How Much Raw Food Should You Feed Your Dog?
Natural nutrition is one of the trends that’s sweeping the pet food industry, and it doesn’t get more natural than raw food. However, equally important to what dogs are eating, is how much they’re eating. But how much raw food should you be feeding your pup? Figuring out this quantity is no easy task.
Related: The Best Raw Dog Food Australia.
That’s why we’ve checked with experts, including veterinarians and canine nutritionists, to discuss the factors that determine the right portion sizes of raw food for your dog. Let’s dig in.
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How Much Raw Food Should You Feed Your Dog
The amount of raw food you should feed your pooch depends on different factors. Most importantly, on whether you’re using raw food as a whole meal or simply as a topper.
Raw Food As A Whole Meal
The base point for a raw diet is to feed adult dogs 2% of their body weight (1). However, you should further adjust the percentage by taking your dog’s exercise level and age into consideration. If your pooch is chunky, old or simply a couch potato, then 2% is a good percentage. If your dog seems to be losing weight on such a diet regime, don’t fret about going up by a percent or two.
Puppies, on the other hand, need big meals to support their growth and development. On average, they need about 6% of their body weight in raw food, but it can go up to 10% for some very active pups.
In the case of small dog breeds, like Chihuahuas or Yorkies, go up by another percent. These dogs have faster metabolisms, so they need more calories per kilogram compared to larger breeds.
Using Raw Food As A Topper
We can all agree that feeding your dog kibble is very convenient and cost-effective. However, using raw food as a topper is an easy way to make your pooch’s meal a bit healthier and more palatable.
There’s no right or wrong way to do this. A mixture of ¾ kibble and ¼ raw food is already enough to see some benefits, but you can combine them in a 50/50 ratio if you prefer. Regardless of the combination you choose, you should keep in mind your dog’s daily requirements for both dry and raw food, and add them accordingly.
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What To Consider When Feeding A Raw Food Diet
While these raw food percentages serve as a great guideline, you should keep in mind that they don’t take into consideration factors like calories or macronutrients found in raw food.
Related: The Raw Food Diet For Dogs Breakdown.
The Choice Of Ingredients
First off, not every protein is the same. Pork loin, for instance, is much more caloric than turkey. That’s why it’s crucial that the raw food diet is formulated with your dog’s body condition in mind. Not only that, but it needs to be complete and balanced.
The two most popular raw diets are the prey model and Biologically Appropriate Raw Food (BARF) (2). Both work on the same principle, which is to mimic the diet dogs would have if they lived in the wilderness. The main difference between the two is that the former is more rigorous in replicating the natural diet. Basically, it involves feeding your pooch whole prey.
As for BARF, this diet keeps things raw and fresh, but the ingredients aren’t necessarily what dogs would go for or even have widely available in the wild. BARF diet consists of meat protein, edible bones, fish, veggies and fruits. It also includes supplements to further ensure it offers your dog all the necessary nutrients.
Regardless of the raw diet method you go for, there are ratio requirements you need to stick with. In other words, the necessary percentage of each ingredient doesn’t change even if you’re adjusting the meal dosage.
Feeding a dog raw food often means experimenting until you get it just right. With so many ingredients involved, counting calories is almost impossible. And even if you had the exact numbers, every dog is unique and their metabolisms can handle food differently.
Throughout that “trial” period, keep track of your dog’s weight and body condition. If you notice your canine companion is gaining or losing weight, or has lower energy levels compared to usual, then you should adjust certain ingredients to tailor the diet more to your pooch’s needs.
Commercial Raw Food
Of course, things are much simpler if you choose to go down the commercial raw food route. In most cases, the packaging label has all the nutritional information you need, including calories and serving sizes depending on your dog’s size. But even these directions can be taken with a grain of salt and adjusted depending on your dog’s physical condition and eating habits.
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How Many Times A Day To Feed Raw Dog Food
Even though dogs in the wild would probably mostly eat once a day, that doesn’t mean you should keep the same feeding schedule at home. In fact, it’s recommended that your dog has at least two meals a day, both roughly the same in size (3). Ideally, the meals should be 12 hours apart, but you can always adjust them to your schedule.
With that being said, there’s nothing bad about feeding your dog three times a day. That’s actually recommended for dogs that devour their meals as well as breeds that are prone to bloating. When it comes to puppies, they need to be fed on an even more frequent schedule, up to five times a day.
My Final Thoughts
Figuring out the right portion size is essential to ensure your dog gets all the necessary nutrients from raw food. While there’s a general guideline to follow, you also need to take into consideration additional factors, like life stage, weight and activity levels.
Consulting with a veterinarian or a certified canine nutritionist can provide valuable insight on how you can tailor a diet to your dog’s needs.
- “Natural Feeding For Dogs”. February 26, 2019. New Plymouth District Vet Group. Retrieved September 30, 2023. https://www.npvet.co.nz/pets/animal-info-pets/natural-medicine-articles/natural-feeding-dogs/
- Shaw Becker, K. September 6, 2013. “Prey model or B.A.R.F diets for dogs”. Animal Wellness. Retrieved September 30, 2023. https://animalwellnessmagazine.com/prey-model-barf/
- Llera, R., Downing, R. “Feeding Times and Frequency for Your Dog”. VCA Animal Hospitals. Retrieved September 30, 2023. https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/feeding-times-and-frequency-for-your-dog