Have you just welcomed a furry new addition to your family? Whether your four-legged scamp is wandering around their new home or you’re just preparing to adopt the dog of your dreams, it’s important to have the basics figured out. One of the basics for new dogs is how much to feed a puppy.
There’s not a simple answer to that question. Different dog breeds require different amounts of food depending on their size and weight.
Luckily, we’re not going to leave you hanging with that. We’ve put together a simple, actionable guide for you to figure out precisely how much food your young puppy needs. Additionally, we’ll explore key information regarding weight categories, developmental stages, and feeding routines to ensure you’re prepared for all your puppy-owning duties.
What Are The Developmental Stages of A Puppy?
One day your puppy will be a fully-grown dog, but that day isn’t here quite yet. That said, it can be difficult to know when your growing puppy should graduate to adult dog meals, and what nutritional needs a newborn needs compared to a pup that’s a few months old. This could be especially troublesome for a pet owner with a smaller dog that tends to mature faster than a larger breed.1
For a little clarity about puppy feeding stages, consider the following breakdown.
Newborns (0 to 12 Weeks Old)
When puppies are first born, you shouldn’t have much to do in terms of feeding. Newborn puppies feed on their mother’s milk exclusively, and if you’re taking care of a new litter, your main role as a pet owner will be keeping the litter’s mother well-fed and healthy.
After 3 to 4 weeks, puppies can make the transition toward a standard diet. This process usually involves:2
- Milk replacer – To take the strain off their mothers, puppies are typically given a milk replacer formula. Packed with vitamins and minerals, this puppy formula can keep your newborn puppies well fed and growing.
- Replacer/food mixture – You don’t want to shock your pups with the transition into traditional dog food. A mixture of crumbled dog food and milk replacer makes for a simple way to introduce them to their future diet. This process might occur between 3 and 6 weeks of age.
- Puppy food – Once the pups have some time to adjust, they’re ready to be completely weaned off the milk replacer. By 6-10 weeks old, most pups are ready for solid food, and this is also the age at which they can begin to be adopted and welcomed into their new homes.
At their earliest stage, puppies eat all the time—4 to 6 times a day. They’ll need constant attention and constant food. Even if you’re dealing with pups well past the weaning age, it’s helpful to know how quickly the development from doe-eyed newborns to full-fledged puppies can happen.
Young Puppies (4 to 6 Months Old)
Congratulations, you’ve made it out of the weaning phase! While there’s still the whole housebreaking and training thing to figure out, young puppies are a lot easier to feed than newborns.
At this stage your young puppy’s meals are:
- All puppy food (based on their specific age group)
- Two to four times a day
- Larger portions (2 to 4 times more than their previous stage)
Older Puppies (6 Months to 2 Years Old)
It might sound like an oxymoron (how can there be an “old puppy?”), but there’s an important distinction between a puppy after they hit the 6-month mark. They’re essentially toddlers, still developing, but not at the speed that they were a few weeks prior.
Typically, older puppies’ dietary needs change in the following ways:
- Less food – Because their development has slowed, they won’t need quite so much food. Consider cutting down their daily meals by 10-20%. Of course, this is only true for a mid-size to small breed. A large breed puppy is still packing on the pounds, so keep feeding them accordingly.
- Fewer feedings – Your pup can likely do with one fewer feeding per day. If you notice them acting slow, sluggish, or particularly hungry, you may need to add in another meal time.
Different dogs hit their full size at different ages. A Border Collie might begin its adult diet at 15 months while a Bernese Mountain Dog might not get there until 2 or 3 years old. You’ll need to explore the specifics of your breed to know exactly when your pup will stop growing.
When it comes to adult dog food, these general points typically apply:
- Time for new food – Adult dogs have different dietary needs, so it’s crucial to switch to a food designed for a fully grown dog.
- Twice a day feedings – If you haven’t already, you can simplify meal time into breakfast and dinner. Two meals a day are ideal for a full-grown dog. Though you can always throw in a treat here and there.
How Much To Feed Your Puppy Based on Their Size
Ultimately, your dog’s size will usually dictate their diets—at least where portions are concerned. It only makes sense that large breed puppies eat more than small breed puppies, but there is also a range in appetites between breeds.
To simplify the feeding process, we’ve broken down standard food amounts by size.
Small-Sized Puppies (3 to 20 lbs.)
From Terriers to Pomeranians, small dogs can pack a lot of love into a small package. They can also eat a surprising amount of food for their small frames. That said, overfeeding and obesity are major risks for smaller breeds and can lead to larger health problems. Your Chihuahua might be begging, but that doesn’t mean they need another bite.
Small puppies usually eat between ½ and 1 ½ cups of food per day.
Additionally, these breeds have additional nutritional concerns, including:
- Hypoglycemia – Small-sized dogs can develop issues related to low blood sugar. Frequent feedings are a must for these breeds, especially as they’re growing.
- Faster growth – These are the breeds that grow up too fast. Really, they reach maturity at a younger age, meaning they may need an increase in their diet to maintain healthy growth.
Mid-Sized Puppies (20 to 75 lbs.)
For many owners, breeds including the Australian Shepherd and Golden Retriever are the goldilocks of dogs—not too big and not too small. Whatever your preference, these breeds range pretty significantly in size, making their nutritional needs rather diverse.
Mid-sized puppies generally eat between 1 ½ and 5 cups of food per day.
You might also consider the following factors when it comes to mid-sized breeds:
- Male vs female puppies – While smaller dogs don’t vary significantly in size between sex, this can be a factor in larger dogs. Males can be much larger than their female counterparts of the same breed, meaning they might need another half scoop of kibble at dinner time.
- Varied maturity – Keep an eye on how your mid-sized dog grows. Not only is every breed different, but so is every dog, and it’s best to pay attention to their growth rates and adjust their food portions accordingly.
Large-Sized Puppies (75+ lbs.)
There’s more to love with big breeds like Great Danes, Irish Wolfhounds, and Alaskan Malamutes. These four-legged behemoths might start small, but by the time they’re fully grown, they can weigh over 100 lbs. It’s no surprise that these dogs have the biggest appetites, even at only a few months old.
Large breed puppies should eat 3 to 10 cups a day.
Looking for a few tips for feeding your large breed puppy? Consider the following:
- Portions should increase every month until they reach adulthood
- Choose food with high protein content
- Watch for growth spurts and feed accordingly
Puppy Feeding Schedule
Full-grown dogs typically like their meals twice a day, but puppies are a little more demanding when it comes to their feeding schedule. While your puppy’s mom will take care of the feeding schedule for the first few months, once your dog transitions to standard puppy food, you’ll need to start building your schedule.
Typically, puppies should be fed every 8 to 4 hours. When considering how often to feed your pup, take note of the following:
- Different breeds have different needs – Smaller breeds may require more frequent feedings, often chowing down 4 to 6 times per day. Larger breed pups may be less demanding and are usually happy with 3 to 4 meals per day.
- Consider your dog’s metabolism – Two pups of the same breed may have different food demands. Metaloblsims can vary within a single breed, and more active pups may require more food to keep up with their high-energy personalities.
- Stay consistent – Regularly scheduled, nutritious meals are essential for your pup’s growth and development. By sure to portion out their daily food evenly and work to maintain your schedule every day at roughly the same time.
Work, life, and unexpected events can throw off a puppy’s feeding schedule. While the occasional hiccup is fine, you might consider calling in for some help if you’re having trouble maintaining your routine. A dog-walker, pet-watcher, or friendly neighbor could help keep your puppy’s meals arriving on time.
Tips For Feeding Your Puppy
You just put some food in a bowl and call it a day, right? Well, not quite. Keeping up with your pup’s diet doesn’t have to be hard, but if you want to prioritize their health and well-being, a little preparation can go a long way.
Before your next mealtime, consider these simple tips to ensure your pup has a great experience every time:
To simplify the feeding process, we’ve broken down standard food amounts by size:
- Pay attention to preference – Just like people, dogs can have preferences. They’re not going to demand foie gras and caviar, but they may have a strong taste for beef as opposed to turkey. You could make your dog’s day with the right meal choice—just think of the wags!
- Watch for allergies – If you notice an after-dinner itch or a rash breaking out after breakfast, it could be a case of food allergies. Your pup could be allergic to any ingredient in your food, so consider talking to your vet, exploring an elimination diet, and choosing an alternative food to keep them safe.
- Avoid table scraps – It’s hard to say no to that sweet stare, but it’s usually best not to give in to a begging dog. This is especially true at the dinner table. Feeding your dog leftovers can lead to misbehavior, gastrointestinal distress, and an imbalanced diet. The occasional bite may not hurt, but it’s also important to remember that foods like onions, chocolate, and avocados can be toxic for dogs.3
- Don’t forget the water – Hydration is a must, especially during the warmer months. Be sure your pup always has fresh water to go along with every meal.
BARK: For Dogs of Every Size, Age, and Breed
Are you getting hungry yet? Well, dog food might not be the most appetizing thing for you, but to your puppy, it’s a gourmet meal. Remember, your puppy’s breed, size, and age will determine their dietary needs. Of course, there’s more to consider when raising your pup, and that’s where BARK comes in.
As a premier puppy guide, BARK Post offers info about food, fun, health and so much more. BARK Food can provide you with premium kibble, specialized for your dog’s breed. Once you sign up, your price will never go up for your dog’s entire life, and shipping is included. There’s an entire world of puppy-approved products to explore, so visit BARK today.
Canine Journal. How Much To Feed A Puppy By Weight And Puppy Feeding Chart. https://www.caninejournal.com/how-much-food-should-i-feed-my-puppy/
AKC. Puppy Growth Chart: When Does My Puppy Finish Growing?. https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/health/when-does-my-puppy-finish-growing/
VCA Animal Hospitals. Breeding for Dog Owners – Caring from Birth to Weaning. https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/breeding-for-dog-owners-caring-from-birth-to-weaning
AKC. Puppy Feeding Fundamentals.
ASPCA. People Foods to Avoid Feeding Your Pets.