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So you're switching your dog to a raw diet. Congratulations!
You might be wondering, how much raw meat should I feed my dog per day?
The general rule of thumb is to feed the dog 2 to 3 percent of her ideal adult body weight. Then, adjust accordingly if she starts to seem too thin, too hungry or too fat. Some dogs will naturally require more or less food depending on their genetics, age, health, activity levels and other factors.
As an example, my dog Ace weighs about 68 pounds, and he is a healthy weight. Two percent of 68 pounds is about 1.3 pounds, which is indeed about what he eats per day.
I don't actually measure my dog's food anymore, but I initially used the 2 percent rule to get a general idea on how much to feed him. Since I've been feeding him raw dog food for awhile, I have a pretty good idea how much to feed just by looking at the food. Every meal does not have to be measured perfectly.
Commercial raw dog food is often measured in 8-ounce patties. Sixteen ounces equals one pound, so my dog would need a little more than 2.5 patties per day. Commercial raw dog food is much more convenient than making it yourself, but it is also more expensive. Check out my post on affordable raw dog food ideas for tips to save money on raw dog food.
If your brain hurts from trying to calculate all this, here is a basic equation you can use to figure out the amount of raw dog food your pup needs per day in ounces:
Take your dog's ideal adult weight in pounds and multiply it by 16 to get your dog's weight in ounces. (For Ace that would be 68 pounds x 16 = 1088 ounces.)
Take your dog's weight in ounces and multiply it by .02 to get an estimate of the amount of food she should eat per day in ounces, assuming she needs to eat around 2 percent of her weight. (For Ace, that's 1088 x .02 = 21.76 ounces.)
I like to keep my dog lean, so I try to feed him the minimum amount each day for him to maintain his weight, and he generally does eat about 1.3 pounds of raw dog food per day. Obviously if you have an underweight dog, a puppy or a pregnant dog you are going to want to feed more than 2 or 3 percent of her weight. Check with a vet if you are not sure.
How much of my dog's raw diet should be meat/bones/fat/organs?
If you're following a “whole prey raw diet,” meaning a diet of mostly animal products, the general rule of thumb is 80 percent muscle meat, 10 percent organ meat (half of that should be liver) and 10 percent bone. This is pretty standard and agreed upon by most raw feeders.
If you are feeding a diet that includes fruits and veggies and maybe even some grain (barf diet recipes), you would adjust the percentages a bit, so it might be more like 70 percent meat, 10 percent organs, 10 percent bone and 10 percent vegetation. This is roughly what my dog eats.
There is disagreement on whether dogs need fruits or veggies in their diets. My belief is that fruits and veggies can't hurt. While I'm not overly concerned about what fruits and veggies my dog eats, I do try to feed them every day in small quantities for a variety of nutrients. I'm actually more concerned about the quality and variety of meat products my dog eats and making sure he gets enough fat, organ meat, calcium and so on.
Do I need to include any supplements in my dog's raw food?
For added nutrients, you could give your dog a daily multi vitamin. Ideally, your dog shouldn't need a vitamin because she should be getting all the necessary nutrients from her raw diet. But, as with humans, sometimes it's just easier not to worry about it and just take a daily vitamin. It can't hurt. Or, at the very least, give your dog a vitamin every couple of days or once per week.
I give my dog a fish oil tablet most days for the omega 3s. Everything I've read about fish oil for dogs says it is beneficial and helps to balance out the omega 6s found in supermarket meats such as raw beef. I take a fish oil tablet myself most days.
“EPA and DHA, the omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil, provide widespread benefits,” according to Mary Straus in an article “The Benefits of Fish Oil to Your Dog's Health” in the September 2012 issue of “The Whole Dog Journal.”
According to the article, some of the benefits of fish oil for dogs include weight loss for overweight dogs, a healthier coat and healthier skin, reduced joint pain, reduced allergies, a healthier immune system and lower blood pressure.
If you feed your dog a homemade raw or cooked diet, what are some foods you feed?
Raw dog food guide and recipes
Raw feeding is a work in progress and we all do the best we can.
If you would like more information on feeding raw dog food, you will find my ebook helpful. The cost is $9 and it goes over everything you need to know about raw feeding.