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cat and dog at table

How to Portion Your Pets Food

How to Portion Your Pets Food

dog and cat at table

I'd like to share with you a recent question we received from a raw newbie that may shed some light about the portion size to feed your dog or cat.

Q: I have recently changed my 35 lbs Shetland sheepdog to a raw diet. I was concerned if I am giving him too much or too little per day, he seems to love it. Any info you can provide on raw daily feeding for this size dog would be appreciated. 

A: The starting point to calculate portion size is to multiply the weight of your dog (or cat - same thing) by 2.5%. So in the case of a 35 lb dog, that would be .875 lbs, or for simplicity sake, almost a pound per day. If you feed your dog twice daily that's a little less than 1/2 lb per meal.

But like I said, that's just a starting point and really nothing more than a generally accepted practice among most raw-feeders. Most important, there are other factors to consider when determining portion size, like age, current weight, breed and activity level.

For example, a puppy (kitten) should eat 5% per day of their body weight because they grow so fast (and are so active) that they need the additional nutrition. Conversely, a senior dog (cat) should only eat about 2% per day of its body weight because it's less active and has a slower metabolism. 

What's your dog's current weight condition like - overweight, underweight or just right? If he's on the heavy side, give him a little less or if he's thin, add a little more. There's no real formula to this; it's kind of like your mother making chicken soup, a little more salt, a little less pepper until it's just right.

The breed or breed-mix of your dog (cat) also plays into the equation. For example, some of the higher-strung breeds like Italian greyhounds, most terriers and sporting breeds, (for cats: bengals, savannahs), tend to burn calories like there's no tomorrow. I know a few Italian greyhound owners who feed their mature dogs double-puppy portions, yet they're not an ounce overweight. And then there are breeds like Golden and Labrador retrievers that can pack on the weight like a middle-aged guy living in a pizzeria. For those types, I generally recommend feeding them a little less than the 2.5% benchmark, unless of course, they are very active.

Which brings us to the activity level: If you're one of those fitness-crazed owners running and hiking with your pooch, then it goes without saying that you should feed him more because he's burning more calories. Of course most of us aren't active to that degree, we walk our dog a few times a day, in which case you don't have to add or subtract from the recommended feeding amount.  At the end of the day though, you should be able to feel your dog's rib cage and based on that you can adjust your daily portions.

All I'm trying to say is that portion size is not an exact science, that you have to consider the overall situation of your dog or cat and make portion adjustments accordingly. Ultimately you'll know if you're doing it right simply by looking at your pet.