Whatever kind of dog you have, chances are you’ve struggled with how much to feed them.
On the one hand, you don’t want to underfeed them, and feeding your dog makes them so happy! On the other hand, overfeeding your dog can leave them logy and overweight, to say nothing of how it can lead to them leaving you little “presents” with even greater frequency.
Making homemade food for your dog can help with nutrition and be fun and fulfilling, but portion-setting can be tricky. Are you wondering “how much homemade dog food do I feed my dog?” Let’s take a look.
What Affects Your Dog’s Diet
This is a tricky question to answer, not the least because there are many factors that affect your dog’s optimal diet and, as such, how much homemade food you should feed them. It isn’t just food consumption, after all, but the amount of calories your dog consumes.
The optimal amount of calories per day will depend, among other things, on age and activity:
- Puppies: 990 calories
- Active Adult Dogs: 404 to 2100 calories
- Inactive Adult Dogs: 296 to 1540 calories
- Pregnant Dogs: 518 to 3170 calories
Those numbers make even more sense when you consider them in the context of a dog’s lifestyle.
A puppy is still growing, sure, but they often aren’t doing the kind of work or have as large of a body to maintain as a full-grown dog. On the flip side, as with human parents, a pregnant dog is eating for two (and frankly likely far more than that, given the size of dog litters) and so needs way more calories.
What’s more, not all adult dogs live the same kind of lifestyle. A retriever or bloodhound working side by side with their humans on a farm all day will need more calories than a porch hound laying around doing nothing but looking adorable all day. Sure, that’s an important job – but not a very calorie-consuming one.
How Age Impacts What’s “Good” for Your Dog
Young puppies are used to their mother’s milk or formulas which contain similar ingredients, including lactone. Once they have been weaned, however, most dogs lose the ability to digest this healthily.
Any homemade dog food recipes must be tailored accordingly. Small quantities of lactose may be fine on occasion, but be sparing with it. Otherwise, you risk diarrhea and upset stomachs.
Puppies need to grow and grow fast, so foods with high protein, carbs, and even healthy fats can help.
On the flip side, older dogs aren’t growing and often aren’t as active, and so they need diets that fit. Their diets often tend to feature fewer cabs, lower sodium, and they also include ingredients that are specially designed to help combat the effects of aging.
For example, foods that contain omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants can help combat inflammation. In addition, medium chain triglycerides can help combat senility and mental decline, making ingredients that include them, such as coconut oil and foods that include it, vital to older dog’s diets.
Frequency of Feeding
Age and frequency of feeding are also closely linked.
Puppies may not need as many calories as older dogs, but they need to be fed more frequently than any other age group, as much as four to six times a day at six to eight weeks of age, and two to three times a day at six months of age.
By that point, they should be about 75% of their adult size, diminishing their optimal feeding frequency.
At around one-year-old, your dog should be ready for adult food. If your homemade dog food recipes include different serving sizes for puppies as opposed to adults, you’ll want to take this into account when determining the portions to give your dog.
Serving Sizes Matter
Just as important as your dog’s age and activity level, as well as the nutritional content of the food itself, are the serving sizes.
As a general rule of thumb, you should have between ½ and ¾ cups of food for every 25 lbs your dog weighs. If that doesn’t seem like a lot, keep in mind two things, remember a little goes a long way with smaller dogs in particular. This is especially true with nutrient-rich homemade dog food.
Smaller serving sizes that are more dense with nutrients are better than larger, yet less nutritious servings. Think of a Big Mac versus a lean chicken fillet. One may be physically larger than the other, but you’re bound to get a more nutritious meal out of the latter than the former.
The same logic holds true with dog food serving sizes. Many commercial dog foods use filler. Your homemade dog food recipes, meanwhile, do not, and so while they may be smaller portion-wise, your dog should be getting a more well-balanced, nutritious, and ultimately energizing and fulfilling diet.
What’s more, smaller portions also mean less strain on your dog’s digestive tract.
Finally, if you do turn to store-bought options to supplement your homemade dog food recipes, you’ll want to make sure they are likewise nutritious and fit with your dog’s diet.
For example, NaturVet All-in-One Support contains several key ingredients such as omega-3 fatty acids which, as stated above, can have a positive impact on your dog’s health. As with your dog food, be sure to check the serving size on any dog supplement package to make sure you aren’t overdoing it.
So, how much homemade food should you be feeding a dog? There is no one answer, but rather many interrelated factors:
- The younger and more active your dog, the more calories they need, and the more often they should be fed
- Pregnant dogs need the most food in terms of overall caloric intake
Portion size can also depend on the type of food you are using in your homemade food recipes. When feeding your dog meat proteins (eg, poultry, rabbit, beef, lamb, fish, etc.) the Founders Veterinary Clinic recommends a ratio of ¼ to 1/3 lbs a day per 20 lbs of body weight. For non-meat proteins, such as eggs, that figure is ½ to ¾ lbs per 20 lbs of body weight.