Puppy Feeding Guidelines

One of the most common questions of new dog owners is how much to feed. The following are basic puppy feeding guidelines to follow during the first year.

The First Six Weeks

During the first six weeks of a canine's life they should not be separated from the mother. The mother's milk provides the best nutrition for the puppy and builds their immune system against disease. If circumstances have caused a separation from the mother, milk supplements and bottles specially designed for puppies can be purchased at any major pet supply store.

Six Weeks to Six Months

Puppies at this age need to be fed 3 to 4 times daily. Adequate nutrition is vital to your dog's growth and development. Puppies have different nutritional needs than adult dogs so it is necessary to feed him or her a food made specifically for puppies. Breed specific foods can offer a more specialized diet for your pup. Large-breed foods are especially important because they allow the puppy to grow at a rate that allows their bones and muscles to develop accurately. Check the ingredients in your food to be sure it contains adequate amounts of protein, calcium, and calories. A general rule when selecting a dog food is to avoid main ingredients that a wild dog would not eat. For example, avoid dog foods where corn or by-products are the first ingredient listed.

Six Months to One Year

Beginning at six months of age, your puppy will require only two meals a day. The amount of food your dog requires will depend on it's adult size. Follow the directions on the side of the bag and adjust to your dog's needs. It is important not to overfeed. Your dog should have a healthy shape. Ribs should be felt but not seen and your dog's waist should be visible from your standing point-of-view.

Choose two times during the day for your puppy to receive his or her regular feedings. It is important that feedings are spaced apart (such as morning and evening) so the dog doesn't go for long periods of time without a meal.

One Year

At one year of age, begin transitioning your puppy to adult food. It is important whenever changes are made to your dog's diet that it be done slowly over a period of two or more weeks. Begin by mixing small amounts of the new food in with your dog's regular diet. Each day, increase the amount of new food and decrease the old. Neglecting to mix foods over time can result in upset stomach or rejection of the food.

Remember these basics when it comes to feeding your puppy:

  • Unless absolutely necessary, do not separate puppy from mother until six weeks of age.
  • Puppies age six weeks to six months need to be feed 3 to 4 times daily.
  • At six months, reduce feedings to twice a day.
  • At one year, introduce adult food slowly to avoid upset stomach.

Finding the right amount of food for your puppy takes time, observation and patience. Remember, no two dogs are alike and each will require different amounts at different stages of puppyhood. Being aware of your dog's nutritional needs will make it easier to identify the correct diet and amount for them.