Adding a puppy to your life also adds a lot of responsibilities. Between training, socialization, house training, grooming, and basic care, there will likely be a lot of things you and your puppy will be working through together. One of the common questions when it comes to puppies is “how often should I feed my puppy?” All puppies are different and it’s important to figure out this one before you bring a puppy home. Here’s how often to feed a puppy based on age, size, and more:
How Often Should I Feed My Puppy?
The first 6-8 weeks of your puppies life, they should be nursing and getting milk from mom. Most of the time, puppies start on the weaning process at around 6 weeks. Since puppies shouldn’t be separated from their mother until about 8 weeks, your puppy should be weaned or almost weaned by the time you bring them home.
There are some exceptions and differences with small and large dog breeds, but this is a basic feeding timeline for your puppy’s first year:
Your puppy is in prime growth mode during this time and should be on solid food by about 8 weeks. You want to make sure you are feeding them puppy food during this time as adult food is often missing some of the nutrients their growing bodies need.
Feeding a puppy small meals four times a day is usually sufficient to give them the nutrients they need to grow. It’s also a good idea to feed them at the same time every day as this helps to establish a routine and is also one of the house training tips to help make potty training easier.
Your puppy may still be on four feedings a day at this point. That’s okay! This is the time when you start reducing their daily feedings from four to three. You still want to keep feedings consistent to re-establish the routine and to continue working on house training.
At this point, you want to reduce the daily feedings to twice a day. Once a puppy is 6 months, they can be spayed or neutered, which also tends to slightly lower their energy requirements. You can also usually switch to adult maintenance food after this procedure. However, small and large dog breeds will differ on when the switch from puppy food to adult food occurs.
Size Differences to Be Aware of
Puppies finish growing at different rates depending on the size of the dog breed. This will affect when they make the switch from puppy food to adult food. As a note, it’s generally better to be on puppy food for too long rather than not long enough. So, if you’re unsure, make sure you have a conversation with your vet about what’s right for your dog.
Small Dog Breeds
Because small dog breeds tend to finish growing faster than large dog breeds, they can often make the switch to adult food much sooner. Many small dog breeds tend to stop growing around the 6-8 month range. This means they can usually make the switch to adult food when they are 7-9 months old.
Large Dog Breeds
Large dog breeds need more time to finish growing. Many large dog breeds grow until they are 12-18 months old. However, if a dog breed will be over 70 pounds as an adult, they could keep growing until they are 2 years old! So, depending on the breed of your puppy, they may be able to switch to adult food starting at 12 months old.
You’ll want to get a recommendation from your vet on dog breeds that will be larger than 70 pounds once fully-grown. Although their bones may still be developing, it may not be a good idea to keep them on puppy food past a certain point and your vet can help you determine what’s right for your puppy.
After 1 Year
Once puppies reach one year of age, they are considered an adult dog even if they are a large dog breed that is still growing and developing. At this point, most dog owners will switch to feeding a half-portion twice a day.
How Much Food Should I Give My Puppy?
In general, portion size per day is determined by the weight of a puppy. However, portion size will vary from dog to dog depending on the dog breed, size, body type, nutritional requirements, individual metabolism, and more. Talking with your vet will give you a good idea about a good portion size to start with for your puppy.
Keeping this in mind, here is an average breakdown of portion size per day by weight of your puppy, which would be spread out throughout their daily feedings:
- 5-pound puppy – ½ to ⅝ cup of food per day
- 10-pound puppy – ¾ to 1 cup of food per day
- 20-pound puppy – 1 ¼ to 1 ¾ cups of food per day
- 40-pound puppy – 2 ¼ to 3 cups of food per day
- 60-pound puppy – 3-4 cups of food per day
- 80-pound puppy – 3 ⅔ to 5 cups of food per day
- 100-pound puppy – 4 ¼ to 6 cups of food per day
From there, you want to watch your dog see how they’re filling out. If your puppy picks at their food or skips a meal occasionally, it may be a sign that you are feeding them too much at one time, that they are ready for reduced feedings, that you are giving them too many treats, or that you are giving them treats too close to mealtimes.
During your puppy check-in visits, your vet will be able to tell you whether your puppy’s weight and body condition are where they should be. From there, they can recommend an adjustment to portion size and/or feeding frequency if needed.
What Type of Food Should I Feed My Puppy?
In general, the best type of food to feed your puppy is a high-quality, nutritionally-balanced kibble that is specially-formulated for puppies. This ensures your puppy gets all the nutrients they need for proper growth and development.
Make Diet Changes Incrementally
It’s also important to ask the breeder what they have been feeding your puppy before you bring them home. You don’t want to cause upset stomachs by making huge diet changes.
So, you want to continue feeding your puppy what they are used to eating and then introduce any new food or diet changes in small increments over time. Small incremental changes should be the strategy for any change in your puppy’s diet.
Let Your Vet Recommend Wet Food
Canned wet food and semi-moist food in packets are available as well. However, these are generally not necessary when high-quality kibble is available.
In some cases, they may be used as supplements or for specific health issues. Your vet will let you know whether this is the case during your puppy health check-ins. In general, it’s better to stick with kibble unless wet food is recommended by your vet.
Avoid Raw Diets for Young Puppies
Although raw diets may be popular for some dog owners, they are not recommended for young puppies younger than 4-6 months. It is difficult to balance a raw diet so that it provides the right nutrients, and enough of them, for a growing pup.
Additionally, young puppies do not have the developed immune system yet to deal with the high bacterial load that is common to raw diets. Because of these reasons, it’s best to stick with high-quality kibble for puppies and the diet your vet recommends for your puppy.
Once they’re over 4 months old, you can gradually introduce some raw meaty bones. However, you will want to consult with your vet before making any switches to a raw diet. They’ll be able to help you determine the right age for your puppy to start making the switch and help you with a plan to make sure they continue getting the nutrients they need throughout the change and after.
These are just a few things to know about how much to feed a puppy, what type of food to feed them, and also how often to feed a puppy. If you have more questions about feeding frequency or portions for your growing puppy or are unsure about the food you’re feeding them, contact your veterinarian and they can help you figure out what’s right for your pup.