Are you the lucky owner of a new puppy? Alongside the endless snuggles and laughs, you’re likely balancing plenty of new responsibilities like potty training and crate training. Raising a new puppy isn’t necessarily easy, but any dog owner knows it is worth it.
While navigating the day-to-day tasks of owning a new puppy, you have no doubt considered your pup’s dietary needs.
After all, different breeds of puppies require additional nutrition depending on the size and activity level of your new furry family member. Moreover, the puppy feeding charts on the back of the puppy food bag might differ from brand to brand.
Don’t worry; over time, you will inevitably fall into a healthy feeding schedule for your puppy, but we went ahead and gathered a few helpful tips for some of the more common questions.
How much should I feed a puppy?
Generally, puppy food differs from regular adult dog food in that the former contains higher levels of essential vitamins and minerals. Puppy food also tends to have more fat and protein, as new puppies need more daily calories per bite to help them grow and gain weight.
The amount you should feed your puppy varies depending on weight and age.
A puppy under 12 weeks old and under 5 pounds only needs about 1 cup of puppy food daily. A puppy under 12 weeks old but over 10 pounds can easily handle 3 cups of food daily. Between 12 weeks and 1 year old, toy breeds will need between 1 and 1.5 cups of food daily.
At that same age, medium size puppies (those between 20 and 50 pounds) can handle 2 to 4 cups each day, and large breeds could go as high as 6 or more! Every pup is different, so you must monitor your little one’s weight closely and adjust your feeding guidelines accordingly.
How many times a day should you feed a puppy?
Newborn puppies will nurse every two hours. Over the next few weeks, if they are growing normally, their feeding schedule will adjust to every four hours or so.
Around four weeks old, puppies begin to grow teeth so that the mother will start the weaning process, and you can begin integrating softened puppy food.
By eight weeks, most puppies are fully weaned and can tolerate three to four meals daily. Around six months old, you can switch them to two meals per day.
What time should I feed my puppy?
Puppies should remain with their mothers until at least eight weeks of age, during which their mom will help regulate their feeding schedule.
However, once removed from the litter, it’s up to you to set a feeding schedule for your puppy. Try to feed your pup as soon as you wake up (maybe around 6 or 7 a.m.), around noontime, and after work (around 5 p.m.).
Consistency is vital, so set feeding times that work for you. You want to ensure that you allow your puppy time to digest and go potty before leaving for work or going to sleep.
Which pet foods are best?
There are a lot of different puppy food brands on the market, and you should always ask your veterinarian for recommendations while balancing what you can afford in your budget.
As a rule, check the ingredient list on the puppy food bag — the first ingredient should be meat (whether pork, chicken, fish, rabbit, etc.). A good option is a single-ingredient food like rabbit ears for puppies, which are high in protein and low in fat. Always try to look for natural food for your dog.
Then, look for other healthy, vitamin-rich ingredients like sweet potato or peas. Look for products with a grain-free label, as canines can’t digest corn and wheat very well. However, small amounts of brown rice and barley can be a healthy addition to a dog’s daily diet.
What about treats?
Puppies love a treat (who can blame them?), and these goodies can make a super effective reward for training purposes. At the same time, treats are often high in calories and not as nutritious as your puppy’s regular food.
Adhere to the 90/10 rule: average puppy food should make up 90% of your pup’s daily caloric intake. Speaking of treats, try to avoid giving your puppy human food (though we know how hard it is to resist those puppy eyes).
Certain human foods can be dangerous for canines, and you’ll inadvertently teach your puppy that it’s okay to beg underneath the dining room table.
Is my puppy at a healthy weight?
What shape is your puppy? If your small, furry companion appears rather round, you might consider cutting back on the food it receives daily (or eliminate treats as much as possible).
Conversely, if you can see the ribs or quickly feel the hip bones or spinal cord, your puppy may be underweight and require additional calories. Generally speaking, healthy puppies should have a waist and a straight build along the sides.
How to transition to adult dog food
Around 6 months to 1 year old, you can start transitioning your puppy to adult dog food. Usually, this switch typically coincides with the period to get your dog spayed or neutered since your dog is beginning to mature physically.
Puppy food is designed to help dogs grow, and since your puppy’s growth will start to level off around this age, it won’t need the same calorie-dense food.
Of course, your dog’s breed matters; small breeds tend to mature early (around 7 to 9 months old), whereas larger breeds mature about 1 year to 16 months of age.
Don’t make the switch from puppy food to adult dog food overnight. Begin by swapping out a quarter of your puppy’s average meal with adult dog food. Slowly increase this ratio over 10 days until your puppy only eats adult food.
What do I do if my puppy is vomiting?
Like human babies, it’s not uncommon for puppies to throw up. Don’t panic but take note of the food and water intake for that day.
There’s a good chance your pup overindulged on something. If you notice that vomiting continues following meal times, switching foods might be a good idea.
Consider calling the breeder or former owner and asking what kind of food the puppy was eating previously. Your pup may have an allergy or is simply sensitive to a new ingredient in the food you have been providing.
Final thoughts on feeding a puppy
Most importantly, talk to your veterinarian for help determining a healthy feeding routine that meets the needs of your puppy’s breed, size, age, and overall nutritional needs.