Puppy Nutrition Guide: How Much, How Often, What Food To Feed Them

No matter how much experience as a dog parent you have, welcoming a puppy into your family always feels like the first time. Undeniably, this is a moment full of love and joy – but it is also the start of a lifelong learning journey towards understanding how to give your puppy the best life. 

And nutrition, alongside regular play, exercise, and training, is the most influential factor on your puppy’s health. But feeding your puppy is much more than just picking the right kibbles and finding out what flavors your furry friend likes. The nutritional requirements for puppies are many, delicate, and vital for tier development. Learn all you need to know below. 

How Much Food Should You Feed Your Puppy?

puppy

Puppy nutrition is the perfect balance between quantity and quality. So while you might have selected the best human-grade puppy food, portion sizes also matter. And, especially for first-time puppy parents, understanding how much to feed their puppies can be complicated. 

However, unfortunately, there is a one-size-fits-all formula that allows you to know for sure how much food your puppy should receive. So, it is vital to focus on the dog’s health and condition to understand their unique nutritional requirements. 

Some factors, including breed, size, age, and underlying medical conditions, will indicate how much food to give them. Some temporary factors – such as treat-based training – can also call for portion adjustments. Don’t forget to observe them – your puppy’s behavior can tell you a lot about their needs and wellbeing.

Small Breeds Vs. Large Breed Puppies

Breed and forecast adult size are important factors weighing on your puppy’s nutritional requirements. Large and small breeds are different in many ways, and nutrition is not an exception. 

Large breed puppies have a much higher growth rate and metabolic speed than smaller puppies and thus require diet adjustments that provide them with increased nutrients and calorie intake. 

But even more importantly, each breed has particular traits. For example, large breeds are more prone to joint problems, while small breeds can struggle with respiratory problems. Breed-specific puppy food formulas can address these issues by providing additional nutrients or reducing kibble size.

Puppy Feeding Chart

Feeding your puppy the right foods and in the right quantities can be challenging. Here is a chart for reference, but ensure to consult a trusted vet and the chosen puppy food package for more specific guidelines.

Estimated weight as adult6–12 week(cups)4-5 months(cups)6-8 months(cups)9-11 months(cups)1-2 years(cups)
3-12lbs (1.4-5.4kg)½ -⅔ ⅔ – 1½  – 1¼ AdultAdult
13-20lbs(5.9-9.1kg)½ – 11¼ – 1½ ¾  – 11 – 1¼1 – 1¼ 
21-50lbs(9.5-22.7kg)½ – 11½ – 21¼ – 22 – 2¼ 2 – 3
51-75lbs(23-34kg)½ -1¾   1½ – 31⅓  – 32½ – 3½ 2¾ – 4⅔ 
76-100lbs(34.5-45.4kg)1 – 22 – 33 – 4¾ 4 – 5¼ 5¾ – 8¼ 
101 lbs45.4kg+2 + ⅓ cup for each 10 lbs of weight over 100 lbs3 + ⅓  cup for each 10 lbs of weight over 100 lbs4¾ + ⅓ cup for each 10 lbs of weight over 100lbs5¼ + ⅓ cup for each 10 lbs of weight over 100lbs8¼ + ⅓ cup for each 10 lbs of weight over 100lbs

Puppy Feeding Schedule As They Grow

Your puppy can go from a small ball of fur to full size in under two years! With such an impressive growth rate, it does not come as a surprise that a puppy’s nutritional needs change rapidly over time.

And, these changes can affect food quantity and type as well as feeding schedules. So, here is a daily and yearly schedule to follow – but don’t forget to speak to your vet to understand the unique nutritional requirements of your puppy. 

Puppies Eat More Frequently Than Adult Dogs

Unlike adult dogs that generally feed twice a day, puppies need to be fed 3-4 times a day, depending on their age. This is not to say that your puppy will need more food than your adult dog! 

Ideally, you should use the table above to understand the total quantity of food required by your puppy for healthy development, then divide it into three to four equal meals. 

When given to him at regular intervals, these smaller but more frequent feedings allow your puppy to maintain a constant energy level. Smaller feedings are also easier to digest and significantly decrease the risk of gastric dilation-volvulus (GDV) – or bloat.

A good rule of thumb would be to feed your puppy at the same time you eat, which is usually at breakfast, lunch, and dinner. 

General 1-Year Overview For Feeding Your Pup

In just 12 months, your puppy will grow close to her adult size. Because of this impressive growth, the nutritional plan you have devised must support the development of bones, tissue, and cognitive skills at each stage. Here is an overview of what to expect:

TimelineFood typeFeedings (per day) 
6–12 weeksDuring this stage, puppy food is used to help the puppy transition from the nutrients provided by their mother’s milk. You should feed them only puppy food and select dedicated formulas that will support their early development4
3–6 monthsBy 12 weeks, your puppy should lose the characteristic pot belly and its body should look more like the one of an adult dog. You can start introducing moist food.3
6–12 monthsBy the 9th to 12th month, you can begin switching from puppy food to adult food and lower the number of feedings.2
1 year and afterThe switch to adult food should be completed and you should try to establish a long-lasting, balanced, and regular routine. 2 half-portions

If you neuter or spay your dog, calorie and energy requirements might be reduced. Keep your puppy on puppy food until necessary.  

Understanding The Core Nutritional Needs of Puppies

puppy
istockphoto/Thanawath Seangsuriyapone

Puppies certainly don’t thrive on food scraps – but they also don’t on a diet that provides only animal protein or high levels of carbs. Instead, it is important to understand specific nutritional requirements for puppies and craft a healthy and supportive diet. Here’s how. 

Complete and Balanced

Your growing dog requires a mix of fat, protein, fibers, vitamins, minerals, carbs, and much more to thrive. Trusting specially formulated puppy foods means that you can be sure to provide all the needed nutrients to your puppy. Nutritionally complete puppy foods are often certified by the American Association of Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) and aim to suffice the puppy’s needs. Some qualities that a complete and balanced food should have include:

  • Natural ingredients
  • High-quality resources
  • Human-grade foods

Quality of Ingredients

Before committing to certain puppy food, learn more about the ingredients used. Non-whole foods and piecemeal (for example, by-products or rendered fats) are not only less nutritional than natural and whole foods – but they can also be damaging for your growing puppy’s health!

In fact, feed-grade, synthetic, and artificial ingredients are likely to contain toxins such as pesticides and cancer-causing substances. Selecting human-grade food can help you look after the safety, health, and wellbeing of your puppy.

Calories

A growing and energetic puppy needs more calories than their adult, less-active counterparts. Nonetheless, it is vital to supply them with a constant and controlled energy flow, avoiding spikes and excess. During puppyhood, you should feed your dog enough food to support its musculoskeletal development and continue to increase caloric intake over the first year until the puppy reaches 80% of mature size. 

Protein

While we all believe proteins to be the only key to growth and development, they need to be paired with minerals, vitamins, carbs, and fats. According to AAFCO, you should provide your growing puppy with at least 22% protein, but excessive protein levels can lead to medical conditions such as osteoarthritis and obesity. 

When selecting the kind of protein to feed your puppy, ensure it comes from real, organic meat and it’s human-grade. 

Fat

As a general rule, 8% of your puppy’s diet should be made up of fats. When in excess, fats can lead to weight increase and obesity-related issues. Nonetheless, when balanced correctly, fats are an important building block for puppies. To avoid problems, the best fats to supply your puppy are those coming from animal tissue and minimally processed. 

Carbohydrates

Carbs are an essential energy source for active, growing puppies. Compared to protein, carbs provide more readily available energy and ensure that your puppy has the energy to sell throughout the day. Healthy sources of carbs include vegetables, fruit, whole grains, and legumes. 

Puppy Nutrition and Health Best Practices

©istockphoto/Solovyova

Understanding the dos and don’ts of puppy nutrition is not always easy. Here are some guidelines to help you get started, but don’t forget that – just like every baby – every puppy is unique, and nothing can replace a veterinary appointment or consultation.

Dry Food or Wet Food?

This is an important dilemma for many pet owners. Here are the main differences to consider:

  • Canned or moist food is expensive but the most appreciated by dogs. It is not always suitable for younger puppies and preferable for older dogs. It should not only contain meat. 
  • Kibbles or dry foods are the most common type of dog food and are economical. You can find your preferred packet size and special formulation for your puppy’s individual needs. 

While kibbles can be moistened with water to improve their flavor, they can contribute to maintaining your dog’s oral health in check. 

Document Their Growth and Weight Progress 

No two puppies will have the exact development and growth rate. Make sure to use the chart above to check at what stage of development your puppy is and feed her accordingly. If you are struggling to know how well your puppy is doing, you can:

  • Weight your puppy – the easiest weight is to weigh yourself and then weigh yourself again holding the puppy. The difference is the puppies weigh.
  • Don’t worry about minimal weight differences
  • Check with your vet to know if your puppy is healthy and prevent complications related to obesity and excessive weight. 

Avoid Table Scraps

Many pet parents find it impossible to resist puppy eyes and give in. But feeding your dog food from the table encourages unhealthy habits, begging, and nutritional imbalances. And, unlike what you might think, begging is not a sign of love but rather a sharpened evolutionary survival strategy that allows your dog to remain fed and energized. Nonetheless, human food is not always suitable for dogs, and scraps and snacks can easily contribute to weight and development issues. 

Feed Puppies The Same Food The Breeder Or Adoption Agency Was 

After selecting your puppy, it is important to ask the adoption agency or breeder many questions – including about nutrition. Changing your dog’s diet can be an important change in their life and can have long-lasting consequences. Stick to what the breeder was feeding the puppy and consult your vet before changing their nutritional plan. 

Always Consult A Vet For Nutritional Advice 

If your dog is healthy, specifically-formulated foods might be all you need to encourage healthy development. But if there are underlying conditions or unsure about the right feeding schedule and quantity, you should always speak to your vet. In the case of certain conditions – such as diabetes, allergies, or heart disease – your vet will be able to help you craft the best nutritional plan for your puppy. 

The Honest Kitchen Puppy-Friendly Foods 

At The Honest Kitchen, we believe that each dog deserves the best nutrition based on organic, natural, and high-quality ingredients. That is why we have formulated special blends suitable for any flavor, health condition, breed, and body size – all of which are made with human-grade ingredients. Check out our collection of exclusive puppy-friendly formulas as well.

Meet the Author: Patrick Mahaney

Dr. Patrick Mahaney VMD, CVA, CVJ is a veterinarian and certified veterinary acupuncturist providing services to Los Angeles-based clients both on a house call and in-clinic basis. Dr. Mahaney’s unique approach integrating eastern and western medical perspectives has evolved into a concierge house call practice, California Pet Acupuncture and Wellness (CPAW), Inc. Additionally, Dr. Mahaney offers holistic treatment for canine and feline cancer patients at the Veterinary Cancer Group (Culver City, CA).

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