Feeding a dog a homemade diet is a great alternative to commercial kibble if you do it right. When I discuss this topic with pet owners, I always get asked, how much homemade dog food to feed my dog? Well, it's not an easy question to answer, but I'll try to explain how you can figure out the proper serving size for your dog.
Why You Need to Know the Exact Serving Size of Food
You may be wondering why you even need to figure out the right serving size of homemade dog food for your pet. Some pet owners assume that they can simply watch a dog's weight and make sure they're not gaining or losing.
This is wrong.
The consequences of feeding a dog too much or too little food are obvious. When overfeeding on calories, your dog will become obese, which then could lead to a slew of other health conditions: diabetes, joint problems, certain types of cancer, heart and respiratory issues.
Feeding a dog too much food can also lead to vitamin toxicity. In such cases, too much of a good thing could be very bad. For example, some of the most common vitamin toxicity cases are related to Vitamin A, which can cause bone spurs, lethargy, constipation, stiffness and limping in dogs, and Vitamin D, which can lead to vomiting blood, seizures, muscle tremors and abdominal pain in dogs.
At the same time, if you're not feeding your dogs enough of essential nutrients, they'll be at risk of nutrient deficiency and becoming malnourished. When you haven't figured out the exact serving size of homemade dog food and do not realize a dog isn't getting all of the essential nutrients, they will become weak and a dog's organs will start failing. In the end, nutrient deficiency will lead to death if it's not corrected in time.
How Much Homemade Dog Food to Feed My Dog?
Note: Before you spend time figuring out how much homemade dog food to feed my dog, understand that the only person that can give you an accurate answer to this question is someone that is trained in canine nutrition – a veterinarian or a canine nutritionist. And even then, an expert may not be able to give you an exact answer; together, you will have to find recipes and exact serving sizes to meet individual dog's specific needs.
Factors That Affect a Dog's Diet
When you decide to start cooking for your dog and delve into a homemade dog food diet, you'll have to do some reading and learning. You need to fully understand the nutrients that a dog's body requires before you get to figuring out how much food to feed a dog.
Read this article to understand exact nutritional needs, which will help you figure out serving sizes. A dog's nutritional requirements can be figured out using calculations from the National Research Council (PDF), and they will be based on several factors:
- activity level
- medical history
- current health condition
The type of homemade dog food diet that you choose to feed a dog will also have a huge impact on the answer to this question, “how much homemade dog food to feed my dog?” Not all dog food recipes are created equally. All of them will offer different nutrients. Some will be well-balanced and can be used as a staple in a pet's diet, while others may only be good as an occasional meal.
Serving Sizes of Homemade Dog Food
Get yourself a set of measuring cups for homemade dog food, something like this is what I also use. For most of my homemade dog food recipes, I typically include serving sizes in the article. I generally recommend feeding the below amount:
1/2-3/4 of a cup of food for every 25 pounds of body weight
While this doesn't seem like a lot, you need to remember that well-balanced homemade dog food meal is much more nutrient-dense than most commercial diets.
When you make homemade dog food, ideally, you're using high-quality, whole food ingredients that are rich in protein and moderate in fat, carbohydrates and vitamins.
Commercial dog food brands, on the other hand, are processed and contain fillers that are only added to the recipe to make your pet feel like they've had enough to eat. Thankfully, homemade dog food does not include these types of ingredients (which is the reason you're making the switch in the first place).
This type of feeding is also better for your dog's digestive tract, their digestion and will reduce the amount of stool that a dog creates. It's a win for you and the dog.
The Importance of Balanced Homemade Recipes
Not all homemade dog food recipes will provide all of the nutrients that your dog needs, which is exactly what you need to work with an expert to figure out your individual dog's specific nutritional needs and how best to meet those needs.
In a recent study, researchers tested 200 homemade dog food recipes, many of which were written by veterinarians, and found that only 9 of them provided all of the essential nutrients in the right concentrations to meet the minimum standards set for dogs by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO). Only 5 of the recipes provided the essential nutrients in the right concentrations to meet the National Research Council’s (NRC) minimum requirements for adult dogs.
This doesn't mean that recipes are bad – most of them can hardly reach those nutritional needs without adding too many calories. What it means is that you need to add supplements to your homemade dog food meals to make them balanced. Some of those will be chosen specifically for a dog's breed or health condition. For example, if your pet is predisposed to hip and joint issues, you may need to include a joint supplement.
Most common supplements recommended to add to homemade dog food recipes include multivitamin supplements, hip and joint supplements, omega-3 fatty acids (fish oil), Vitamin A & E, calcium and extra protein supplements. These will vary depending on your dog's condition. Some general multivitamins and fish oils will be good for all dogs, but you still need to consult your vet about this. Some good examples include the below:
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All of this shouldn't discourage you from making homemade dog food, but hopefully it shows you you will need to put in a little more work (at least in the beginning stages) than simply pouring kibble into your pet's bowl.
To wrap this up: although I did give my recommendation for a serving size for most homemade dog food diets in this article and my tips on how much homemade dog food to feed a dog, I cannot stress enough the importance of working with a veterinarian or canine nutritionist. This is the only way that you can be absolutely sure you're feeding your pet an appropriate diet.
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