More than 70 percent of cats who enter shelters are killed. That number rises to virtually 100 percent for feral cats. Killing is never the answer—it is inhumane and it fails to stabilize or reduce outdoor cat populations.
  2. Volunteer as a kitten foster parent for a local rescue group. There are kitten foster parent programs associated with rescue groups across the country. Though it is an investment of time and requires training, volunteering to foster young kittens is lifesaving and rewarding.
  3. Support and practice Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR).TNR is the only effective and humane way of decreasing feral cat populations. In a TNR program, community cats are humanely trapped and brought to a veterinarian to be spayed or neutered, vaccinated, and eartipped (the universal symbol that a cat has been neutered and vaccinated) before being returned to their outdoor homes. Learn more about TNR at and neutering community cats prevents new litters, drastically reducing the impact of kitten season. Cats as young as 4 months can have litters, so it is important to spay and neuter kittens as soon as they are ready. A good rule of thumb is the 2 Pound Spay/Neuter Rule—kittens can be safely spayed or neutered at 2 months of age or as soon as they weigh 2 pounds. Learn more about pediatric spay and neuter at
  4. Advocate for policies and programs that protect cats.Contact your shelter and local officials and tell them you support lifesaving policies for cats, including spay/neuter funding and spay/neuter before adoption. Write letters and call in support of community outreach and education programs that spread awareness about community cats and TNR– you can make a big difference.

Check out for a comprehensive guide to caring for kittens.


Dog Body Language 101

Signs of a fearful or stressed dog:

  • Head down/held low (may be turned away from other dogs/people)
  • Tail low or tucked between legs (may wag weakly)
  • Mouth closed/may see wrinkles at corners of mouth
  • Ears held back/low (if tall ears: they may stick out to the sides or be folded against the head)
  • Hair on the back may be raised (esp. near the tail)
  • May roll on his back with belly exposed
  • May urinate while crouching or on his back
  • May “freeze” and be stiff all over/glassy eyed or will show body tension and stiff movements
  • May try to run away (usually with tail tucked and head low)
  • May growl, snap, show teeth or whine
  • May repeatedly bark with a short, high-pitched yap or yelp
  • May be constantly moving, restless or have decreased activity levels
  • Won’t sleep or rest
  • May try to hide in or behind things
  • Quick yawning (looks nervous, not tired)
  • Excessive drooling, “ropes”
  • Trembling
  • Feet sweaty (leaves paw prints that evaporate quickly)
  • Disinterested in food
  • Shallow or rapid breathing
  • Excessive and/or sudden hair loss
  • White rim of eye showing more than usual
  • Muscle ridge visible around the eyes or mouth
  • May show calming signals like lip licking, ground sniffing, shaking (like when wet) or
  • scratching (like he has an itch).


Signs of an aggressive dog:

  • Head and tail held high and stiff
  • Stiff body movements
  • Direct eye contact
  • Lips curled/ teeth showing
  • May growl or bark menacingly (deep and throaty)
  • Hair on back may be raised (but not usually near the base of the tail)
  • Shoves, throws or pins another dog to the ground while growling
  • Bites & shakes another dog’s neck or shoulders while giving a serious growl (not a play growl)
  • (not to be confused with playing where the dog’s body will be supple & relaxed)



Combating Pet Weight Gain

Even for the most active among us, its tough to keep up our fitness levels year-round.  As tough as it may seem for you, think about how difficult it must be for our dogs and cats, who are not in full control of their exercise habits. You may not want to go to the gym, but your pup doesn’t have that choice.  His health and fitness, and therefore, his weight gain, is entirely in your hands.

Most importantly, schedule a pet health exam with your pet’s doctor at Rita Ranch Pet Hospital.  With any change in health status, such as weight loss or gain, and exam is warranted to and make sure there are not major health issues.



Try to limit the amount of treats you and other family members feed your pet. You may not think they’re getting too much, but don’t forget that unless you live alone, there is probably more than one person feeding your pet. Set a limit of how many treats each of your family members are allowed to disburse on a daily basis. This will ensure no one is doing any overfeeding.

If you are changing food brands make sure you double-check the dosage, “a scoop” can vary across different types of food.  In fact, every type and variety of dog food has a different amount of kilocalories per cup.  Think about it this way, 1 cup of salad has less calories than 1 cup of candy.


Walk, walk, walk.  If you have a neighbor with a dog, schedule your walks together! This way you can keep each other in check and ensure you don’t miss days.  Taking your dog to a dog park is even better than walking. Running and bounding with other dogs is the best way to tackle those extra winter pounds.


If your dealing with your cat’s winter weight, get on all fours and start playing! Just 10 minutes of active play daily can dramatically impact your cat’s weight and overall health.  Pick up some new toys and catnip! As you know, cats can get bored quickly and freshening up their methods of entertainment on a regular basis can keep them active and help drop any extra pounds.


If you feel your pet is dramatically overweight, give us call.  Your pet’s veterinarian at Rita Ranch Pet Hospital can help you develop a plan to deal with the problem, or diagnose any underlying issue that may be causing weight gain. Together we can get your pet on the right track to spring into optimal health!