Switching your dog to a raw food diet is a big decision. Many owners choose to go this route so that they can have complete control over their dog's health. If you're new to raw feeding, it can be a bit overwhelming.
There's a lot of different information out there about how it should be done.
One of the biggest points of contention among dog owners making the switch is how much raw food they should be providing to their dog.
With raw food, there's no magic number that applies to every pooch. It's not like commercial kibble where the label tells you how many cups manufacturers recommend. You need to figure out how much to feed your canine companion on your own.
While it may seem daunting, there are ways for you to figure out just how much food to supply.
The Ideal Body Weight Percentage Method
One of the easiest ways to determine how much raw food goes in your pup's food dish is to use their ideal body weight. This figure represents the average weight of healthy adult dogs that are the same breed as your dog.
It's important that you don't use their current weight. You want this new diet change to improve your dog's overall health so that they reach the target weight. Using their current weight can lead to significant weight gain.
Information about your dog's ideal weight is easy to find out. The American Kennel Club publishes data on every registered breed. Alternatively, you can have a conversation with your vet. They'll be able to tell you a healthy weight to shoot for.
Most publications and research will present a weight range. You'll need an exact number to perform the calculations, so use the figure at the bottom of the scale. It's easier for dogs to gain weight than lose weight.
Undershooting the amount is always better than providing too much food.
Once you have the ideal weight, figure out what 2-3% of that figure is. This will be your starting quantity. Your dog should be fed 2-3% of their ideal weight every single day.
This figure is measured in pounds. If your dog's ideal weight is 20 pounds, they'll need between 0.6 and 0.9 pounds of raw food. It's as simple as that.
Once you have a general idea of how much raw food you should be giving your dog, you need to start considering other factors that may affect their overall health.
All dogs have unique bodies like humans do. Not every canine's body is going to be conditioned like perfect dog. Your dog may have a stockier build or a slower metabolism. These are all things that you need to consider when planning their meals.
Current Weight and Body Condition
When dog owners first make the switch and start calculating food quantities, they'll often find that their furry friend's current weight is not the same as their ideal weight.
It's estimated that over half of all dogs in America are overweight. You'll need to adjust their intake to make up the difference and help them get healthy.
When you're making adjustments to the food amount, it's important that you do so incrementally by making very small adjustments. This can help avoid any sudden stomach problems.
Regardless of whether your dogs need to lose weight or gain weight, reaching their ideal weight should be a slow process. Avoid any major changes to the amount of their food for the sake of getting the job done faster.
Rapid weight changes can lead to significant health issues that will plague them for the rest of their life.
To get a better idea of how your dog compares to the goal weight, take a look at their body condition.
Body condition refers to the quality and shape of their body. Sometimes, numerical weight measurements are not reliable. Muscle weighs more than fat. As a result, two dogs with identical weights can look vastly different. Body condition takes their muscle mass and body fat into account.
Vets and canine experts use a dog's silhouette as a quick way to tell what their body condition is like. Simply look at their profile from the side and see what their body outline is from above. This can help you get a better idea of where they stand.
Thin dogs usually have 4-9% body fat. They may have protruding bones and a sunken-in stomach. Thin dogs will need a slight increase in food intake to help them reach the goal weight. You should be feeding these dogs at least 2.5% of their ideal weight.
If you just got a dog from a rescue shelter and their very underweight, you need to bring them to the vet. Emaciated dogs require special care to recover.
With 24-35% body fat, these dogs are at risk for experiencing diabetes, heart failure, and a slew of other health issues. You can start off by feeding them 2% of their ideal weight at the most.
Consult with your vet to make sure that they're losing weight at a healthy rate.
You can decrease the amount by 0.25% increments if needed. Overweight dogs are characterized by a lack of definition in their abdomen and more rounded shape from above.
Obese dogs are significantly overweight. They have very high body fat percentages and may already be experiencing health issues. To bring their weight down, you're going to need to feed them between 1.5% and 2% of the ideal body weight.
Another thing you're going to want to take into account is how often your dog exercises. Their activity levels will determine how fast their metabolism is and how many calories they're capable of burning throughout the day.
Before you start changing their food amounts, keep an eye on what they do during the day. Make note of how much they exercise, how much they lay around, and how much they sleep.
This should be done throughout your dog's life so that you're able to adjust to changes accordingly.
Dogs that lounge around all day will only require 2% of their ideal weight in food. In many cases, it's even less.
Start off with 2% and monitor their weight to see how the diet is affecting them. If they need less food due to weight gain, decrease the quantity by about 0.25%
If your pup gets a normal amount of playtime in, stick with about 2.25% of their ideal body weight. This is a relatively conservative amount that may help them maintain their current body condition.
If you have a dog that participates in sports or works all day, they'll need a lot of food to refuel.
These dogs usually burn up all their calories throughout the day and are exhausted when the sun goes down. Not getting enough food can lead to serious health problems, so feed them at least 3% of their ideal weight.
How Much Should I Feed a Puppy?
Puppies are a unique exception to the rule. They require much more food than adult dogs because their bodies are developing rapidly. Their bodies need fuel to grow.
Not feeding them enough can lead to developmental issues in the future. There are two ways to determine how much food a puppy needs.
The first is very similar to that of adult dogs. Simply provide them with 2-3% of their ideal weight as an adult. While it may seem like a lot of food at first, you'll quickly notice that your new puppy doesn't have a problem consuming it at all.
The second method is to feed 10% of their current weight each day. To do this, you'll need to weigh them on a regular basis. It's a good idea to make records of their growth so that you monitor their development.
The 10% rule should continue until they weigh 2-3% of the ideal adult weight. At this point, you should switch over to the first method. Feed them 2-3% of how much they'll weigh as an adult each day and continue doing so as they grow.
When Should Raw Feeding Start For Puppies?
If you have a newborn puppy and are planning on supplying them with a raw diet throughout their life, it's a good idea to start as soon as possible.
You can start them off on raw food as soon as they start weaning off their mother's milk. This will ensure that their stomachs and digestion system develop properly.
What About Pregnant Dogs?
Pregnant dogs are also going to need an increase in food intake. The extra calories will be used to support the developing puppies. They should be fed 4-5% of their ideal weight. Once the puppies are born, continue with this feeding routine.
This ensures that the milk she's producing is healthy for the puppies. Once the newborns are weaned off the milk, you can return her diet to normal.
Related: Best Food Options for a Pregnant Dog
Adjusting for Age
As dogs get older, their bodies and needs change. While many dog owners think that dogs need less food the moment they hit their senior years, you can continue with their normal diet.
The only reason you would need to decrease the amount of food you're giving them is if their activity levels change. .
This happens slowly over time. Many senior dogs continue to thrive well into their senior years. Just keep an eye out on your canine companion and adjust accordingly.
How Often Should I Feed My Dog?
Now that you have a better understanding of how much to feed your pup, you can start preparing his or her meals. It's important to remember that the amount of food you came up with in the previous calculations is for the entire day.
Whether you feed them in one single meal or multiple smaller meals is an entirely different discussion.
Typically, it's recommended that you split up your dog's daily food requirements into smaller meals. At the very least, you should be feeding your dog once in the morning and once at night. This schedule is beneficial because it can provide a steady source of energy throughout the day.
By feeding a single meal in the morning, your dog may start to feel lethargic before it's time for dinner the next day.
Another reason why you should split up the meals is to avoid potential health issues like bloat. Bloat occurs when dogs eat a lot of food in a short period of time. As they gorge on their meal, they take in a lot of air that becomes trapped in their body.
While excess gas is no cause for concern in humans, it can be fatal for dogs. By splitting up your pup's food requirements, you're reducing their chances of suffering from bloat.
Raw Dog Food Diet Tips
Include the Essentials
One big mistake that many dog owners make when they're switching to raw food is over-thinking the formula. Dogs have relatively simple nutritional needs.
You don't have to use a complex recipe to give them what they need. You can stick with the essentials and add different ingredients once you get more comfortable.
The basic components you'll need is protein, calcium, and vitamins. Protein from muscle meat should act as the foundation of the food. It can come from a wide variety of sources like chicken, beef, lamb, and more.
Calcium supports the bones. It can come from animal bones and tendons. Finally, your dog will need plenty of vitamins. They'll get these from organs like the kidney, spleen, and brain.
Create Real Balance
Having a balanced diet doesn't necessarily mean that your dog has to consume all of the required nutrients every single day. Your pup's health isn't going to decline just because they didn't get enough protein during a meal.
As long as you're meeting those requirements over the course of a six or seven day period, your dog is consuming a balanced diet.
Don't Be Afraid of Fruits and Vegetables
When most people think of raw dog food, they think of pure meat. While meat is certainly a key component that your dog needs to have, that doesn't mean that you can't throw in some fruits and vegetables in the mix.
Plant-based ingredients are chock-full of vitamins and minerals. Furthermore, they can add a number of benefits that meat-based ingredients don't have. They're an excellent source of fiber, antioxidants, and more.
Be Stingy With Fat
When you're preparing meat for your dog, it's easy to forget about fat content. Many owners leave the fat on thinking that it's fine. Your dog's diet shouldn't be made up of more than 10% fat. Too much of it will lead to excessive weight gain.
Over to You
Switching your dog to a raw diet doesn't have to be difficult. Making the change can do wonders for your pup's overall health. With a bit of knowledge, you can use high-quality raw food to help your dog live a long and happy life.