- Size and age are the biggest factors — Paying attention to their physical condition and 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.
- Consult your veterinarian on puppy feeding decisions — Every puppy is unique, so it’s important to refer to a vet for each dog’s nutritional needs.
Deciding what and when to feed your new puppy helps set the course for a long, healthy life. The exact amount of food depends on factors like age, body composition, activity level, and even the brand of kibble or wet food.
The feeding chart on their food label gives you a good idea of how much to dish out in a day, but be sure to divide that amount by the number of feedings that they need. Then, ask for your veterinarian’s opinion to ensure that your dog is getting the correct amount of nutrition to thrive.
The good news is that the general guidelines of how much to feed a puppy remain pretty consistent regardless of these independent variables. Learning what they are can help you make informed decisions. Here’s what you need to know about dog feeding amounts.
What to feed your puppy
A glance down the aisle at the pet store or supermarket can be overwhelming. There are so many choices to feed your pup. As you might imagine, not all of these choices are equal, and only a few of them will even be a good fit for your dog’s individual needs.
Here are some things you’ll want to keep in mind when shopping for a food that’s right for them:
- Breed. While you don’t necessarily have to choose a recipe that’s formulated for their particular breed (ie., cavalier King Charles spaniel), you do need to find a food that fits the nutritional requirements of their breed size. For example, if you have a German shepherd you’ll want to choose a large breed puppy chow as opposed to if you have a Maltese, who would require a small breed puppy recipe.
- Medical conditions. Most health issues occur down the road, but some may present themselves in your dog’s first year. For example, if your vet suggests your dog may have a food allergy, you’ll want to buy a prescription food that’s formulated for dogs with suspected allergies, or at least find a recipe that exclusively uses a novel protein. These would include foods that use “gentle,” allergy-friendly proteins (such as rabbit or venison) as opposed to common proteins like chicken or beef.
- Activity level. Puppy food contains more calories and fat than adult formulas, but the exact degree varies depending on the recipe. If your dog isn’t very active (or appears to be putting on extra pounds), you might talk to your veterinarian about switching to a puppy food that’ll help them manage their weight or reduce their portions if they’re eating too much food.
Dr. Jennifer Schott
The most important thing to look for is that the food is labeled for growing puppies. It’s also important that your puppy will consistently eat the food! I typically recommend foods from Purina, Hill’s, or Royal Canin as they consistently make good quality products and have multiple puppy formulations based on size and breed.
How often do you feed a puppy?
Most dog foods will have a chart on their packaging that instructs how much to feed your dog based on their size. Additionally, your puppy’s weight and breed are key factors 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 regulated amounts with each meal.
Your dog’s age and spay/neuter status also play into their exact portions. As your dog grows older, they’ll need fewer meals. Spaying and neutering slightly reduce their energy and caloric requirements, so talk to your vet about adjusting their portions after this procedure. Depending on your dog’s age and breed, some veterinarians prefer to switch your dog to adult food after surgery to reduce their risk of obesity.
While it’s impossible to condense all of these factors into a single chart, here are some general guidelines that can help you create a puppy feeding schedule that’s the right fit for your dog:
|Breed Size When Grown
|6 weeks to 4 months
|4 to 6 months
|6 months to adult
|Toy breeds (<15 lbs.)
|4 to 5 meals per day
|3 to 4 meals per day
|2 to 3 meals per day
|Two meals per day
|Small & medium breeds (15-50 pounds)
|3 meals per day
|2 meals per day
|2 meals per day
|2 meals per day
|Large & giant breeds (50+ lbs.)
|3 meals per day
|2 meals per day
|2 meals per day
|2 meals per day
Adult dog food won’t hurt your puppy if it’s once or twice. However, making a habit out of it can lead to nutritional deficiencies and developmental problems.
Puppy food intentionally contains higher concentrations of nutrients such as fat, calories, and protein than regular adult dog food. This is because puppies require more nutrients than adults as they grow. Young dogs under one year old need an extra amount of these key nutrients to thrive:
- Fat. Healthy fats like omega-3s help your puppy’s eyes develop, their fur shine, and reduce harmful inflammation. They also provide fuel for their endless bedtime zoomies.
- Calories. Although we tend to culturally gravitate towards low-calorie foods, your puppy needs extra calories as they grow.
- Protein. Strengthening muscles requires an extra amount of protein and amino acids. Although the AAFCO doesn’t recognize it as an essential nutrient, taurine supplements are also useful nutrients in puppy food. This amino acid aids eye development and supports your dog’s cardiovascular system.
- Calcium. Building strong bones depends on your dog’s calcium supply. While puppies do require more of this essential nutrient than adult dogs, it’s important not to overdo it. It’s generally best to ask your vet for advice before giving your dog any supplements. Large dogs actually require less calcium than small breeds, and giving them too much can actually cause harm.
Dr. Jennifer Schott
Excess calcium intake can lead to abnormal bone growth and hip dysplasia, especially in larger breeds. For healthy bone growth, the calcium-to-phosphorus ratio needs to be appropriate. So if you are feeding a puppy diet, supplementing calcium and phosphorus is not necessary and can actually be harmful.
Food for large & small puppies
As mentioned previously, nutritional needs depend on size and breed, so be sure to find a puppy food that’s formulated for your dog’s size. For example, small breed puppies need a different type of puppy food than a Great Pyrenees, who needs a large or giant breed puppy food to receive proper nutrition.
Wet food vs. dry 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.
One potential problem with dry dog food is that it can have a dehydrating effect. To counteract this risk, you should always make sure your dog has access to fresh water. They’ll generally do a good job regulating their drinks on their own, so long as water is available round-the-clock.
Wet puppy food contains higher moisture levels, which naturally increases your dog’s water intake. However, wet food often has more calories in a smaller amount, which can make it more difficult to regulate their weight. 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. Just make sure to calculate the total caloric intake between the two.
Regardless of which dog food you choose, puppy 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.
Chart your puppy’s growth
While your veterinarian weighs your puppy during their frequent puppy vaccination appointments, it’s important to keep track of their weight at home. You can find a puppy growth chart either through your vet or online that can help you monitor their weight and determine if they’re at a healthy number for their age and breed.
The best way to measure their weight is to step on the scale with them. Measure the total number and then subtract your weight. It’s super easy and doesn’t involve nails scratching the floor.
When to switch to adult food
Most puppies make the transition to adult food by their first birthday. Large breeds mature slower, so it’s possible for some dogs to still need puppy food well past this mark. Conversely, toy breeds mature quickly, and many veterinarians prefer to switch them to adult foods when they’re spayed, around 8 months old.
Here’s a chart that shows a general breakdown of when to expect:
|Small and medium breeds
|8 months to 1 year
|Large and giant breeds
|12 to 24 months
As usual, be sure to consult your vet about the best time to switch your dog’s food, as well as what to look for in an adult recipe.
Transitioning your puppy to adult food
Once it’s time to switch, you’ll want to start the process slowly. It’s a good idea to buy the new food about a week before you run out of puppy food so that you can transition them gradually.
Tummy troubles result from going cold turkey, so start by mixing in small amounts of the new food with the old. Be sure to encourage your dog to try their new food and increase the ratio of new food to old over the next few days.
If they experience gastric upset after the first week, talk to your vet about whether that recipe is right for them.
Feeding the correct portions of the right food—and encouraging good eating and exercise habits—can make all the difference as your puppy grows bigger. Be sure to involve your vet throughout the process, and reach out to them if you have any questions, especially if you notice your puppy isn’t gaining weight or has put on more ounces than they should.
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Nutritional deficiencies and obesity are equally damaging to a growing puppy’s health, so you should regularly take note of their body condition and weight using a puppy growth chart, or other method, to ensure that they’re at the proper size for their breed and age.
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Frequently asked questions
How do I know if I’m feeding my puppy enough?
Feeding charts provide a general idea of how much to feed your puppy, but their body condition works as a better indicator of nutrition. A thin layer of fat should conceal your puppy’s ribs, but they should still sport a lean, tapered figure. Being able to see your puppy’s ribs indicates that they are malnourished, while a pudgy body without curves signifies that they’re likely overweight.
What if my puppy seems hungry all the time?
Like human babies, puppies tend to eat more during phases of high activity and steady growth, especially if they’re teething. If your pup suddenly plows through the kibble, note their activity level and whether or not they appear to be teething. If your vet determines that they’re at a healthy weight, talk to them about whether you should increase their serving size.
How many cups should a puppy eat?
The precise amount of food depends on individual factors, such as their breed, activity level, and physical condition. The type of food also weighs in significantly since some foods are more nutritionally dense than others. Your vet will be your best source for determining how many cups of food to feed your pet each day.
How do I calculate how much to feed my puppy?
A puppy feeding chart can give you a good idea of how much to feed your pup. It’s not an exact science though, especially since it doesn’t take things like medical conditions into account. Frequently visiting a veterinarian while your growing puppy is still small is the best way to get feeding advice tailored to their needs.
Is it okay to feed puppies twice a day?
Ideally, puppies should eat at least three small meals a day from the time they’re weaned until they’re six months old. Feeding small, frequent meals is especially important for tiny dogs who are more likely to experience drops in blood sugar if they go without eating for too long. However, three meals can be difficult to serve, especially if you work away from home. Consider hiring a pet sitter while your puppy is under six months old to let them out of their crate in the middle of the work day and give them a meal.