Bringing home a puppy comes with a lot of excitement and many questions. One of the most important of these questions is, “How much do I feed my puppy?” The answer may surprise you because puppies eat a lot. In fact, they sometimes eat more than adult dogs do. How is this possible, and how do you know whether or not your puppy is getting enough food?
If you’re asking, “How much do I feed my puppy?” then you have several factors to consider. One of the most trusted rules of thumb for puppy feeding is to watch the dog rather than the dish. In other words, how does your puppy look, act and appear to feel? A puppy that has a glossy coat, clear eyes, lots of energy and is obviously curious and exploring is probably getting adequate nutrition. You can also assess whether or not the amount of food your puppy is getting is appropriate by looking for his ribs. If you have a hard time feeling them, then he may be too pudgy. On the other hand, if they are prominently displayed, then he may not be getting enough food.
Another visual clue that can tell you whether or not your puppy is getting too little or too much food is to examine his waist. As you stand above him, look down. You should be able to see a defined waist behind his rib cage. This is true regardless of him being a small or large breed. If he does not have a well-defined waist, then he may be getting too much to eat.
How much your puppy needs to eat largely depends on his age and his breed. Feeding isn’t something you’ll have to worry about if your pup is less than eight weeks old. At this age, he really shouldn’t be eating anything other than his mother’s milk. Puppies are free to eat as much and as often as they like at this stage. If the mother’s milk is not available, then it may be necessary to use a milk replacement. Consult with your veterinarian if this is the case. This is a very important time in your puppy’s development, and it is wise to give him the best possible start. Believe it or not, the nutrition your puppy receives in the first weeks and months of his life may protect him from a variety of illnesses and debilitating conditions down the road.
The Weaning Process
The weaning process begins after your puppy is approximately two months of age. Transitioning to solid food does not happen overnight. Instead, see it as a gradual process that takes approximately two to four weeks. Start mixing a high-quality puppy food with a milk replacer to make a gruel-like substance. This should be offered three to four times a day at regular times. As the days and weeks progress, you’ll eventually mix in less milk replacer and more solid food. This gradual introduction is important because it minimizes stomach upset. Observe your puppy closely throughout this transition. Does he appear to want more food once the portion for that feeding is gone? If so, then you may want to increase his portion size at the next feeding. Alternatively, if he is leaving food untouched, then you might consider scaling back the portion size.
Throughout weaning and for a few months beyond, you’ll probably be feeding your puppy three to four times per day. This helps him to maintain energy levels and keeps his blood sugar on a more even keel. Three or four daily meals can also aid the digestive process. Puppies need to eat a lot, but it can be difficult for their systems to manage a large portion in one sitting. Breaking the portions down into smaller feedings minimizes the odds of having digestive issues.
However, when he reaches about six months of age, it’s time to take him down to two meals per day. This is usually more convenient for the pet parent, and puppies typically adjust fairly well if the two meals they receive are presented at the same times they are accustomed to receiving them. By now, the puppy is big enough and far enough along in the developmental process to be able to manage a larger portion in one sitting. However, if your pup is leaving food behind in his dish, it may be necessary to scale back the portion size.
In fact, transitioning to two meals a day can be a good time to also reduce the total amount of food your puppy is taking in on a daily basis. A puppy’s early months are particularly busy. Every organ and system in his body is developing and growing rapidly. Accordingly, he needs special food that is packed with nutrition to support this process. That’s why many puppy parents decide to feed their new family member a food that’s formulated precisely for a growing dog.
Choosing a good puppy food can seem overwhelming. After all, there are dozens of options on the market today. Many of these are good, quality foods that have the extra protein, vitamins and minerals that growing puppies need for their development. Others are loaded with fillers and inexpensive ingredients that do little to protect your puppy from health problems throughout his lifetime. Although a high-quality puppy food may cost a bit more, its nutritionally dense formula means that you probably don’t have to feed your puppy as much to get a healthy effect. If you splurge on a genuinely healthy puppy food, then you are less likely to have to foot large vet bills now and in the future.
Picking a Puppy Food
When you choose a puppy food, it may make sense to consider your puppy’s breed. Breed-specific formulas are specially tailored to meet the needs of particular dogs. However, it is not necessary to find a food that is designed for dachshunds or beagles. Your puppy may do better simply through eating a food that is formulated for the size of dog he will be when he is an adult. The nutritional needs of a small dog are not the same as those of a large dog. Accordingly, your puppy’s growth and development may be better served by choosing a food that is formulated to support his unique needs.
For example, small dogs often reach full maturity at between nine and 12 months. Larger dogs may not be fully grown until they are 18 months or older. This means that a large breed dog food should support slow, steady growth that helps a puppy appropriately develop bones and muscle mass to support his weight. Smaller dogs grow up more quickly and need a food that is designed to support this development. If your puppy is a particularly large or small breed of dog, then your best bet may be to go with a puppy food that is formulated for him.
If you’re wondering where to start when it comes to portion sizes, take a look at the label on your dog’s food. You’ll find a lot of information there about portions and how often you should feed your pup. Use this as your initial guideline, and scale meal sizes up or down according to your dog’s appearance and condition. To get portion sizes even more dialed in, ask your veterinarian or breeder for advice.
Puppies are exceptionally cute, and while it may be tempting to feed them table scraps, it’s generally not a good idea to do so. Their sensitive digestive systems may not react well to the spices and ingredients that are included in human food. Moreover, feeding them table scraps can easily lead to overfeeding, which can quickly make for a weight problem. Make certain that everyone in your household knows not to slip the puppy extra treats in order to keep him on a healthy path.
Knowing how much to feed your puppy is really just as simple as observing his appearance and behavior. Use the label on your dog’s food as a baseline, and ask your breeder or vet for advice if you’re still unsure. The nutrition you give your puppy in the first months of his life is a key component of his health and longevity, so do your utmost to give him a great start in life.