A common concern for dog owners is trying to figure out how much to feed their dog, especially when switching to a raw or home cooked diet. When we fed kibble, the amount of food we fed our dog was easy. The instructions were right on the back of the bag, so feeding became second nature. But, when we decided to make the choice to feed a fresh food diet, it suddenly seems baffling!
How much food to feed your dog can vary and the total daily diet consumption depends on the dog's age, weight, metabolism, and size. A general rule of thumb when feeding a fresh food diet is to feed a daily amount of food equal to 2% to 3% of the dog's ideal weight – not necessarily the dog's current weight. For an adult, the percentages above are the best guide. Some dogs may need less if they are less active or overweight. Dogs that are underweight or dogs that participate regularly in performance events or lead an active life style may need more. Each dog is different, so use this guide as a starting point and then watch your dog’s weight as you feed and adjust the total amount of food as needed. If you have to dig to find your dog's ribs, then feed a little less. If you can see your dog's ribs, then add slightly more to the diet.
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Here is a handy chart for a guideline on how much to feed daily:
100 lb dog – 2 to 3 pounds of food daily (4 to 6 cups)
75 lb dog – 1 ½ to 2 pounds of food daily (3 to 4 cups)
50 lb dog – 1 to 1 ½ pounds of food daily (2 to 3 cups)
25 lb dog – 8 to 12 ounces daily (1/2 to ¾ cups)
Some dogs that have been spayed or neutered may need less food. Simply adjust the amount accordingly. Do not try and cut back considerably, but instead reduce the amount of food by 10%. For more information on how to help your dog lose weight, read this article on weight loss in dogs:
Special Consideration for Toy Breeds
Breeds under approximately 15 pounds are considered ‘toy breeds’. Most often, toy breeds have a higher metabolism. Toy dogs need to be fed more frequently (3 to 4 times a day) and because of their higher metabolism, they may need more food. Toys breeds may need from 3% to 5% of their body weight in food daily. Use the guide below for the approximate amount for food for toy breeds.
Food Guide for Toy Breeds Less than 15 Pounds
15 lb dog – 8 to 12 ounces daily
10 lb dog – 5 to 8 ounces daily
5 lb dog – 3 to 4 ounces daily
Remember, these amounts are a guide for what you want the dog to weigh. So your dog is overweight, feed them the percentage needed for their *target* weight. These numbers can vary, as I mentioned before, due to metabolism and activity levels. They may need slightly more or less, but monitor their condition by the ribs. If you can easily feel them, they are fine. If you can’t find them, it is time to feed slightly less.
Puppies and Young Adults
I most frequently get questions on how much to feed puppies. Puppies do have a higher metabolism and they go through some rapid growth stages. Consequently, puppies need more food than adult dogs. A general rule of thumb is that puppies can eat anywhere from 5% to 10% of their body weight daily. So a 10 pound puppy may need up to one pound of food daily. Puppies also require more frequent feedings. I feed puppies at least 4 times a day, up until about 4 months of age. Their growth rate is rapid at this time, and frequent feedings (rather than one or two large feedings) help during this time. At about 4 months, I reduce the feedings to 3 times a day. Sometime after teething (which generally starts about 4 months and ends about 6 months), you may want to reduce the meals to twice a day, except in the case of toy breeds, which need at least 3 meals a day.
Puppy appetites may wax and wane, between growth spurts and also during teething. Teething can make the gums painful at times, so softer food may be used to help when this occurs. Conversely, puppies may desire more recreational bones at this time, to help with the process of teething.
For more information on feeding puppies a raw diet, the following newsletter provides a feeding guide with instructions:
With all the commercial foods for senior diets and weight control foods, you might think our seniors need less food. But that is not necessarily true. The guidelines used above for adult dogs are the same for our senior dogs. If a dog is less active due to illness or arthritis, less food may be desired. But for the most part, senior dogs still need a good diet as high quality proteins in good amounts is necessary for organ functioning. Rather than reducing the amount or quality of food, you may want to reduce the amount of fat in the diet and reduce or eliminate any starches and grains. It is these high calorie carbohydrates and fats that are the primary cause of weight gain. In a raw diet, this is easy to do. Simply cut out the carbohydrates, choose leaner meats, and remove the skin from any chicken. Use low fat yogurt and cottage cheese, and reduce the number of eggs in the diet. In cooked diets, I would recommend the low glycemic (sugar), low fat recipes found here:
See the following newsletter for more information on why senior dogs need animal based protein and fat and useful tips for the special needs of your senior:
I hope these guidelines are helpful. Please email me if you have any questions. Each dog is an individual with their own unique needs, so the amount food served daily depends on the dogs age, activity level, hormones (spayed or neutered) and size. Keeping your dog fit and healthy is the best gift you can give them, so along with a good healthy diet, don’t forget the daily walks and fun activities for both mental and physical health! Your dog will appreciate it! Happy Easter to everyone . . . and please, keep the Easter Chocolate and other candy away from your pups!!
Copyright Lew Olson 2010