I bet you’re eager to begin feeding a raw dog food diet.
But you feel stuck.
What remains unclear is how much raw food you’re supposed to feed. Up until this point, you’ve heard varied suggestions and aren’t sure where to start.
The question at the forefront of every newbie’s mind, “How much food should I feed my dog on a raw diet?” is answered with a simple formula.
Here’s what’s even more amazing:
If you follow the raw feeding guidelines I’m about to share with you — you can add 1-2 years to your dog’s life.
Below, I’ll show you exactly how to do both step-by-step.
Methods for Determining How Much Raw Dog Food to Feed
There are two options for figuring out raw dog food quantity. You can either:
- Use a body weight percentage, or;
- Use calories
Some experts prefer the caloric approach but it can be confusing at first. What’s worse, it may turn potential raw feeders away…
Why? Using calories to calculate raw dog food volume can be more tedious. But most importantly, it isn’t something all raw feeders can execute. Finding reliable nutrition data for raw dog food can be difficult. It can seem next to impossible to find the calorie count for popular items items in a raw diet like:
- Select raw meaty bones (i.e chicken backs, necks, tails, feet, etc.)
- Less common organs and offal (pancreas, spleen, kidney, etc.)
- Certain exotic meats
It goes without saying but, you can’t count calories if you can’t find nutrition data.
The body weight percentage option is the method of choice for many raw feeders (new and experienced) because it’s simple. It’s also works with any type of raw diet. For this reason, it’s often suggested for newbies to start with.
But once you learn how to feed raw and become more comfortable, you can always explore the other option.
The Body Weight Percentage Formula
How much to feed is calculated using a percentage based on your dog’s body weight. The formula looks like this:
Feed between 2-3% of your dog’s ideal, adult body weight, per day (click to tweet).
See, I told you it was simple. Now, follow these steps to determine what percentage to start with
- Step 1: Determine Ideal Body Weight
- Step 2: Determine Activity Level
- Step 3: Adjust for Weight Control or Gain
- Step 4: Special Considerations for Life Stages
- Step 5: Consider Size
STEP 1: Determine Your Dog’s Ideal Body Weight
The first piece of the puzzle is to have an answer to the question:
What should my dog weigh as an adult?
I can’t tell you how many people are misguided on this topic so it’s an important place to start. For some, this question is an easy answer. For others, it may not be.
Here are some tips to get the ball rolling.
Review AKC breed information. Or, do some research on your dog’s breed to learn what the ideal weight range is for males and females. From here, choose the lower number or the average number from the range provided.
If your dog is a mixed breed and you know the breeds, research them. Make your best attempt to come to a logical conclusion on proper weight.
Ask Your Veterinarian:
Your veterinarian should be able to tell you what a healthy weight for your dog would be, or at least fall within. Give your vet’s office a call or ask at your next visit.
Body Condition Should Be the Determining Factor:
Dogs are individuals, just like us.
Not all dogs are the exact same size. Some are leaner and stockier than others and their metabolisms may vary. That’s why body condition is the ultimate tool to determine a healthy weight for any dog.
What is body condition?
Think of body condition like Body Mass Index (BMI). A BMI chart uses criteria like age, sex, and height to determine healthy weight ranges for people.
Body condition serves a similar purpose, but it’s crafted with dogs in mind. It lists weight ranges from emaciated to grossly obese. And it’s based on your dog’s body condition – or shape, appearance and body fat.
Study this graphic to learn canine body condition scores. Use it as your primary guide to determine a healthy weight for your dog.
Now Write Down Your Dog’s Ideal Weight:
The number you’ve determined for your dog’s ideal, adult body weight can now be used for calculations.
For example, say 40-lbs was a healthy weight for your dog. You’d calculate 2-3% of that number. That would equal a range of 0.8 – 1.2 pounds of food, per day.
At this point you may be thinking, “that’s nice but which amount should I use?”
We’ll use a few other factors to narrow down to an exact percentage to begin with.
STEP 2: Determine Activity Level
It’s important we take activity level into the equation. How much exercise does your dog get?
Be honest here.
The vast majority of dogs today fall into the low or average activity level. Most are cooped up at home all day while their caregivers are at work. And few are lucky to get dedicated walks, play sessions and exercise every day.
Many dog owners assume their dogs are more active than they truly are and in turn feed more than they need to (click to tweet).
Use the following as a guide:
Most companion canines fall into this category. These are the dogs that spend most of their days lying around the house. They venture outside only to potty or for short walks and play sessions.
If you have an inactive dog you may need to feed 2% or less to maintain a healthy weight.
A dog with an average activity level may receive anywhere from an hour to several hours of exercise a day. In this case, feeding between 2-3% of body weight is appropriate, but 2-2.5% might be more ideal.
An active dog is one that gets plenty of exercise.
These dogs get out of the house more often. And they tend to exert themselves beyond routine walks or average play sessions. Active dogs generally participate in more adventures or activities with their caregivers. This could include hiking, running, biking, hunting, and so forth.
If you feel your dog is more active, than you may need to feed 2.5% or more to maintain a healthy weight.
Canine Athletes & Working Dogs
The needs of working dogs and canine athletes can vary greatly. It depends on what their doing and how often. Some might fall within normal percentages. Others may require 3.5-5% of their body weight.
Where Does Your Dog Fall?
Activity level is worth considering, but it’s not something to get too hung up on.
Most dogs fall with the inactive or average categories. In these scenarios, starting with 2% of their body weight is a good course of action. If you believe your dog is more active, consider bumping their starting percentage up to 2.5 – 3% of their body weight.
But a far more important factor to determine, is your dog’s current weight…
STEP 3: Adjust for Weight Loss or Gain
At this point, you have a good idea of what percentage you’ll start with.
But did you consider your dog’s current weight?
Say you determined 40lbs was your dog’s ideal, adult body weight. If your dog currently weighs about 40lbs (give or take a pound or two) – high five! Your dog is at a healthy weight already, so skip this step.
But if you’ve determined ideal body weight, then activity level and find:
- Your dog’s body condition is not ideal,
- Your dog is overweight,
- Or your dog is significantly underweight
Then you might want to adjust for either weight loss or weight gain.
When increasing or decreasing food, start with small increments like .25%, .5% and so on. And never expect your dog to gain or lose weight overnight or in a week’s time. Have patience.
Consider these adjustments for the following weight categories:
These dogs are malnourished. Often coming from rescue situations, they may look like walking skeletons. Consult with your veterinarian as these dogs may have special health considerations.
- Start with 2.5 – 3% for slight weight gain.
- If more is needed, increase incrementally (to 3.25%, then 3.5%, and so on) until ideal body condition is achieved.
- Feed in 3-4 smaller meals
- Add extras if needed – bones, digestible raw meaty parts, bone broth, or goats milk
- If your dog is heavy feed 2% and decrease incrementally as needed to reach proper body condition.
- Feed 1.5% – 2% and decrease as needed.
- I don’t recommend falling below 1.5%
We’re almost there. Let’s consider a few more things you should know to determine raw food volume.
STEP 4: Special Considerations for Life Stages
Feeding puppies raw food isn’t any more difficult. The only thing you need to keep in mind is they’ll eat more than adults to fuel their rapidly growing bodies.
When can you start puppies on raw?
Many raw-fed breeders wean their puppies directly onto raw from their mother’s milk. You can begin feeding raw the day you bring your puppy home.
How much should you feed?
There are two options to use to determine quantity:
Feed 2-3% of expected adult weight.
Granted, this is easier to figure out with purebred puppies than mixed breeds. But if you have a good idea of how much your dog should weigh, feel free to go this route.
This is a good choice for those who aren’t sure what their dog will weigh. With this option you’ll feed a percentage of your puppy’s current weight.
Start by feeding 10% of your puppy’s current weight per day.
You’ll need to weigh your dog at home. If your large breed puppy is too big to be safely picked up at home, swing by Petco or Petsmart. They often have scales in the store you can use.
Here’s the part you need to pay attention to:
Once 10% of your puppy’s current weight exceeds 2-3% of his or her ideal, adult weight, stop. From here, continue feeding 2-3% of your puppy’s ideal adult weight.
Body Condition Still Applies with Puppies:
Remain conscious of your puppy’s build and adjust the amount of food accordingly. If your puppy is too thin (according to puppy body condition scores), increase their food. And if your puppy is overweight, decrease it.
But here’s one piece of advice:
It seems as if most people today have a warped view of a healthy canine weight. That’s because 54% of dogs in the U.S are classified as overweight or obese.
Puppies will look thin and gangly as they grow. This is normal – they’re growing! Don’t you remember when you were an awkward string bean? You may hear comments from people who assert your dog is too thin. These are often the people who have no idea their dog is overweight – ignore them.
Emaciated and underweight body conditions are different from a healthy, growing puppy. Follow the chart referenced earlier (and the puppy specific one above) and you’ll be okay. And if you’re unsure, ask your vet’s opinion.
For this article tips on how often to feed a puppy.
This group needs to be treated like puppies from a food volume perspective.
Once pregnancy is confirmed, you can begin to move your dog’s daily food intake up from 2-3% to 4-5%. When the puppies are born, you’ll want to stay within that 4-5% range (or you may need to increase). Prior to weaning will be the highest point for your dog’s daily food volume needs.
After puppies are weaned, your dog can go back to her normal 2-3% range within a short period of time.
No vast difference in quantity of food with older dogs. But if your dog is less active you may need to slightly decrease food volume.
STEP 5: Size Considerations
When determining how much raw food to feed your dog, here’s one rule to keep in mind:
Ignore linear feeding guidelines. (Click to tweet).
What do I mean by linear? Let me explain.
It’s the assumption that food volume increases linearly by size. For example, it may sound right that a 50-lb dog needs twice as much food as a 25-lb dog. Or, a 100-lb dog needs twice as much as a 50-lb dog.
But this type of thinking is incorrect.
Here’s the reality:
Small dogs eat more for their body weight than large dogs do. In fact, toy breeds and small breed dogs defy the rule.
In discussing how much to feed a small dog, raw feeding expert Lisa from Souly Raw, explains:
Smaller breed adult dogs should start at a higher percentage of food daily. Never feed less than 4 oz. a day – it’s just not enough food.”
She suggests using the following guidelines. Then, adjust for body condition as needed:
- 10 lbs and under – 4 ounces
- 20 lbs and under – 6 ounces
- 30 lbs and under – 10 ounces
And with those recommendations comes one more for the small guys…
Weight Gain with Toy & Small Breed Dogs:
Most small dogs and toy breeds today are overweight.
There I said it.
Because they’re already so small, perhaps pet parents worry their dogs are too thin. The urge to “fatten up” small pets is strong among many dog owners. Toy breeds may also consume more treats on average than larger dogs. And their reputation for being spoiled with food precedes them.
If this is you, don’t feel bad.
It’s natural to provide lavish lifestyles for those we love. And perhaps we have an innate protective instinct for the small guys. But I promise you’re not doing your dog any favors by overfeeding.
Remember, the body condition chart still applies to toy breeds.
And if you’re a treat-oriented dog owner, this needs to be taken into consideration. You may need to reduce the amount you feed your dog.
Common Questions On How Much to Feed
When starting out with raw, these “how much to feed” FAQs come up quite often. Keep them in mind when determining how much to feed and when transitioning your dog to raw.
Is My Dog Hungry Because He’s Begging?
A healthy dog is more or less always ready to eat. Your dog is no exception. It’s natural for dogs to be interested in food that’s available, close by, or on your plate. Never use begging behavior as an indicator for hunger or how much to feed your dog. It’s pointless and an inaccurate gauge for food volume.
How Come My Dog Lost Weight on Raw?
Raw dog food may cause your dog to lose weight – even if it’s not your intention.
Especially if you’re switching your dog from processed pet food to 100% raw. This is because raw foods are assimilated differently than starch-based pet foods.
Compare this to switching from McDonalds to a diet of lean meats, fruits and vegetables. You may eat the same number of calories but still lose weight on the second diet. That’s because of the type of food and how the body processes it.
Observe your dog and adjust their daily percentage if necessary.
You May Feed Less With Raw Than With Kibble
After figuring out how much to feed, some people remark that the quantity of food seems too small. That or it seems less than what their dogs were eating before.
This is nothing to be worried about.
Raw diets are calorie dense foods. They contain more fat than kibble, which is mostly starch-based. Fat carries more than twice the calories per gram as protein and carbohydrates.
From a food volume perspective, you may be feeding less raw than dry dog food – and that’s okay.
Remember why you chose to feed raw. Now that your dog is eating real, quality foods, expect there to be some differences in how their food bowl appears.
Should I Feed Both of My Dogs the Same?
Like people, dogs are individuals.
Their metabolisms vary. So don’t expect to feed each of your dogs the same way even if they share size, breed, age or gender in common.
Thomas Sandberg of Long Living Pets has two Great Danes, both the same age and size. One receives 3% of his weight in raw food daily and the other gets 2.4%. Both amounts keep his dogs at a lean, healthy weight.
Keep in mind:
You might need to tweak the amount of raw food your dogs receive on an individual basis.
Should I Use a Raw Food Calculator For Dogs?
No. Let me explain.
While you can find plenty of quality raw dog food calculators online, I don’t recommend you use them for one reason…
I want you to use your brain.
With any new skill, there’s a learning curve. Learn how to do this yourself instead of relying on a computer program to tell you what to do. That way, you understand what works for your dog. And you know when and how to tweak their diet.
With practice, raw feeding becomes quite simple. Sure, you’ll experience the trial-and-error that’s natural to any new endeavor. But you’ll never become comfortable unless you put the effort in.
Remember, raw feeding is a lifestyle change. Be part of it.
One Last Thing: Body Condition Trumps All These Guidelines
I said it earlier but it bears repeating:
Use body condition as your primary guide in determining how much to feed. (Click to tweet).
The body percentage formula is only an estimate to get you started. It’s your job to observe your dog and tweak their food intake based on body condition and overall health.
Now, let’s talk about that longevity hack I promised earlier…
BONUS: The Secret to Longevity
It seems as if some dog owners are caught up with their dog’s being “big.” Others seem to perpetuate the humor in fat or obese pets. Extremes in size and weight can be awe-inspiring and even funny.
But understand they may put your dog at risk for future health problems.
If there’s anything you take away from this raw dog food feeding guide… consider this little-known secret for longevity:
Dogs fed less live longer. (Click to tweet).
Adult dogs with a body score condition less than 5 live 16% longer than their overweight peers.
And studies show that by keeping your dog lean and reducing food intake from early puppyhood through adulthood, you could add two years to their life.
Now it’s Your Turn
Let’s circle back to the original question, “How much food should I feed my dog on a raw diet? Now, you have everything you need to figure it out.
- How much should your dog weigh as an adult?
- What’s your dog’s true activity level?
- Does your dog need to lose weight or gain weight?
- Does your dog fall into a special life stage or are they a toy/small breed of dog?
For the vast majority of people, you’ll feed between 2 – 2.5%. But there are exceptions. Think lean and begin with the lower end of the spectrum.
And remember, this only a place to start.
Each dog is different and his or her needs may change. Understand you’ll need to make micro adjustments over time (throughout the seasons, ages, life stages, etc.).
Let’s put this into perspective… Do you eat the same amount of food every day or does it vary? Remember this is something that is easily adjusted.
Get out of your head. Choose a quantity and begin.
One more thing:
Leave a comment and let us know what percentage you feed your dog.