Puppy growth is not linear. They grow in spurts and stages. When your puppy looks full-grown, he will still be developing internally as his bones and muscles reach full strength. This is why nutrition is so important.
When to feed a puppy solid food
A healthy puppy may burn as many as three times more calories than an adult dog. So puppies should eat plenty of good quality and easily digestible, nutritious foods to keep them growing up strong. They need high quality proteins, vitamin D, and minerals such as calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, zinc, and iron.
During the first few weeks of life their mother’s milk should provide your puppy with all the nutrition they need. Puppies feed when they are hungry, and as well as important calories - mother’s milk provides antibodies to help protect your puppy from disease.
Most puppies leave their first families at around 8 weeks. By this stage your puppy should be weaned and eating solid foods, and it’s probable that your breeder will send them with a sample of food that they’re used to. Puppies begin to eat solid foods and move away from milk at around 4 weeks of age, but they’re not entirely independent and shouldn’t yet be fully weaned. Weaning is a slow process, but this should be done before you take your puppy home.
Puppies should be fed puppy food, that is specially formulated for growing dogs. It is different from adult dog food as it contains the extra protein, phosphorous and calcium that your puppy needs to grow. Puppies should be able to eat either kibble or wet food by the time they’re allowed home with their new owners, some puppies may need kibble softening with water - but they shouldn’t need milk replacement from this point.
How much should I give my puppy?
Puppies are always hungry, so his eyes may be considerably bigger than his belly. It’s generally recommended to split your puppy’s food into 4 meals a day. Measure out their allowance, and give this as portions equally spaced through the day. Try and aim for regular feeding times.
As your pup gets older, their meals can be reduced from 4 to 3, and once they’re an adult twice a day is fine! Be wary of feeding him between meals, and make sure the people you live with are on the same page. Weigh out portions and keep checks on their growth and weight. Chunky puppies are adorable, but overweight adults are more likely to face health problems.
Pay attention to feeding instructions on the label of the food you buy, but also speak to your vet about how much is appropriate for your dog. All brands will recommend different feeding amounts, and these are carefully considered. Make sure growth is steady and appropriate for your dog’s size and age.
Be consistent with the food that you give to your puppy. Any sudden changes (of type or brand) can confuse his little belly. And you know how a confused belly expresses itself. Diet changes should always be gradual.
Recommended daily feeding amounts for puppies
The portion size you feed your pup depends on his age and expected adult weight. Remember, it’s always a good idea to ask your veterinarian for advice. After all, that’s what they’re there for! Check the feeding guidelines on your food, this is generally a good place to start, and you won’t go too far wrong if you’re feeding as instructed.
Feeding recommendations are difficult, and should be tailored specifically to your dog. All dog food brands will have different feeding amounts, and these should be adjusted regularly based on weight gain and body condition score. Consider what your dog is going to be - will he be a working dog or athlete, or a family pet? Working breeds may require more calories and energy, so finding the right food for them is important.
Nowadays there are many different types of food available, and specific foods for specific breeds! Good quality manufacturers offer large or small dog specific kibble, or wet food. These foods will contain the correct nutrition for your dog at their life stage. Don’t assume that just because your puppy is a large breed he needs a triple portion! Check feeding guidelines and buy a breed appropriate food.
You may need to adjust your feeding schedule according to how your puppy is growing. Puppies shouldn’t become obese, and should have a body condition score that’s in the middle of the range. Puppies should be growing into their bodies, not just gaining fat!. An ideal body condition is one in which the outline of the ribs can be seen and felt, the belly tucks up when viewed from the side, and there is a visible waist when viewed from above.
Most puppies have regular check ups at the vet for at least the first few months of their life, so ask your vet for their opinion on your puppy’s growth if you’re concerned.
Always choose age appropriate food for your dog. Most dog foods now recommend an age, which makes it much easier for owners to decide when it’s time to change! Puppy food shouldn’t be fed for longer than required, adulthood comes for all dogs and when the time is right - choose a brand that suits both of your needs. However, just like with weaning, you shouldn’t make the switch between puppy food and adult dog food too quickly.
If you feel like your puppy is gaining too much weight too fast or is not gaining enough weight, consult your vet. Every dog is different, and being examined by a professional is the best way to ensure the best diet and an optimal body condition. Weight issues could be a sign of illness, so it's better to be safe than sorry!
Puppies should be fed small, regular portions that have been measured out. Food should be nutritious, good quality and help them to grow up strong and healthy.
Follow these instructions closely, and you’ll be helping your puppy to grow up healthy as can be!