Puppies grow up fast – especially if you feed them the right amount of food. But knowing how much to feed a puppy requires careful thought. It depends on his weight and age.
Also, puppy growth is not linear. They grow in spurts and stages. When your puppy looks full-grown, he will still be developing ‘inside’ 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 puppo needs to get plenty of easily digestible, nutritious food to keep him growing up strong. He needs high quality proteins, vitamin D, and minerals such as calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, zinc, and iron.
A puppy will leave his mother’s teat after 6-8 weeks. But he may already have sampled solid food from his mum’s food bowl or elsewhere, from as early as 3-4 weeks old.
During this period, you may begin to give him puppy food which is specially formulated for growing dogs. It is different from adult dog food as it contains the extra protein, DHA, and calcium that your puppy needs to grow. But don’t force him from mother’s milk to solids too fast. Weaning is a slow process. His little belly needs to learn to cope with complex foods.
If you start with dry food, crush it and add water. Add less water each week until he passes the eight-week mark.
And don’t feed him within an hour of exercise (except for his after dinner toilet walk) as this can cause bloating.
How much food to give a puppy
A pupster’s digestive system is still growing, so his eyes may be considerably bigger than his belly. Give him a loaded bowl of chow in the morning and he may scoff it all down, but he’ll pay for it later (and so will you).
But rather than underfeed your pup, try dividing his daily food intake into multiple meals. From 2-3 months he should eat four times a day. Then three times a day until he’s 6 months old. After that, twice a day is good. Be wary of feeding him between meals, and make sure the people you live with are on the same page.
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. There are general guidelines for sizes and breeds (see below).
But particular dogs may also have specific needs. Particularly if their growth rate is untypical. Normally, a six-month-old puppy may need as much as twice the number of calories as a two-month old. After that, the growth rate slows.
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.
You might need to change his diet if he isn’t getting on with his current brand. But do it gradually. The same when you eventually transition him to adult dog food at around one year old (up to 24 months for larger dogs).
Recommended daily feeding amounts for puppies
How much food you feed your pup depends on his age and expected full-grown weight.
A puppy that is unlikely to grow past the 12lb mark should begin (after weaning) with a ½-¾ 8oz cup of food per day. At 4-5 months he can progress to up to 1¼ cups. From 6-8 months, two-thirds to one and a third cup. And after that, adult portions are fine.
Larger dogs than this will require larger puppy portions, and to continue with pup-sized meals until the age of two years. You can gradually increase their portions over two month periods as they grow. There’s a great puppy feeding chart over on Purina’s website that provides a full guide on roughly how much to increase pupper’s intake each month.
The key is to feed your dog in regular small portions rather than all at once, so he doesn’t bloat. The main concern is to ensure his food is nutritious, and that he gets enough exercise to process it and grow up strong and healthy.