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Getting a new puppy can be exciting, but even experienced pet parents are nervous about how to feed and care for their new dogs. Puppies need different foods based on their age because they are still growing, so it's always best to feed them puppy-specific dog food to ensure your new dog is getting all the nutrients they need to stay healthy and strong as they grow.
Unfortunately, first-time puppy owners can be confused by all the dog food options available. Luckily, this means you have options, so if you find dog food your puppy doesn't like, you can find a different brand or flavor containing all the essential nutrients they need.
Of course, not all puppies are the same, and some will need different foods to ensure their health. For example, some puppies are smaller and less active than others, so they won't need to eat as frequently as dogs that will grow to be large. Therefore, pet parents must learn how much to feed a puppy by weight and age to ensure they don't overfeed or underfeed a dog, depending on their activity levels and nutritional needs.
If you're wondering "how much food to feed a puppy by age," you've come to the right place. This article will discuss the nutritional needs of puppies and how much to feed a puppy by age to ensure your dog grows up healthy and strong.
- 6-12 Weeks
- 3-6 Months
- 6-12 Months
- ≥ 1 Year
- Nutritional Needs For Puppies
- Frequently Asked Questions
- Final Notes
Six weeks is when most puppies are healthy enough to go home after being weaned off their mother's milk. These initial weeks are incredibly important for a puppy's health because they grow daily. During this time, feed your dog puppy food to ensure they get the essential nutrients they need for bone and muscle development. Since puppies are active and constantly growing, they must be fed more often than adult dogs. Therefore, you can feed your puppy four times daily to meet their needs.1
Puppies continue to grow for months after you bring them home. However, they don't need to eat as much as younger pups once they reach about three months. Instead, you can start to decrease the number of feedings to three per day.1 Don't be alarmed if, during this time, your puppy still has a belly; it's completely normal for young dogs to have bellies that shrink as they get older, similar to baby fat in humans. A puppy belly doesn't mean your dog is overweight, so continue to feed them three times per day for the next few months.
Dogs getting closer to adulthood can be fed twice daily.1 Most dogs are spayed or neutered this time, so their metabolism may slow down due to decreased energy. Small dog breeds mature between these months, so you can talk to your vet about switching your dog to an adult diet to determine if it's the right time. However, larger dogs have not yet matured by the time they are 12 months old, so they may still require puppy food to ensure healthy development.
≥ 1 Year
By one year, most puppies have fully matured into adulthood and can begin eating adult dog food twice a day.1 However, large or giant breeds may still be in puppyhood and should eat puppy food. If you're unsure whether your dog's size affects the type of food they should eat, consult your vet.
Nutritional Needs For Puppies
Puppies' nutritional needs differ from adult and senior dogs because they're growing and may have more energy, so they should eat puppy food instead of adult dog food.2 Most puppies gain weight every week as they develop and need more nutrients than a full-grown dog. Here are some tips to help you ensure your puppy's nutritional needs are met:
- Read the bag: If you're ever unsure how much to feed your puppy, you can consult the back of their dog food. Since how much you feed your dog will depend on their age and weight, every puppy is different, and how much you feed your dog may depend on their breed. For example, toy breeds only need up to 1 cup of food per day, while giant breeds need over 2 cups of food per day.
- Ask a vet: When in doubt about how much to feed your new puppy, ask a vet for diet and nutrition advice. Your vet can help you determine the best feeding schedule and portion sizes based on your dog's breed, age, and ideal weight.
- Watch their weight: Puppies naturally have a pot-bellied appearance, but that belly should disappear as they grow. However, you can easily overfeed your puppy if you don't pay attention to their weight. Using a dog weight calculator can help you predict how much your dog will weigh when they're an adult, ensuring you can keep an eye on your dog's weight as they mature into adulthood.
- Be cautious with treats: A great way to bond with your new puppy is through training. However, training with treats can increase your dog's calorie intake and lead to weight gain. If you use treats for training, check the nutritional info on the back of the bag and adjust how much food you feed your dog to ensure they're not overeating.
- Keep a schedule: Feeding your puppy at regular intervals will help them get into a routine and make feeding time easier for pet parents with picky eaters.
- Make gradual changes: When transitioning your dog from puppy food to adult food, make gradual changes to prevent any digestive issues. Since a dog's stomachs get used to a certain food, introducing new food too quickly can cause vomiting and diarrhea. Instead, make gradual changes by mixing the two different foods over the course of 1-2 weeks until your dog has fully adjusted.
- Research food options: Whether you're looking for the best dog food for your puppy or adult dog, always do your research. Some foods are higher quality than others, but you can look for the AAFCO endorsement label on pet foods to ensure your dog's food provides balanced nutrition.3
Remember, you must know how much to feed a puppy by weight and age because smaller dogs require less food than giant breeds. You can find exactly how much to feed your dog daily by looking at the back of the food bag, which lists different weights and ages to ensure you're feeding your dog the proper amount of food daily. As your dog ages, they will need different serving sizes before transitioning to adult food.
Additionally, some days your puppy may not eat all of their food. If you notice your puppy isn't eating, monitor them to see whether or not they eat later in the day. A puppy can get full even when you're feeding them the proper amount, especially if they spent all day napping and haven't expended any energy.
Frequently Asked Questions
How much food should a puppy eat a day?
How much food a puppy should eat a day depends on their age, weight, and breed. Larger breeds require more food than toy or small breeds because they use more energy while their bodies develop. But, ultimately, it depends on your dog's healthy weight when they're an adult.
For example, if a dog is supposed to weigh 50 lbs once fully developed, they should eat up to 2 ⅓ cups of food per day when they are between 6 and 8 months old.4 Meanwhile, a giant breed that weighs over 100 lbs should eat over 6 cups per day while at the same stage of development.
How long after a puppy eats do they poop?
Puppies need to be taken outside for potty breaks after every meal. Most puppies will poop within a half hour after eating. Therefore, you must create a schedule that allows you to feed them and take them outside within this timeframe.
The younger your dog, the sooner they will have to poop, so your dog might need to poop within as little as five minutes after eating. Young dogs with small bladders will also have to urinate soon after drinking water because they don't have bladder control yet. During the first few months, expect your young puppy to have accidents in the house because they can't control themselves.
Should you leave water out for your puppy at night?
Puppies do not have bladder control and will urinate soon after drinking water. For this reason, you may not want to leave water out for your puppy overnight because it could mean accidents in the home or more frequent trips outside in the middle of the night. If you plan to keep your puppy in a crate throughout the night for the first few months, remove their water bowl before bed to prevent them from soiling their bedding and themselves.
Since puppies urinate after drinking water, you can remove their water and food bowl a few hours before bedtime and take them outside before settling in for the night. Of course, removing water may not prevent all accidents, but it can make them less frequent. Removing water bowls at night can also help your puppy get the sleep they need to grow and rest because they won't have to worry about urinating.
Since dogs don't like to sleep where they've urinated or defecated, you can improve your puppy's sleeping habits by removing water at night. As your dog gets older, becomes housetrained, and can control their bladder, you can start leaving water out at night as long as you take your dog outside first thing in the morning to allow them to relieve themselves.
Bringing home a new puppy is a joyful time, but it means you'll have a difficult few months ahead of you. Not only must you house train your puppy and teach them basic obedience, but you should also have them on a regular feeding schedule based on their age and weight. Proper nutrition is key for growing dogs to help them develop strong muscles and bones, so they must be fed properly.If you're ever unsure how much to feed your puppy, consult a Dutch vet for diet and nutrition advice. Our vets can help you determine the right type of puppy food and how much you should feed your growing dog.
Mansourian, Erika. "Puppy Feeding Fundamentals: Timeline for Puppy Feeding." American Kennel Club, American Kennel Club, 21 Mar. 2022, https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/health/puppy-feeding-fundamentals/.
"What Should I Feed My Puppy?" Blue Cross, https://www.bluecross.org.uk/advice/dog/what-should-i-feed-my-puppy.
Traverse, Teresa. "Common Mistakes Owners Might Be Making When It Comes to Dog Food." American Kennel Club, American Kennel Club, 5 Mar. 2020, https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/nutrition/dog-food-mistakes-you-might-be-making/.
Alt, Kimberly. "How Much to Feed a Puppy by Weight and Puppy Feeding Chart." Canine Journal, 17 May 2022, https://www.caninejournal.com/how-much-food-should-i-feed-my-puppy/.