When you bring home a new puppy there are many questions you may find yourself asking, but an often overlooked topic is feeding, and more specifically, how much food to feed a puppy.
Adult dogs and puppies have very different nutritional needs from one another. Puppies, like children, need extra calories to support their increased rate of growth. If you have found yourself asking, “how much should I feed my puppy?” or “how often should I feed my puppy?” then read below for a comprehensive list of puppy feeding guidelines.
Choosing a Puppy Food
Feeding puppies is a relatively easy task because they have large appetites and have not yet experienced human food, so they are rarely picky eaters.
Choose a product that is specially formulated for dogs less than a year old to ensure your puppy receives the calories and nutrition (such as additional calcium) that he or she needs in order to thrive. Opt for the best quality food that you can afford, and look for formulations that list a wholesome meat source as the first ingredient.
For instance, “deboned chicken” is a better option than “chicken by-product” or “chicken meal.” The latter two ingredients, while still providing protein, also may contain non-nutritive portions of the animal, such as beak and cartilage.
Also avoid filler ingredients, which provide no value to the food and are often not digestible.
Types of Puppy Food
There are numerous options on the market for what you can feed your puppy, and choosing the best option is dependent on your pet’s needs, as well as your budget.
Dry food is by far the most convenient and cost-effective option, with many puppy formulations available that are easy to find.
Canned food is best for dogs that have jaw or dentition problems such as cracked or loose teeth, but the downside is that it is more expensive than dry foods, and also less convenient. Additionally, your dog may become spoiled by the wet food and refuse kibble later on in life.
How Often to Feed a Puppy
Once you have chosen a puppy food, the next step is determining a feeding schedule. Knowing when to feed puppies is important, because their energy levels and potty habits will be based on their meal times.
Unlike adult dogs, puppies need to have many small meals throughout the day because of their increased metabolism and small stomach sizes. An example feeding schedule is 8 AM, 12 PM, 4 PM, and 8 PM.
Additionally, if your puppy is a large breed dog, getting into the habit of smaller meals throughout the day is important, as limiting the amount of food inside a dog’s stomach at any given time is a crucial step in preventing gastric torsion (also known as bloat).
How Much Food to Feed a Puppy
The amount of food your puppy is fed will depend on age, breed, individual needs, and the quality of the dog food. The best way to determine the amount of food that is right for your puppy is to watch your dog.
Puppies are “blank slates” and do not have emotional or behavioral attachment to food in the way that adult dogs do. If your pet does not finish his or her meal within 10 minutes, you are likely feeding too much.
Additionally, keep an eye on your dog’s body composition. If your puppy appears to be gaining weight to quickly, reduce portion sizes. If you are using treats to train your puppy, you should also consider giving your pet less food at meal time in order to compensate for those additional calories.
A good nutritional starting point is to follow the instructions on the dog food label, but make adjustments as needed.
Importance of Routine
Dogs crave routine, so implementing (and sticking to) a puppy feeding schedule is important. This schedule will be a necessary potty training tool that will help you predict when your puppy needs to go outside, which will minimize accidents in the house.
It will also lead to a better behaved dog, with less begging and whining for food. It is important that everyone in the family complies with this schedule and that your dog is not receiving meals haphazardly, which could lead to confusion and behavioral problems.
If you are unable to come home during the day to feed your pet and take him or her outside to potty, consider hiring someone to drop by to take your puppy outside, as well as to feed him or her. This small gesture will go a long way in maintaining your puppy’s health, as well as help with potty training.
When to Switch to Adult Dog Food
Due to the high caloric nature of puppy food, your dog should only eat this variety for as long as is necessary. There is no one-size-fits-all solution to when it is appropriate to switch to an adult dog food.
Small and large breeds mature at different rates, so a small dog may be done growing by 9 months of age, while a large breed may take up to 2 years to fully develop.
After your puppy is spayed or neutered his or her nutritional needs will also change, as the removal of reproductive organs will decrease your puppy’s metabolism.
Your dog will be the best guide in determining when it is time to switch to an adult formula. If he or she is no longer finishing meals, has finished growing, and is beginning to put on weight, a new type of food is required. When you switch foods you can also decrease from 3 – 4 feedings per day to 2 – 3.
How to Transition Foods
When switching dog foods you should do so gradually so as not to upset your puppy’s stomach. Over the course of 1 – 2 weeks, slowly increase the amount of new food in your dog’s diet and decrease the amount of old food. Watch your puppy for any digestive distress, such as vomiting or diarrhea, and slow down the transition if needed.