how often to feed your puppy

Bringing home your new four-legged family member is exciting. It also leads to many questions and concerns, like how often to feed your puppy. In order to properly feed little Fifi, there are nine important factors to consider. 

When you get a  new puppy, one of your first questions will likely be how often your puppy needs to be fed. There is no one answer! 

How Much to Feed Your Puppy Factors to Consider

How much to feed your puppy is just as important as how often to feed her. Consider:

  • Puppy’s age
  • Breed
  • Type of food
  • Puppy’s physical condition,
  • Medical issues,
  • Activity level
  • Whether the pup has been spayed or neutered.

How Often to Feed Your Puppy

  1. Puppy’s Age – An important factor in how often to feed puppies

Feeding Neonatal Puppies

Neonatal puppies should be left free to nurse as often as mom allows until they are about 6-8 weeks old. This is a critical period in a puppy’s life, as mom’s milk provides important antibodies which transmit sufficient nutrition and protect against diseases.

Feeding 4 – 6 Week Old Puppies – Transitioning to Puppy Food

Around 4-6 weeks old, puppies can be gradually transitioned to puppy food by giving small amounts softened with warm water or puppy milk replacer 3-4 times each day.

This is not a process that should be rushed. The transition from mother’s milk to food generally takes at least a week or two.

Feeding 8-Week-Old Puppies

By the time puppies are 8 weeks old, they can be fed puppy food 3-4 times a day.

Feeding 3-4-Month-Old Puppies

At 12-16 weeks (or 3-4 months), you can decrease feedings to 2-3 times a day, and when your puppy reaches 6 months of age, they can be fed just twice per day.

  1. How Much to Feed Your Puppy? Consider the Breed

The Breed Factor – Puppy’s breed is a huge factor in how often it will need to fed: 

Small breeds, such as Chihuahuas are more vulnerable to having low blood sugar levels, or hypoglycemia. So, if they aren’t eating frequently enough, with their small liver, they may have difficulty maintaining proper glucose levels.

Small breeds can eat as many as 4-5 times each day until they are about 16 weeks old to protect against low glucose.

Read also: Foods to Never Feed Your Dog – 5 Top Toxic Foods for Dogs

On the other hand, there are some large breeds like Great Danes that are prone to bloating and need to be fed small meals throughout the day, as the bloating can be fatal.

  1. Type of Food

The Type of Food Factor plays a role in how often they should eat.

Puppy food is not formulated in the same way as standard adult dog food. Puppy food generally contains more calcium, protein, and calories than in adult dog food.

Many companies produce special puppy food for small, medium, and large breeds.

What’s the Difference?

The food for smaller breeds tends to be smaller kibbles with more calories.

Food for medium breeds is a balance between these two extremes

Food for larger breeds has larger kibbles that are less calorie-dense and formulated to help slow down rapid bone growth to prevent hip arthritis and dysplasia.

Some companies go as far as producing food for specific dog breeds. The best choice is to use a food adhering to your puppy’s breed size made with high-quality ingredients. 

You can find puppy food in three forms: dry, canned, and semi-moist.

Dry dog food or Kibble

Dry dog food often known as kibble, contains about 10% water. It is usually the most cost-effective choice.

Semi-moist dog foods sold in vacuum-sealed pouches, contain about 50-60% water. These often (but not always) contain sugar or corn syrup, too much of which is not healthy for your puppy.

Canned food is made with 75-90% water and is often a favorite of small breeds.

To feed your large breed puppy canned food, you will probably need to schedule another meal to meet their calorie and nutrition requirements.

Make sure to consult with your vet about the best brand and type of food for your puppy.

  1. Meal Sizes

When you put your puppy’s food down and watch your puppy’s behavior.

Notice whether it tries to eat as much as possible within about 10-15 minutes. If your puppy behaves this way, then it will do well with a standard schedule of 2-4 meals each day.

Some small breeds and very active puppies may not consume enough food within the short feeding window. Being so young, it they may be easily distracted or need to defecate. Puppies who fall into this category will probably need an extra meal to make sure they reach their calorie and nutrition needs. They may even need to be fed in a ‘free choice’ or ‘grazing’ style where you leave the food in their bowl all day.

  1. Medical Issues

If your puppy has, or is recovering from, any medical issues, such as:

  • Intestinal parasites
  • Viral diseases (coronavirus or parvovirus)
  • Upper respiratory diseases

Then, it is very likely to be underweight. So, you may need to provide Fido an extra meal or allow him to eat in the free-choice style throughout the day. Allowing them to consume extra calories will help them gain weight for a faster recovery.

  1. Puppy’s Activity Level

Knowing how active your puppy is on a daily basis is another factor to help you determine feeding schedule.

Puppies that are very active, such as retrievers or herding breeds, may benefit from an extra meal each day for caloric sufficiency. This is especially true if they’re eating canned food.

Very active small breed puppies may also need an extra meal to prevent low glucose.

If your puppy is inactive, you may need to reduce the number of meals they eat to prevent them from becoming overweight.

Ask your veterinarian for advice about your puppy’s weight, body condition, overall condition, vaccines, and spaying or neutering. Your vet will likely advise you to adjust the feeding schedule if your puppy becomes too heavy or light.

  1. Spayed or Neutered

Puppies generally get spayed or neutered when they are around 5-6 months old.

The surgery results in the slowing of their metabolic rate, so some puppies may need to have their food intake reduced following the procedure.

If a puppy is already overweight when they get spayed or neutered, it is likely that you will need to reduce the number of meals they eat each day to protect against obesity.

  1. Treats and Human Food

When considering your puppy’s food intake and schedule, you need to take everything they eat into account. This includes treats and human food.

Most treats are not properly nutritionally balanced, and can be a major source of calories, especially for smaller breeds. It’s important to give treats sparingly to avoid nutritional imbalances.

The same goes for human foods, which can also add a large number of calories without enough nutritional value.

Besides the lack of nutritional value, puppies often experience gastrointestinal issues when they eat human food.

Some human foods can even cause serous pancreatic problems, like with very fatty foods.

The other issue is that once you give your puppy human food, they are likely to start begging for it all the time! This is not a habit you want to foster, so it’s best to skip human food altogether.

  1. When to Start Adult Dog Food

As your puppy starts to mature, you will need switch to standard adult dog food. The best way to do this is gradually. Add a bit of adult dog food to the puppy food slowly, making the complete switch over a period of 1-2 weeks.

Generally, small and medium breeds can be switched to adult dog food at about 12 months old, while larger breeds may take longer to mature and switching should take place around 18-24 months old.

Follow this guide to raise a healthy puppy by learning how often to feed your puppy.

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