Now that you’ve decided to put your dog on a raw food diet, the next question is how much raw dog food diet to feed your dog. There are so many suggestions flying around, it could literally make your head swim. If you’re confused about where to start, don’t worry, we got you.
There’s a simple formula that can help you decide just how much raw dog food diet to feed your dog. In fact, the experts say that if you follow these feeding guidelines, it’s possible to add a couple of years to your dog’s life.
So, are you ready? Then come with us.
Watch this video where a dog behaviorist explains how raw feeding can benefit your dog.
Methods To Determine How Much Raw Dog Food Diet To Feed Your Dog
When it comes to deciding how much raw food to feed your dog, there are two methods you can use to make that decision.
- You can feed your dog according to body weight percentage.
- You can also use the calorie-counting method.
Of these two methods, many experts seem to prefer the caloric method. Problem is it tends to get confusing in the beginning. And because of this, potential raw feeders tend to run away from raw feeding altogether.
It isn’t easy to calculate the volume of raw food you want to feed your dog using the caloric method and not many raw feeders can even carry out this method. In the first place, it’s even quite difficult getting the nutrition data for all the foods in the raw diet.
For instance, there’s almost nowhere you can find the correct caloric count for these popular items in raw diets such as: select raw meaty bones (like chicken necks, tails, backs, feet and the likes); less common organ meats and offal (such as spleen, pancreas, kidney, and the likes); some particular exotic meats as well.
Of course, it goes without saying, if you don’t know have the nutrition data of the food items in the diet, there’s no way you can count the calories.
On the other hand, we have the body weight percentage method. This is a very easy method and most raw feeders are able to use it, even the newest of the newbies. Another thing about this method is that it is versatile. It can work for any raw diet type. So, if you’re just starting out the raw dog diet journey, the body weight percentage method is your best method for now. As you become more familiar with raw food feeding, you can always consider exploring the calorie-counting method.
The Body Weight Percentage Formula — How Much Raw Dog Food Diet to Feed Your Dog
With this method, you will be determining how much your dog is going to be eating using his body weight. Ideally, you want to feed your dog between 2 to 3% of his ideal, adult body weight every day.
There are five steps to get this done.
- Determine your dog breeds ideal adult body weight.
- Determine your dog’s activity level as well.
- Adjust the diet accordingly for weight control or weight gain.
- Make special considerations for the different life stages.
- Consider your dog’s size.
Step 1: Determine Your Dog’s Ideal Adult Body Weight
The first thing you want to find out is what your dog should weigh as an adult. Note, you’re not determining your dog’s current body weight. You are supposed to find out what your dog is supposed to weigh for an adult of his breed.
Here are a few tips that can help you in this step.
Consider Your Dog’s Breed
You can do some research to find out what an average male or female of your dog’s breed should weigh. It’s usually a range, so go with either the lower number in the range or the average number in the range.
If your dog is a mixed breed, then research the breeds involved and logically try to decide what a proper, ideal weight should be.
Ask Your Vet
Of course, your vet can definitely help you determine what a healthy adult of your dog’s breed should weigh. At least, they should be able to give you a range that your dog’s weight should fall within.
We’ve also got some information that should help you. Click here to read How Big Can A Dog Get?
Just like humans, dogs are also individuals. They cannot all be the same size even if they are of the same breed and gender. Some will be leaner, others will be bigger. Besides, metabolisms vary among dogs as well and that also has a significant impact on dog weight.
This is the reason body condition is, perhaps, the most important tool for determining the ideal weight for your particular dog.
Body condition is like the Body Mass Index (BMI) equivalent for dogs. On a BMI chart, you find factors such as sex, age, and height are all used to determine a healthy weight range for individuals. Body condition kind of serves a similar purpose but this time for dogs.
For body condition, the chart usually lists different weights ranging from emaciated to obese based on your dog’s body condition, i.e. his body fat, appearance, and shape.
You can click here to access that a graphic that might help you learn canine body condition scores. This should be your primary tool in determining an ideal adult body weight for your dog.
Write Down Your Dog’s Ideal Adult Body Weight
Once you’ve been able to determine your dog’s ideal adult body weight, you need to write that number down as you will be using it in all of your calculations.
So, say your dog’s ideal body weight is roughly 40 pounds. Remember that you’re supposed to feed your dog about 2 to 3% of that number. How much raw dog food diet to feed your dog will therefore range from 0.8 pounds to 1.2 pounds of food every day.
Now, this is great, you have been able to come up with a range. However, this isn’ exactly specific. The next few factors we will be discussing will help us narrow it down further to a more specific percentage.
Step 2: Determine Your Dog’s Activity Level
Your dog’s activity level is a very important factor you must take into determining how much raw dog food diet to feed your dog.
Now, get real with yourself, at least, how much exercise does your dog get on the average? For most dogs these days, their activity level is either average or low. Most dogs are couch potatoes because their caregivers are almost always at work. It’s only few dogs who even get lucky enough to get play and walk sessions every day.
One problem many dog owners face is that they make assumptions about their dog’s level of activity. Of course, in most cases, they assume their dogs to be far more active than they actually are. In turn, they feed them more food than they actually need.
Here’s a guide to help you feed your dog based on his activity level.
Most companion dogs or lap dogs are in the “inactive dogs” category. They are usually lying around in the house for the most part and hardly go out except for short walk and play sessions or if they need to potty.
If this is your dog, then keep the raw diet to 2% of his body weight in order to keep him at a healthy body weight.
Averagely Active Dogs
If your dog gets an hour or up to several hours of exercise every day, then he’s averagely active. In this case, you can feed your dog between 2 to 3 %. However, capping it at 2.5% might be more ideal.
Dogs that are considered active get plenty of exercise on a daily basis. These dogs are mostly out of the house, exerting themselves through walks or play sessions. These dogs are usually engaged in adventurous activities with their owners ranging from running, to hiking, to biking, to hunting, and other similar activities.’
If this is your dog, then you need to feed your dog, at least 2.5% of his weight or more to keep him at a healthy weight.
Working Dogs And Canine Athletes
Working dogs and canine athletes can have really varying dietary needs. It really depends on what your dog does and how often he does what he does. Some might be okay with the 2 to 3% of their body weight rule of thumb. On the other hand, some might require more, beginning at 3.5% to 5% of their body weight.
Now, all that said, don’t get too hung up on activity level. It is important but there’s a way around it. Most dogs fall into the averagely active or inactive dog categories anyway. So, for most cases, 2% of your dog’s body weight is enough raw food dog diet volume to feed your dog per day.
However, if you believe your dog to be more active than that, you can bump it up to 2.5 to 3% of their ideal body weight.
Step 3; Adjust Diet Accordingly For Weight Loss Or Weight Gain
After determining your dog’s ideal adult body weight and his activity level, the next important step to take is to measure your dog’s current body weight. Your dog’s current body weight will also play a vital role in determining how much raw food dog diet you are to feed your dog.
If you measure your dog’s body weight and it falls within the ideal body weight as determined in the first step, then you’re good to go. You can skip this step.
However, if you found that your dog’s current body condition isn’t ideal, or your dog is overweight or significantly underweight, then you’d have to adjust your dog’s diet either to help your dog lose weight or to help him gain some weight.
if you’re increasing or decreasing your dog’s food, you should always start with small increments beginning with .25%, then slowly graduating to .5% and so on. Of course, as you do this, you can’t possibly expect your dog to suddenly experience a weight gain or weight loss. Not even in a week’s time. So, give your dog time as he begins on his adjusted diet.
Here’s how to adjust your dog’s raw food diet depending on his current body weight.
If your dog is emaciated or malnourished like most rescue dogs are, they could practically look like skin and bones. If this is your dog, the best thing to do is to see your vet. Such dogs usually have special health considerations and your vet is in the best position to point them out and offer a solution.
If your dog is thin, then begin with feeding him 2.5 to 3% of his ideal body weight to trigger weight gain. If he needs more than that, then do the increment gradually. From 3.25% to 3.5% and on and on until your dog has achieved his ideal body condition.
You want to serve this portion as three to four smaller meals throughout the day. If extras are needed, then you can include some digestible raw meaty parts, bone, bone broth, goats’ milk, etc.
For dog owners with heavy dogs, the idea is to lose weight, right? So, begin with feeding him 2% of his ideal body weight and then decrease incrementally like we have explained before until your dog reaches the proper body condition for his gender, age, and breed (please don’t fall below 1.5% whatever the case).
Of course, don’t forget exercise. It’s a very important part of your dog’s weight loss routine.
If your dog is obese, then you should be feeding between 1.5% and decrease as needed. However, please try not to fall below 1.5% whatever the case may be.
Lastly, exercise is your dog’s friend.
Step 4: Special Considerations For Different Life Stages
Feeding puppies a raw dog food diet is almost the same as feeding their adult parents. The main difference between both is that puppies tend to eat more as their bodies are undergoing a lot of rapid changes and developments.
You can begin feeding your puppies a raw food diet immediately. There are many raw feeders who have weaned their puppies from their mother straight to raw food and their puppies thrived (some vets do not agree with this, though). So, if you’re just bringing in your puppy(ies), you can begin with raw feeding immediately.
Now, there are two options to help you determine how much raw food dog diet to feed your puppy dog.
You can feed them 2 to 3% of their expected adult weight (read our article: How Big Can My Puppy Get for more information). It’s easier to determine this with purebred dogs. However, the aforementioned article can show you how to determine ideal body weight for a mixed breed puppy.
Your other option would work if you can’t figure out or can’t be bothered about finding out how much your dog is likely to weigh as an adult. You simply begin by feeding your puppy 10% of their current body weight per day.
As usual, you’d need to record your growing puppy’s daily weight. So, using this, you will keep adjusting their meals until they become adults. For large breed puppies that are too big to be weighed at home, you can get to any Petsmart or Petco store around. There should be scales there that you can use.
All that said, there’s something very important you must keep in mind.
The moment 10% of your puppy’s daily weight begins to equal or exceed 2 to 3% of his ideal adult body weight, you should stop using this method. Instead, start feeding him 2 to 3% of your puppy’s ideal adult weight.
A Good Feeding Regimen For Your New Puppy
Feed 8 to 10% of your puppy’s current body weight if he is between 2 to 4 months.’
For puppies between 4 and 6 months old, feed them 6 to 8% of their current body weight.
Feed 4 to 6% of their current body weight if they are between 6 to 8 months, and 3 to 4% of their current body weight if they are between 8 to 12 months old.
From one year and upward, begin to feed your dog 2 to 3% of his ideal adult body weight.
Don’t Forget The Body Condition Rule
Don’t forget the body condition rule as it also applies to puppies as well. There are puppy body condition scores that tell you if your puppy is too thin or overweight. With that information, you’d have to adjust your puppy’s rations accordingly just as we did with adult dogs.
Make sure you don’t determine whether your puppy is at a healthy weight or not based on people’s opinions. Most dogs in the US are obese or overweight, about 54% of them. So, people’s perception of dog weight is generally warped.
As your puppy grows, he will first of all appear to look gangly but he is still growing so this is only normal. An emaciated and underweight body condition is very different from a growing puppy body condition. If you’re not sure though, you can always talk with your vet.
When you raw feed your dog, you should treat them like puppies in terms of their feeding volume. Once you’ve confirmed that your dog is pregnant, you should start increasing your dog’s food volume from 2 to 3% of her ideal body weight to 4 to 5%.
After the puppies have been born, you can stay within the 4 to 5% range or you might need to increase it, depending. The period just before you wean the puppies will be the point where your mama dog would need the highest volume of food.
Once the puppies have been weaned, you can then return to the 2 to 3% range in a short time.
There’s not really much of a difference in what you feed older dogs. However, if your dog is not a very active dog, then you might need to decrease his food volume a little bit.
Step 5: Consider Your Dog’s Size
When you want to determine how much raw dog food diet to feed your dog, avoid working with a linear feeding mindset. That is, don’t assume that food volume will increase linearly as size increases. So, it’s not true that a 25-pound dog would eat half of what a 50-pound dog would et. that’s not how it works.
In fact, smaller dogs eat more considering their body weight than larger dogs. Souly Raw, a raw feeding expert explains that small breed adults should always begin at a higher percentage of food per day. And you should never feed your small breed adult less than 4 ounces of food every day. It’s not enough.
She suggests the regimen below as a guideline, of course, adjusting for body condition where necessary.
For dogs at 10 pounds and under, feed 4 ounces per day.
Dogs at 20 pounds and under should be fed 6 ounces per day.
Finally, dogs at 30 pounds and under should eat about 10 ounces of raw food per day.
Most small toy breeds and small dogs are overweight mostly because dog parents ar always convinced that their dogs are too thin and always feel that urge to fatten them up. Toy breeds consume a lot of treats in comparison to large dogs and are notorious for being spoiled with food.
If your small breed is like this, you need to make some lifestyle changes for the sake of your dog’s health. Overfeeding your dog won’t help him in the long run.
This video helps you with a guide to feeding your dog raw food.
Some Frequently Asked Questions Concerning How Much Raw Dog Food Diet You Can Feed Your Dog
My Dog Is Begging, Is He Hungry?
The thing about healthy dogs is that they are almost always ready to eat. So, if they see food anywhere, they are very likely going to get interested and want to eat. That’s their natural behavior.
You should never take your dog’s begging as a sign that he is hungry neither should it influence how much food you feed your dog.
Why Is My Dog Losing Weight On A Raw Food Diet?
Raw dog food diets do tend to cause dogs to lose weight, especially if you are in the transition process from processed pet food to completely raw. The reason for this is that your dog’s body assimilates raw food differently from how it processes starch-based processed pet foods.
It’s like switching from eating constantly at McDonald’s to a diet comprising fruits, veggies, and lean meat. Even if you eat the same amount of calories as when you were eating at McDonald’s, you’d still lose weight on the second diet because of the way your body will process the new diet.
So, just observe your dog, if he looks like he needs his rations adjusted, then simply adjust them.
The Quantity Of My Dog’s Food Looks Too Small On This Raw Diet, Why?
In working out how much to feed their dog, most dog owners observe that it seems like the quantity of food is a little too small, especially compared to what their dog was eating before, and naturally, this worries them. However, there’s really nothing to worry about.
Raw dog diets are typically rich in calories as they contain more fat than regular kibble (which contains mostly starch). In fact, you have twice as many calories per gram as you have in carbs and proteins.
So, from the angle of the volume of the food, the quantity of food your dog might be eating might seem smaller than what he was eating with his kibble. But that isn’t something to worry about.
Can I Feed Both My Dogs The Same Quantity Of Food
Dogs are individuals and their metabolisms vary. So, even if your two dogs are the same age, gender and breed, and even size, it does not necessarily imply that you should feed both dogs the same.
In most cases, you’d have to tweak the quantity of raw food you feed your dogs to suit their individual needs.
Does A Raw Food Calculator Work?
There are many raw food calculators online, and they work. They will definitely make your work much easier but it’s better for you to be more involved in your dog’s feeding rather than leaving it to a computer program to do everything for you.
Definitely, when you first start feeding your dog a raw diet, there will be a learning curve. It’s better to take the time to learn and find out what works for your dog so you can decide for yourself when his diet needs to be tweaked and just how it should be tweaked.
Everything becomes simpler soon enough.
Is Raw Feeding Expensive?
In this video, this dog owner explains how he feeds his dogs raw, and it’s not that expensive!
The Raw Dog Food Diet Controversy
We think it important to show you another side of the discussion on raw feeding for dogs. As a dog owner, you deserve to know all the sides of the story even as you make the decision to transition to raw feeding. It might interest you to know that many experts caution against raw feeding including the FDA.
In 2001, Lisa M. Freeman (DVM, Ph.D.) published a research in the Journal of the American Veterinary Association. This research was an evaluation of certain raw dog food diets. After her research, she warned dog owners about raw feeding for dogs, urging them not to go with this diet just because of what they’ve read and seen online.
If you want to avoid feeding your pup commercial food, Dr. Freeman advises that you opt for cooked homemade food instead. One that is designed by a vet nutritionist with a certification from the American College of Veterinary Nutrition.
She further explains that the many benefits supporters of the raw diet attribute to raw feeding like a shinier coat is as a result of the fact that most raw dog food diets are high in fats. She further explains that dogs who are fed high-fat commercial pet foods will also have shinier coats without risking malnutrition as a result of an unbalanced diet.
Of the five raw dog food diets that Freeman evaluated, two were commercially available while three were homemade. In the end, she found all five to either have either nutritional deficiencies or nutritional excesses which pose serious health risks to dogs if fed to them long term.
Joseph Wakshlag (DVM, Ph.D.) further buttresses Freeman’s point. He says he’s met dogs with weak bones, poor coats, and bad skin. According to him, too little fat will produce a bad coat and too much fat could also cause mild anemia.
He also points out that many homemade raw dog food diets lack the appropriate amount of calcium and phosphorus needed for proper bone and teeth development. This will eventually lead to dental issues and bone fractures. But then again, according to the assistant professor clinical nutrition at the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, even when calcium and phosphorus are available in their appropriate amounts, they might still be difficult for a dog’s body to properly assimilate because of the quality of the diet.
Bacterial contamination is another reason experts are wary of raw dog food diets. In 2006, 20 commercially available raw meat diets were evaluated and 7.1% contained salmonella while 59.6% contained E. coli. When these bacteria are passed in the feces, they become a risk to humans as well.
NB: In this same study, four dry and canned dog foods were sampled as well and E. coli was found in all.
Do These Concerns Have any Merit?
Raw dog food supporters often tell you raw dog foods are about as contaminated as commercially processed pet foods as well as meat for humans. Knueven, a raw feeding expert, opines that the concern about bacterial contamination in a raw dog food diet is overblown.
He explains that when feeding your dog raw food, you already know it’s not exactly sterile so you’re more careful when handling raw food and washing your hands afterward.
For commercial raw food manufacturers, the FDA has suggested that manufacturers tackle the problems associated with raw dog food diets, including adding the appropriate phosphorus needed for proper bone development.
Raw meat diets high in liver also tend to supply the body with too much vitamin A, and this could lead to vitamin A toxicity continues to feed on this for a long time.
It’s important that even veterinary doctors who support raw feeding like Knueven say that raw feeding is not for all dogs.
For one, they are definitely not for dogs with severe liver failure or late-stage kidney failure. This is because raw diets are quite high in proteins.
Kneuven also recommends that dog owners who have dogs with pancreatitis or similar digestive issues should transition to a raw diet slowly, beginning with a homemade diet until symptoms clear up.
Finally, dogs with immunosuppressive diseases, cancer, or dogs on chemotherapy should not be placed on a raw dog food diet, same as puppies. If you fail to get the calcium to phosphorus ratio correctly, your dog will end up with growth issues and severe bone deformities, as Kneuven explains.