- Size and age are the biggest factors — Knowing how much your puppy weighs relative to their age will be key in calculating their daily food intake.
- Puppies eat more and more often than adults — Puppies need two to three times more calories per day than older dogs to keep up with their incredibly high metabolisms.
- Feeding schedules and housetraining go hand in hand — Feeding your new best friend at the same times each day will make it easier to predict when they need to do their business.
- Consult your veterinarian on puppy feeding decisions — Every individual puppy is unique, so it’s important to refer to a vet for each dog’s different nutritional needs.
Factors to consider when feeding puppies
So, you’ve brought home a brand new puppy and you want to make sure you’re feeding your dog the correct amount of food. Luckily, making sure this newest addition to your family gets all the calories they need isn’t especially difficult for the average healthy puppy. That said, there are still a handful of considerations of which every new dog owner should be aware when it comes to puppy diets.
When determining how much to feed your puppy, you must take into account a variety of factors such as the dog’s breed, life stages, energy level, any health problems, and whether they’ve been spayed or neutered. But above all else, the two biggest components to determine your puppies caloric intake are their age and size.
How old is your puppy?
Generally speaking, the younger the dog, the more often they should eat. For the first three months of your puppy’s life, plan on feeding them small meals at least four times a day to keep up with their turbo-charged metabolisms. This is in contrast to the two portions a day many owners commonly feed to healthy adult dogs.
How big is your puppy?
Your puppy’s weight is another key factor in determining their food portions. Small breeds like Pomeranians and Chihuahuas can suffer from low blood sugar and need to be fed more frequently when they’re young to avoid hypoglycemia. Large breed puppies like Great Danes and Bernese mountain dogs run the risk of bloating, and will need to be fed smaller amounts with each meal. Most dog foods will have a chart on their packaging that instructs how much to feed your dog based on their size, though these are more like generic guidelines and may need to be adjusted to your individual puppy’s needs.
Wet food versus dry puppy food
Dry kibble is considered by many to be the best option for dogs of all ages, especially puppies. In addition to having a longer shelf life than wet food, munching on solid food helps your puppy maintain healthy gums and prevent the buildup of plaque or other dental issues. Regardless, you should still plan to brush your pup’s teeth regularly as well.
That said, canned wet puppy food can also be a good option, as long as it is balanced for growing puppies. Although wet food often has more calories in a smaller amount, it also has higher moisture levels to increase water intake. Much like dry food, wet food will have a puppy feeding guide on the label for how much to feed them relative to their size, along with proper storage information.
Some owners even mix dry and wet food, which can be beneficial in enhancing flavor for picky puppy eaters. While mixing isn’t bad, you should make sure you are calculating the total caloric intake between the two. Owners considering adding “people food” to their pup’s diet must first familiarize themselves with safe human foods for dogs and which foods can be toxic to pets.
Regardless of which dog food you give your pup, owners should be on the lookout for an Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) label on the packaging that ensures the product meets proper high-quality nutrition standards and which life stages for which it is intended.
How much should I feed my puppy?
First and foremost, all owners should consult their vet when deciding actually how much to feed their puppy, along with which life stage formula to consider. The puppy feeding chart below can give you a sense of how much food your new pooch will generally require based on their age and weight. A good rule of thumb is to take the total cups of food recommended for your puppy’s daily balanced diet and divide it by the number of meals you’ll serve in a day. For example, if your dog requires 1 cup of food each day divided into 4 meals, you will want to give them a quarter cup each time.
When it’s time to switch your puppy to adult food
Sadly, they can’t stay puppies forever. The general time frame when dogs are considered adults falls between 12 and 18 months, or when your puppy reaches their full weight.
Here are some tips for owners making the transition from puppy food to regular adult dog food:
- Mix it into their current food. The best way to introduce your puppy to adult food at first is to combine it with their puppy food.
- Start with a little, then gradually increase. Owners should begin with three parts of puppy food, one part adult food, and increase the ratio of adult dog food over the next week to two weeks to give your puppy’s digestive system time to adjust.
- It may take multiple tries. Finding the right adult dog food for your pup can be a bit of trial and error. If your dog is showing sensitivities to their new food, like stomach issues or itchy skin, you’ll need to repeat the process with a new food.
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Frequently asked questions
Should I feed my puppy treats?
Absolutely! Treats are an incredibly valuable tool for puppy training. However, owners will need to crunch the numbers and factor treats into their puppy’s daily allotted calorie intake to prevent unhealthy weight gain. Low-calorie treats are a good option for those using a lot of treats in reward-based training (or just rewarding your pup for being cute!) Alternatively, you could use a portion of your pup’s daily kibble for training sessions. Table scraps, on the other hand, should be avoided as human food is generally unhealthy for dogs and can lead to begging behaviors well into a dog’s adult life.
What if my puppy seems hungry all of the time?
Monitor your puppy’s body weight either at the vet or at home (HACK: hold your pup while you’re on a scale and subtract your weight) to keep up with their rapid growth. If their weight falls into the normal range but they still seem like they’re hungry all the time, consider the following:
- Are they super active? While a simple walk around the yard may not seem like much to you, it is much more taxing on a small puppy. Small activities will burn a lot more calories for your pup than an adult dog, so they will have to make those up.
- Are they teething? When young puppies are teething, kibble can be a great way to massage their gums and help with pain. Keep chew toys on hand as a way to help with their teething without giving them more food. Alternatively, ice cubes or chips make for a great no-calorie teething aid.
What if my puppy isn’t eating?
It’s important to determine whether your pup is being a picky eater or experiencing a medical illness. If your dog has not eaten in 24 hours, they should be brought to the vet for further evaluation. Those with picky eaters can try to make the puppy’s food more enticing by mixing in pumpkin or sweet potato, as well as cutting back on treats throughout the day. Additionally, having a set puppy feeding schedule can help regulate the timing of your dog’s hunger.