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I was mixing up the dogs' breakfast and wondered if I was feeding them enough (or too much food). None of our dogs are gaining or losing weight so it's easy to assume that all is well, but I always like to do a double check whenever possible.
Our dogs eat a raw food diet and there are several ways to determine how much to feed our dogs and each one is acceptable and flawed. But first…
“You should never feed your dog according to the product’s feeding guidelines without adjusting the amounts to suit your dog! Dog food manufacturers are required by law to put feeding instructions on their labels, to give dog owners a starting point – an idea of approximately how much of the product should be fed to provide “complete and balanced nutrition” to dogs of varying weights. The feeding directions must state, at a minimum, ‘Feed (weight/unit) of product per (weight) of the dog.'”Whole Dog Journal
Determine How Much to Feed Based on a Dog's Weight
This is how I figure out how much to feed my dogs. I have a home scale for the dogs and I weight them monthly to stay on top of their weight due to my past history of overfeeding. This isn't ideal because not every protein (or raw blend) brings the same calories to the bowl. But I'm not interested in calculating calories so I feed my dogs based on a percentage of their weight.
- Rodrigo – 55 lbs
- Sydney – 69 lbs
- Scout – 73 lbs
- Zoey – 60 lbs
- Apollo – 74 lbs
Using a raw food calculator hosted by Perfectly Rawsome (the only calculator I trust), I should feed my dogs as follows:
- Rodrigo – 26.4 ounces per day or 13.2 ounces per meal
- Sydney – 22.8 ounces per day or 11.4 ounces per meal
- Scout – 35.04 ounces per day or 17.52 ounces per meal
- Zoey – 24.9 ounces per day or 12.0 ounces per meal
- Apollo – 35.52 ounces per day or 17.76 ounces per meal
What I love about the Perfectly Rawsome calculator is that it also breaks down how muscle meat, bone, organs, vegetables, and seeds/nuts in a dog's meal. However, I focus solely on the weight of the meal and then adjust based on each individual dog's needs. Although this calculator is the only one I trust, every dog is unique and it's necessary to tailor the diet to the dog being fed. That being said, I feed my dogs as follows:
- Rodrigo – 14.5 ounces per meal
- Sydney – 10.0 ounces per meal
- Scout – 15.5 ounces per meal
- Zoey – 11.0 ounces per meal
- Apollo – 16.0 ounces (1 lb) per meal
Determine How Much to Feed Based on Calories
Feeding our dogs based on the calories in the bowl is a lot harder, to me, at least. How do I know how many calories I'm feeding unless I'm feeding commercial raw that has it listed on the package or on their website? Am I expected to calculate the caloric amount of each ingredient? Ummmm, no. I'm not doing that. But there are people who do and I get why. If you think about it, if the calories in a beef blend that I made for my dogs are 2x as much as the calories in a venison blend – then feeding my dogs based on their weight isn't accurate. My thought is that, over time, it all evens out. But that's not good enough for everyone
There are websites that help you calculate the number of calories your dog needs (or you can use the NRC guidelines). Perfectly Rawsome and Primal Pooch both have a canine calorie calculator. Using an online calculator, I learned that my dogs have the following daily caloric requirements:
- Rodrigo – 1,148 per day
- Sydney – 1,100 per day
- Scout – 1,484 per day
- Zoey – 1,232 per day
- Apollo – 1,526 per day
But how do I calculate how many calories are in the meals I make for my dogs? I've searched online and there is an easier way than adding up the calories in each ingredient – use a software program. Yeah, not ideal for everyone because how many people are going to invest money into purchasing and time into learning a new a software program? The only reason why I purchased the Animal Diet Formulator is because I got it for a great price when it was still in the Beta testing phase.
So, How Much is Too Much Food for Our Dogs?
When it comes to my dogs, too much food leads to weight gain. When I notice my dogs gaining weight, I do one of three things – I cut back on their food for a week, I increase their exercise, or I do both.
I know my dogs are gaining weight if I'm having trouble feeling their ribs or if the scale is trending up (I weigh my dogs at least once a month). I generally see weight gain in the winter, when we aren't outside as much, so I adjust my dogs' meals and suck it up and take them for a walk.