The raw food diet is one of the most debated dog diets out there. If you’re curious what our opinion is about it, we are very neutral. Here at Dogdorable, we don’t hate the diet but don’t love it either. We will explain why shortly (we do think there are a lot of upsides).
When you first start your dog on a raw food diet, you will probably see a lot of weight loss in the first week or two. This might make you believe you aren’t feeding your dog enough, which leads to the popular question, “how much raw food should I feed my dog each day?” Today we will be going into detail on the answer.
But before we do, just know that weight loss during the first two weeks is natural. When a dog goes on a raw diet, carbs are significantly reduced. Without getting too scientific here, when carbs are reduced, it causes a reduction of muscle glycogen. Since glycogen holds a lot of water, your dog will naturally lose a lot of water weight the first few weeks on a raw diet.
This means that you should not increase the amount you feed your dog eats the first few weeks, even if they are losing weight. Give it a few weeks and see if things even out. If your dog continues to lose weight on week three, considering increasing the amount of food.
It may seem like you are feeding them less food when switching to a raw diet, but that’s just because raw food is higher in fat and fat is more calorie-dense. You won’t be feeding as much volume, but the calories will be about the same.
Do We Recommend The Raw Food Diet?
Before we talk about how much to feed your dog on a raw diet, we want to quickly cover whether or not we recommend this diet.
The answer is yes, and no. Just like anything in life, there seems to be both pros and cons to a raw diet.
Commercial dog food has only been around for about 100 years. Before that, dogs have survived and thrived off raw food. Many who preach the raw diet claim that since dogs ate raw for thousands of years, that’s how they should eat today.
The problem with that theory is that just because they survived for thousands of years, eating a certain way doesn’t mean that’s the optimal way. Humans used to be hunters and gatherers and we survived for thousands of years, but that doesn’t mean that was the healthiest way to live life. In fact, the lifespan was much shorter back in the day.
The raw diet gained popularity because of online scare tactics claiming commercial pet food was terrible for your dog. They also claim that switching to a raw diet, they saw immediate improvements such as higher energy levels and a healthier coat, but this isn’t because of the raw food. It’s because the food they’re eating is higher in healthy fat. Cooked natural food would get the same results.
That’s why we are neutral when it comes to the raw diet. Do we like it better than the dry kibble diet? Yes! But is it better than a homemade diet where the food is cooked? Probably not.
With that said, the raw diet can be a very beneficial diet when done correctly. Here are two ways to determine how much you should feed your dog on a raw diet.
The Easy Way – Weight
When doing your research, you’ll find that most experts say to feed your dog 2-3% of their body weight. This isn’t necessarily the wrong answer, but it’s not the optimal way. The issue is all dogs are different, and that formula is very general.
The other main issue is the fact that different foods have a different amount of calories per pound. For example, a pound of chicken breast has about 230 calories. Whereas a pound of steak can have up to 600 calories… that’s a HUGE difference in calories, yet both weigh one pound.
Not to mention the fact that some dogs have more muscle, other dogs have more fat. Dogs with more muscle will need to eat more food. Dogs with more fat will need to eat less food.
With that said, if you’re looking for the easiest method, this is it. Just take 2-3% of your dog’s body weight and feed them that much in pounds every day.
For example, if your dog weighs 40 pounds, you’d feed them 0.8-1.2 pounds of food per day.
If you go this route, weighing your dog is extremely important so you can make adjustments. As previously stated, your dog will likely lose a lot of water weight when switching to a raw food diet, but after the first two weeks are over, you want your dog’s body weight to remain stable (unless you’re intentionally trying to get them to gain or lose weight.)
If your dog is losing too much weight, increase it from 2-3% to 3-4%. If your dog is gaining too much weight, decrease it from 2-3% to 2%. I wouldn’t recommend going below 2%. If they’re still gaining weight on 2%, increase the amount of time they spend exercising to burn off the extra calories.
The Optimal Way – Calories
We need to remember that weight loss and weight gain is a simple matter of calories in vs. calories out. As previously mentioned, the problem with the strategy above is the fact that a pound of chicken is going to have a different amount of calories than a pound of steak.
That’s why the best way to determine how much raw food your dog should eat is by figuring out how many calories they are currently eating per day.
Figuring Out Your Dogs Daily Calorie Needs
There are two ways to figure out how many calories your dog should eat per day.
1) How Much Have They Been Eating?
Most of you will be switching over from dry kibble. Take a look at the calorie content on the bag and use that to determine how many calories you have been feeding your dog per day.
Make sure you take into account the serving size. Also, make sure to add up all the meals. If you fed them the serving size on the bag twice per day, make sure you account for both servings.
Let’s say your dog was eating around 700 calories of dry kibble per day. When switching to a raw diet, you want to maintain that 700 calories. More on how to do this shortly
2) Using Math
Maybe you’ve been feeding your dog dry kibble but aren’t sure how close you stuck to the actual serving size. Or perhaps your dog has been free feeding, and you have no idea how many calories they’ve eaten.
If that’s the case, you can use math to determine approximately how many calories to feed your dog per day.
The average dog needs 25-30 calories to maintain weight. This means if your dog weighs 40 pounds, they should 1,000-1,200 calories per day. Small adjustments will need to be made each week until you find the number of calories it takes for your dog to maintain body weight.
How to Count Calories
Counting calories isn’t nearly as hard as people think… let’s say you want to feed your dog a pound of chicken breast. Simply search the internet for “how many calories in one pound raw chicken breast.” In this example, you’ll see that it’s 231 calories.
Figuring out the calorie content of primary meats you’ll be feeding your dog makes counting calories much more manageable. Within a few weeks, you’ll have the calorie content memorized.
Not Just About How Much – But What
One of the most significant advantages dry kibble has over the raw diet is that dry kibble includes all the vitamins and minerals dogs need, including calcium. When feeding your dog a raw diet, unless you change the foods daily, you risk creating a nutritional deficiency.
That’s why it’s not just about how much to feed your dog on a raw diet, but WHAT you should be feeding them. You want to make sure they’re getting all the vitamins and minerals required for a long and healthy life.
Here are a few tips when switching to a raw diet.
Make it High in Calcium
If you are not allowing your dog to eat the bone (bone eating is common on a raw diet), then you’ll need to supplement with calcium. The good news is there are calcium treats that dogs LOVE, so it won’t be hard getting your dog to eat extra calcium. The only downside is it’s just another cost you have to budget for each month.
Feed Them Lean Meat
Fat is good for dogs, but too much fat can cause gastrointestinal issues. Trust us, for the sake of everyone in the house, that’s something you DON’T want happening. The good thing about the raw diet is the fact that you still get to control the fat intake. Avoid feeding fatty meats to your dog on a consistent basis. Stick to the lean cut meats.
Still Include Veggies
Many people who preach the raw diet like to say that your dog doesn’t need veggies since dogs in the wild didn’t eat vegetables. The truth is dogs did get some veggies because the stomach content of their prey included veggies. Plus, veggies are high in phytonutrients, which have plenty of health benefits.
Despite what many of the raw diet gurus will tell you, the raw diet isn’t perfect. Studies have shown that dogs on a raw diet are still deficient in a few nutrients. It’s a good idea to supplement with multivitamins.
Get Rid of The Starch
Dogs bodies don’t respond well to starch, not to mention the fact that starch is usually high in calories per volume, so it won’t fill up your dog. This means avoid peas, grains, and potatoes
Raw Diet Isn’t a Miracle Diet
Before concluding this article, I’d like to make one final point on the raw diet… it’s not a miracle diet.
Dogs can live a long and healthy life on dry kibble or cooked homemade meals. In fact, if you aren’t careful, your dog might put on more fat on a raw diet if you overfeed them because raw food is more calorie-dense.
Sure, there are a lot of upsides to the raw diet. I am not trying to discourage anyone from giving it a shot. What I’m saying is that If you aren’t excited about making the switch to the raw diet or if you feel like it will put too much of a financial burden on you and your family, don’t do it. Staying on dry kibble doesn’t make you a bad pet parent. Only make the switch if you are excited about it, have the time for it, and can afford it.
Recommended For You