Dogs thrive on routine. Routine is a key component of everything from potty training to maintaining good behavior. Consistent feeding times are an important routine as well. Puppies need three meals a day, given at the same time each day. Such structure is an excellent way to get your new puppy acclimated to their home and their daily life.
One way to establish structure early on is by having a puppy food schedule. When you get a puppy, it’s important to set up a feeding schedule that fits their needs and your overall routine. The veterinary professionals at PetMD state that puppies need to eat “three measured meals a day, preferably at the same time every day.”
There is more to know about puppy feeding than the fact that they get fed three times a day. This article will give you details about the best times to feed your puppy, the amount of food required at each feeding, your puppies evolving nutritional needs, and when you should transition to two meals per day.
Read on to learn more about puppy nutrition and how to feed them through varying life stages.
Puppy Feeding Schedule
If you’re asking yourself, “How often should I feed my puppy? And what time should I feed my puppy?,” perhaps it’s best to illustrate with a sample schedule. Here is one example of how to plan meal times when feeding puppies. It can be adjusted to fit your lifestyle, just make sure the meals are spaced out about five hours apart:
- First meal/breakfast: 7:00 a.m.
- Second meal/lunch: 12:00 p.m. (noon)
- Third meal/dinner: 5:00 p.m.
PetMD recommends you stick to a feeding schedule like this until the puppy reaches 14-18 weeks of age. At about four months of age, dog owners can transition to feeding their puppy two meals a day. Regardless of age, have fresh water available at all times.
Additionally, if your puppy turns out to be the type of eater who basically vacuums their meals out of the bowl with minimal chewing, try a slow feeder or food-dispensing toy to get them to slow down. Inhaling food can be dangerous because as your puppy is gulping the food up, they swallow air that expands in their stomach and causes gastric upset. It’s also a choking hazard.
The schedule above is a good standard suggestion for puppy feeding, but you should check with your veterinarian if you have any concerns about feeding your puppy.
Choosing the Right Dog Food for a Puppy
In addition to talking to your vet about a proper feeding schedule for your puppy, it’s important to talk to them about your dog’s nutritional needs. Will their nutritional requirements be met by giving them dry food or kibble alone? What kind of food do they need? Do certain breeds have different nutritional requirements?
For the first 8 weeks of a dog’s life, they should only be nursing off their mother’s milk. Once they graduate to solid food, you can talk to your vet about what brands or formulas they recommend feeding a puppy.
One thing to keep in mind is that puppies shouldn’t be eating adult food for dogs. At this young stage in life, puppies have different nutritional needs, activity levels, and energy levels from adult dogs. Puppies require pet food that contains much higher protein, micronutrients, calories, and carbs than adult dogs do because they are still growing and developing their little bodies.
A puppy formulated dog food provides them with everything they need to build bones and muscles. Giving puppies food tailored to their specific needs will help their developing bodies maintain a healthy weight. According to PetMD, you may also feed them “all life stages” dog food.
A good way to assess whether-or-not your puppy is getting enough food and is at a healthy weight is by evaluating their body condition. Veterinary professionals at Purina developed this simple graphic of the body condition system for puppies. It is particularly useful for understanding how to maintain an ideal body condition as your puppy ages.
Puppy Food for Specific Breeds of Dogs
Note that there are a small handful of breeds that will have health problems later in life if overfed or fed the wrong puppy food formula. Labrador retrievers, Great Danes, and German shepherds, for example, are at risk of developing skeletal and joint problems like hip dysplasia, according to WebMD. As a result, these breeds might need more than the standard kinds of puppy food.
“Large-breed puppy foods are designed for controlled growth and may be lower in calcium and phosphorus than other puppy foods,” wrote Elizabeth Lee of WebMD. “Excess levels of calcium and phosphorus can contribute to skeletal problems. Large-breed puppy food also may contain more fiber to add bulk to the diet without calories.”
So if you have a large-breed puppy, talk to your vet about large breed-specific puppy food or about adding in a health supplement for joint support.
Once you’ve picked an appropriate puppy food for your large breed dog or small breed dog, follow the general feeding schedule guidelines mentioned above. Split the suggested serving size, which you can find on the puppy feeding chart on your puppy food’s label, between meals in order to avoid overfeeding.
Transitioning Your Puppy to Adult Dog Food
As with switching brands or formulas of dog food, swapping puppy food for adult dog food is not as simple as filling their bowl with the new food. Dog digestive systems are sensitive to abrupt dietary changes, so they can’t just quit their old food cold turkey.
When switching dog foods, you should work slowly and in gradual stages to prevent an upset stomach and diarrhea.
To get started, you will feed your pup the same amount of food, but with 80% of their old food mixed with 20% of the new food. On day two, decrease the amount of old food and increase the amount of new food by 20%, then again on day three, and so on, until on day five, 100% of your dog’s food is the new kind.
This is the best way to transition your puppy (and their sensitive tummies) to “big boy” food. If you’re still unsure about where to start when it comes to getting your puppy to transition to adult dog food, talk to your vet or to an animal nutritionist about your dog’s specific dietary needs.
Tony Buffington, DVM, PhD, told WebMD that “In the first six months or so, the nutrient needs are changing very quickly. And, (veterinarians) leave the least margin for error.” Play it safe and keep your vet updated about any new changes with your dog’s food.
Puppy Nutrition and Feeding Tips
So, How often should I feed my puppy? As mentioned, you should feed your pup about three times a day. Stick to a routine. Talk to your vet about what to feed your puppy, especially if you have a large-breed dog or dog that requires a special diet.
Keep a consistent feeding schedule and adjust how your puppy is fed if they’re the type of eater that gobbles up all their food in one breath. If you have any questions, consult your veterinarian. Puppies are hard work, but you have the tools to set them up for success and keep them healthy in the long term.
Interested in how you can supplement your puppy’s nutritional needs? Check out PetHonestly’s delicious and health-conscious treats with all the nutrients your dog needs to live well.