Puppy diet, food & schedule
How should I feed my puppy? What is the best puppy food? Is there a particular dog diet my puppy should follow? The world of pet food and puppy nutrition can be very confusing. From different brands of dry and wet foods, from grain-free to raw diets, and from subscription services to supermarket specials, there is a huge range of options to choose from.
To begin with, it is recommended to keep your puppy on the same puppy food that the breeder was providing. Once your puppy has settled in and you want to transition to a different type of healthy puppy food, you can follow the guidelines below to slowly start to transition to the new food.
Transitioning to a new type of puppy food
Dogs have a sensitive digestive system that is much more sensitive than ours. It is therefore recommended to transition your puppy to a new brand of puppy food over the course of 7 to 10 days so as to avoid runny stools and upset stomachs.
To transition to a new type of puppy food, a recommended approach is to use 80% old food on day one and 20% new food. The following day you will give your puppy 70% old food and 30% new food and so on, decreasing the old food and increasing the new food by 10% each day. Over the course of 7 to 10 days you will have transitioned your pup to the new puppy food and hopefully will have avoided loose stools and an upset tummy.
It is important to stick with one good puppy food. If you are feeding dry food (kibble), stay with one brand and do not mix as this could upset your pup’s digestive system.
Feeding chart for transitioning to a new type of puppy food
Puppies grow very fast, particularly in the first five months, and they need to take in lots of calories and extra nutrients to fuel their rapid growth. Providing the proper nutrition is important for building strong bones and teeth, adding muscle, and supplying all the energy needed for play and learning.
Good puppy nutrition is about quality as well as quantity. Because puppies need so many nutrients to grow, it’s important to give them the best puppy food that your budget allows, in order to provide complete and balanced nutrition. If unsure, ask your vet what puppy diet he or she recommends, and make sure that you follow the feeding guidelines on the packaging to provide the right amount for your puppy’s age and weight. This may need to be adjusted weekly.
After 4 to 6 weeks on the puppy food, assess your puppy’s health as follows:
- Is your puppy playful and energetic?
- Is your puppy’s coat shiny and thick?
- Are your puppy’s faeces formed and brown?
If you answer yes to all of these, it is likely that your puppy is getting – and is digesting – enough nutrients from the food you are providing.
If you are unsure, your vet can evaluate your puppy using a “body conditioning score”. While very young puppies are expected to have some “puppy fat”, by 8 to 10 weeks puppies should be scoring a two out of five, which is relatively thin, with the tops of the back bones visible and no fat around the ribs. By five months, your puppy should be looking lean and have a waist and an abdominal tuck.
Breed size and feeding requirements
Breed size is an important factor to consider when choosing the right food for your puppy. Large breeds have different nutritional requirements from small breeds.
Feeding small breed puppies
Small breed dogs have higher energy levels than bigger dogs and tend to have faster rates of metabolism, so they require more energy from their food than large dogs do. Small breed puppy food needs to have a higher concentration of calories and quality nutrients, and should contain a good source of protein, healthy fats such as omega-3 and omega-6, and some grains. Food pieces should also be smaller and easier to chew than those for larger breeds.
Feeding large breed puppies
Large breed puppies grow at a much faster rate than small ones and come with a higher risk of overfeeding. According to several studies, if they are overfed, large breeds such as Great Danes, Labrador retrievers, and Doberman Pinschers are more likely to develop chronic skeletal and joint problems as they age. In one study that followed Labrador retrievers for 14 years, dogs fed a balanced diet with 25% less food than their littermates were less likely to develop hip joint arthritis. Dogs on the calorie-restricted diet also showed signs of arthritis at an average age of 12 years rather than six.
Large-breed puppy foods are designed for controlled growth and may be lower in calcium and phosphorus than other puppy foods (this is because excess levels of calcium and phosphorus can contribute to skeletal problems). Large-breed puppy food also may contain more fibre to add bulk to the diet without increasing the number of calories. Keeping your large-breed puppy at a body condition score of two out of five will help ward off the excess weight that can cause orthopaedic and other possible problems in later life.
When puppies reach around 90% of their expected adult weight, their nutritional requirements change from a diet that promotes growth to a maintenance diet. For small breeds this may occur from age nine to 12 months; for large breeds, from 12 to 18 months.
Feeding tip for puppy owners
Limit the number of treats you give your puppy and choose treats that are the right size for his breed. A small breed puppy doesn’t need an extra-large dog biscuit.
Puppy food Q&A
New puppy owners tend to have lots of questions about the best dog diet, healthy puppy food and healthy puppy weight. While we cannot give specific food advice, we can provide some general feeding guidelines that will help you in raising a healthy puppy.
What should I feed my puppy?
Your puppy is growing and requires the best nutrients so look for a good quality food. Quality food is not only about the price tag, it is more about the ingredients. If a brand of pet food contains lots of preservatives, fillers, sugar and salt, then it is not a good quality food. The best puppy food is sold predominantly in pet stores and by vets rather than in supermarkets.
Ingredients to avoid in puppy food:
- Bone meal
- Meat by-products
- Animal fat
- Wheat flour
- Soy flour
- Brewer’s rice
- Potato product
- Propyl gallate
- Hydrochloric acid
Feeding tip for puppy owners
Avoid feeding your puppy table scraps, which teaches dogs to beg for treats at the table and can cause digestive upset and lead to pancreatitis, a serious illness.
How much should I feed my puppy?
How much to feed depends on the brand of food you are feeding and your puppy’s weight. Always read and follow the instructions on the food packaging. You will need to adjust the quantity of food you are feeding over time as your puppy grows. It is therefore recommended that you weigh your puppy weekly and keep track of it on a puppy weight chart, to ensure your pup is putting on a healthy amount of weight.
How often should I feed my puppy?
Puppies under 6 months of age should be fed small quantities of good puppy food three times a day. After 6 months you can move to two feeds a day. If you work away from home, a puppy feeding schedule of three meals a day isn’t always feasible. Don’t stress if you can only feed your puppy two meals a day.
Is raw feeding a good dog diet?
Raw feeding can have a lot of benefits, including shinier coats, healthier skin, cleaner teeth, higher energy levels and smaller stools. More and more people are putting their dogs on raw food diets and raw feeding communities are popping up online. Note that raw feeding involves much more than feeding your puppy just raw meats, which can lead to malnutrition. Finding the right balance of vitamins, minerals, proteins, meat, vegetables etc. is a science in itself and not for everyone. There are also serious hygiene concerns for owners from handling raw meat, particularly those with underlying health conditions.
What is a healthy puppy weight?
An overweight puppy will be more likely to grow into an overweight adult dog. As your puppy is growing, carrying excess weight is not good for the joints. We recommend using a puppy weight chart to help you stay on top of your puppy’s weight gain and ensure that your puppy stays in the recommended weight range as he or she matures. Remember to always consult your vet if you have any concerns about your puppy’s weight gain.
Body condition score chart
It’s a great idea to use a body condition score chart to help you assess whether you puppy is at his ideal weight.
Bringing home and looking after a new puppy can be a big challenge!
Our Puppy Guide is an easy to use comprehensive guide for new pet parents, jammed pack full of useful information, that has been developed by pet professionals and puppy trainers.
We recommend that you take out pet insurance when you get your puppy, so that you will be covered for any potential issues or medical conditions from the start. You can insure your pet from 8 weeks of age, and Bow Wow Meow offers 2 months free in the first year for puppies, which makes it even more affordable.