The responsibility can feel overwhelming when you bring home a new puppy for the first time. This tiny creature depends on you for all of its developmental needs, and nutrition is one of the most important.
How can you ensure your eating schedule is right for your new pet? This guide will help you know just how much you should feed your puppy, and following these recommendations will also set the stage for a healthy adult dog.
How Much Food Should a Puppy Eat in a Day?
When a puppy weans from its mother’s milk or a milk replacer from the breeder, they need to transition slowly to puppy food. When the time is right to bring your new puppy home, make sure you plan how and when you'll feed them.
Puppies need to eat more frequently than adult dogs, and their feeding schedule will change as they grow. In general, puppies need to eat three to four times a day, depending on the dog's age. That isn’t to say that your puppy will need more food than your adult dog, but they will need to eat more often.
To accommodate more frequent feedings and to maintain a constant energy level, your puppy needs to eat smaller amounts at more frequent intervals. Smaller feedings are also easier to digest and significantly decrease the risk of gastric dilation-volvulus (GDV), otherwise known as bloat. Take the recommended daily amount based on your pet's breed and age, and size.
Remember, at just 12 months of age, your puppy will be close to their adult size. Because of this impressive growth, your nutritional plan must support the development of bones, tissue, and cognitive skills at each stage. Here is an overview of what to expect:
Eating Guidelines for Puppies 6 Months and Younger
For very young puppies, eight weeks or less, give your puppy free choice about when they eat. This is a rapid period of growth. However, around week 10 or 12, feed the puppy three to four meals a day rather than leaving food out all day. Choose puppy food that supports early development.
Don’t focus on how much the puppy is eating, but rather on providing high-quality food at these times. Leave the food out for around 30 minutes, then pick up whatever food the puppy didn’t eat. You can provide food again at the next feeding time. Somewhere between four and six months, reduce the feeding schedule to twice a day, morning and night. When you start to notice your pet losing their round puppy belly and growing into an adult dog shape, typically around 12 weeks, you can introduce wet food.
Eating Guidelines for Puppies 6 Months and Older
By six months, you should be feeding the puppy twice a day. By months nine to 12, you can begin transitioning from puppy food to adult food. This is when you can decide whether kibble or canned dog food is best for your puppy. By the time the puppy is one year old, the switch to adult dog food should be completed, and you should be in a twice-a-day established eating routine. Keep an eye on your puppy’s body condition at this time to ensure they are getting just the right amount of food.
How Much Small Breed Puppies Should Eat in a Day
The amount you feed your puppy at each mealtime will depend largely on the puppy’s breed. Small breeds are breeds with an adult weight of 20 pounds or less. These puppies will reach their adult size at around nine months. The amount to feed your small-breed puppy will depend on the type of food you choose.
Each food will have a feeding guide on the packaging, so read that to see the recommended amount. In addition, keep an eye on your new puppy’s body condition. If you notice they are gaining too much weight, cut back on the amount of food they eat at each mealtime, not the frequency of the feedings. Some basic guidelines for dry dog food are to feed between 1/3 cup and 1 cup total per day.
How Much a Large or Giant Breed Puppy Should Eat in a Day
Large breed puppies need specially formulated food — and a lot of it. Because these dogs grow so much in the first 12 to 18 months of life, they need food that is specifically formulated for their nutritional needs. Without the right food and a puppy feeding schedule that fits the breed, they may end up with orthopedic problems. Once you find dog food designed for giant or large breeds, follow the feeding instructions that come with it.
Giving the puppy too many calories may end up with developmental or orthopedic problems, but too few calories can impact growth. Most large breed dogs will reach skeletal maturity at about one year old when you can transition to adult dog food. However, giant breeds, like Great Danes or Saint Bernards, may reach maturity closer to 18 months. As a general rule of thumb, feed between 2 and 4 1/2 cups of food for large and giant breed puppies per day.
A Complete Puppy Feeding Chart
For better guidelines about how to feed your new puppy based on size and age, take a look at the puppy feeding guide in the chart below. Find your puppy’s age and size, and you will get a clear guideline about how much and how often to feed your new pet.
This chart is for our Whole Grain Whole Food Clusters for puppies, but please refer to your pet’s food of choice when determining how much to feed them, as calories per cup may differ.
Common Signs Your Puppy Is Overfed or Underfed
There are many factors that can affect how much your puppy needs to eat, such as their activity level, age, and breed. While you do need to be careful to ensure you’re giving your pet enough food, the feeding amount and frequency are not always easy to choose. Another way to consider your options is to watch the dog's body condition. Remember, by about six months old, your dog should have a good body condition that mirrors that of an adult dog. Check out the body condition scoring guide below to see what a healthy dog's body looks like:
If Your Puppy Is Chubby, They Could Be Overfed
Obesity is a growing problem in American pets; sometimes, body weight can creep up even in puppy months. If your six-month or older puppy seems chubby, you may be feeding them too much. Ask your vet about your puppy’s weight and whether it’s time to change the amount you’re feeding your puppy.
If Your Puppy Is Lethargic or Lazy, They May Be Overfed
Another sign of overfeeding is a puppy that lacks energy. While puppies take plenty of naps, they should also be playful and active when awake. If yours seems lazy and lethargic, then it’s time for a vet check to rule out any health issues. If your pet gets a clean bill of health, then you may be giving them too much food.
If Your Puppy’s Ribs Are Showing, They Could Be Underfed
A healthy puppy that is getting the proper nutrition after weaning will have a slight layer of fat over the ribs. This means that you’ll be able to feel the puppy’s ribs without pushing hard, but you shouldn’t be able to see them. If you can see your puppy’s ribs, then it’s time to increase their food to encourage healthy weight gain.
Understanding a Puppy's Core Nutritional Needs
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 Diet
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 for your puppy. Nutritionally complete puppy foods are often certified by the American Association of Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) and aim to satisfy 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, including by-products or rendered fats, are not only less nutritionally dense than natural and whole foods, but they can also be damaging to your growing puppy's health!
In fact, feed grade, synthetic, and artificial ingredients are likely to contain harmful substances that have been linked with illnesses. Selecting human-grade food can help you look after your puppy's safety, health, and well-being.
A growing and energetic puppy needs more calories than their less active adult counterparts. Nonetheless, it is vital to supply them with a constant and controlled energy flow, avoiding spikes and dips. During puppyhood, you should feed your dog enough food to support their musculoskeletal development and continue to gradually increase caloric intake over the first year until the puppy reaches 80% of their mature size.
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 high-quality, human grade muscle and organ meat.
As a general rule, 8% of your puppy's diet should be made up of fats. In excess, fats can lead to weight increase and obesity-related issues like hypertension, diabetes mellitus, and certain types of cancer. 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 are minimally processed.
Carbohydrates 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 expend throughout the day. Healthy sources of carbs include vegetables, fruit, whole grains, and legumes. Remember, puppies have high energy, so dog food with carbs is a must.
Recommended Complete & Balanced Food Options for Puppies
As you look for a food that will fit your puppy’s feeding guidelines and offer high-quality ingredients, consider human grade food options. The Honest Kitchen has several puppy foods made from human grade ingredients, making it a nutritionally rich food choice for your growing pet. Read on for a few of The Honest Kitchen's most popular puppy food recipes!
Whole Grain Chicken Clusters for Puppies
Our Whole Grain Chicken Clusters for Puppies have the right blend of carbs, protein, and fat for a growing puppy. Made from cage-free chicken with oats and veggies, then with nutritional supplements added, this food provides a balanced meal for your pup. It's also been crafted into small-bites that are perfect for tiny puppy teeth, and young pups love the crunch!
Check out the nutritional details on this tasty recipe and order yours here.
Grain-Free Chicken Clusters for Puppies
If you prefer serving a grain-free diet, then consider Grain-Free Chicken Clusters for Puppies. Specially formulated to meet the energy and nutritional needs of puppies, this food is perfectly balanced for a growing dog. Shop our Grain-Free Chicken Clusters for Puppies here.
Feed Your Puppy a Balanced and Complete Diet With The Honest Kitchen
There are many tricky aspects of bringing home a new puppy, and while raising your new companion is fun and rewarding, it's not easy. Potty training, crate training, and even obedience training can take up a lot of your time, leaving you with little time to think about feeding guidelines and food choices.
Thankfully, The Honest Kitchen makes it easy. As the first human grade dry dog food for puppies, you can count on The Honest Kitchen to deliver quality products every time you order. We also stock wet dog food and dehydrated dog food to meet a variety of dietary needs.
Made from thoughtfully sourced proteins and no unnecessary fillers or ingredients, The Honest Kitchen's dog provides your pet with a balanced diet made with wholesome ingredients. These foods taste great and provide the nutritional balance puppies need to grow into healthy adult dogs.
Give your puppy the best start in life — browse our high-quality puppy food today.
*Health Disclaimer: This post is educational in nature and doesn’t constitute health advice. Please consult your pet's veterinarian or other healthcare professional for specific guidance on this topic.