Getting a new puppy is exciting, but it is no simple task either, especially if you are a first-time owner. There is a lot to know before bringing your new puppy home to ensure you are suitably prepared and that he or she will be comfortable. Some of the biggest conundrums are to do with the best puppy food for your dog, and how to properly feed puppies – after all, you can’t trust your puppy to tell you; they are likely to eat whatever is put under their nose!
Perhaps you already own a puppy or have had one in the past, but want to see if you can learn something new? Whatever your circumstances, this puppy feeding guide tackles the most common and pressing questions new puppy owners ask when it comes to nourishing their dog.
How much food should I feed my puppy?
How many times a day should I feed my puppy?
What food is best for a puppy?
Dry and wet food
Wheat and Grain-Free Food
What can a puppy eat?
What can’t a puppy eat?
When should I switch from puppy food to adult food?
Is puppy food different to adult dog food?
My puppy isn’t eating: What should I do?
Is my puppy overweight?
Is my puppy underweight?
Balance a healthy diet with exercise and play
The amount your puppy needs to eat each meal depends on how much growing they need to do and how many meals a day they are eating. Typically, recommended daily amounts on commercial puppy food packaging are based on the expected adult weight of your puppy. James Wellbeloved provide puppy feeding guidelines on all our puppy food to help you judge how much to feed your new pet. If you know what size your puppy’s parents are, then your puppy’s expected weight will be easier to predict. Once you have determined the daily amount appropriate for your puppy, you should divide that food evenly over the number of meals they have per day.
For a puppy food chart, visit the product page for detailed guidelines according to your puppy’s age and weight.
As an example from the puppy feeding chart, if your puppy’s expected adult bodyweight is 5-10kg, then they should be eating 100-160g of food to start off with, and gradually increasing to 120-195g at the age of six months.
As an example from the puppy feeding chart, if your puppy’s expected adult body weight is 5kg, you will start feeding them 4 ½ pouches at two months, increasing to 5 ½ pouches at six months of age.
Puppies should eat between four and six small meals a day, while adult dogs can have two larger meals per day. This is because puppies still have small stomachs which means they cannot eat a lot before they get full. However, this doesn’t stop them getting overexcited at mealtimes, which often results in them overeating. Such overeating can lead to digestive upsets, diarrhoea, distended stomachs and instil bad eating habits that continue into adulthood.
While there is no “best time” to feed your puppy, you should aim to spread their daily recommended food serving out evenly throughout the day to keep their energy up. We would advise feeding 3 to 4 small meals per day. It may help to arrange your puppy’s feeding times to match your own meal and snack times so it’s easier to remember! Feeding your puppy first thing in the morning will give them energy to start the day ahead. You should avoid feeding your puppy their last meal too close to bedtime, so they have time to digest their food and go to the toilet before going to sleep. Giving your puppy their final meal of the day before 6pm will prevent toileting accidents during the night.
Furthermore, we recommend purchasing a puppy-sized meal bowl for your new pet. Although weighing out your puppy’s food will ensure that you aren’t overfeeding them, a smaller bowl will also help remind you of this. If your puppy seems to be eating their food too quickly, you can give them a puzzle feeder to slow them down.
Once your puppy is six months old, depending on their size and breed they may now be approaching adulthood, which means it is time to start the gradual transition to fewer, but larger meals. A good practice is to think ahead. When would those two meals a day make sense to your future timetable, while allowing your dog a healthy breakfast and afternoon meal? Use those times to familiarise your puppy with when to expect food. If your puppy knows when you will put their bowl down for them, and know you feed them reliably at those times, they shouldn’t bother you for food at any other point in the day.
You can find more information on when to feed your puppy here.
So long as the food is nutritious and suitable for puppies, it should be sufficient to help your puppy grow properly. There are a whole host of different types of dog food available to choose from: wet; dry; grain-free; food with fish, rice and vegetables; and food for small, medium and large breeds. James Wellbeloved offer a whole host of different puppy foods which will encourage your puppy to build a healthy appetite and to grow up fit and strong.
Unless your new puppy was born in your home, your dog should have already been weaned off their mother’s milk by the time they come to live with you. Weaning normally takes place at six to eight weeks, after which it is safe to transition to solid food. However, like any change, this shouldn’t be made too suddenly. If your puppy has only just finished weaning, feed them wet food or soften dry food with some water, so it is easier for them to eat.
Wet food can often be more palatable and easy to eat while your puppy still has soft teeth. However, dry kibble is generally better for helping develop teeth and gums. After a couple of weeks, your puppy’s teeth will have started to develop and strengthen, meaning you can make the transition to dry food only, should you wish to do so. If your puppy is still struggling to eat dry food, you can try mixing it with a little warm water to make it softer, until their teeth get stronger.
Lastly, wheat and grain are fine for puppies to eat and grain-free food is just as nutritious an option as other types of dog food. This is because modern dogs have evolved to be able to digest grains more easily compared to their ancestors. That being said, like a small percentage of humans, some dogs are intolerant to grain in their diet, so grain-free food is a healthy and delicious alternative.
Whatever you decide to feed your puppy, unless all the food is consumed in one sitting, remember to pick it up and keep it fresh. While dry food can be left out for up to a day, wet or moistened food can go mouldy and should be removed after no longer than half an hour. You will need to ensure your puppy constantly has fresh water anyway, so we recommend always feeding your puppy fresh food too.
Most pet food should be formulated to be a complete diet, meeting all the nutritional and calorific needs of your pet. Puppy food is no different and so you should keep your new family member on a diet of their food only.
However, we understand that training your puppy is an important part of helping them to become a model citizen and increasing your bond together. Traditional dog treats are a great way of encouraging your puppy to learn, but these should be given sparingly in order not to disrupt their balanced diet. Always make sure you are using treats that are suitable for puppies. Portioning off some of your puppy’s daily diet to use as treats is one way of ensuring they don’t over-eat. As a general rule, traditional dog treats should not make up more than of their daily calorie intake.
Better still, you can use healthy alternatives to treat your dog. While some fruits and vegetables are unsafe for dogs to eat, many can be consumed safely and make great substitutes for traditional treats. They are delicious, effective training snacks and don’t upset your puppy’s diet to the same extent. However, be advised that while some fruit and veg are healthy alternatives, they can be quite hard on young teeth and could even be choking hazards for puppies, so should be given with caution. Although these treats are healthy alternatives, they should still make up no more than 10% of your puppy’s daily intake, due to the sugar content.
Unfortunately, while some human foods can be consumed safely by puppies in small quantities, there is an exhaustive list of toxic and even life-threatening foods which should be avoided at all costs. Here are just some of the more common ones:
It is best to only give your dog food which has been specifically manufactured for dogs to avoid any potentially harmful foods and be careful of leaving toxic food and drink where your puppy can reach it.
You can find more information on what dogs can and can’t eat here.
Knowing when to start the switch from puppy food to adult dog food depends on your puppy’s breed. Roughly, toy, small and medium dog breeds mature between six to 12 months, while large breeds, who have much more growing to do, mature at 12 to 18 months, although some can take longer. For advice on your puppy’s specific breed, check their food packaging, or consult a vet.
If your dog liked the food you had been feeding them as a puppy, it is a good idea to stick to the same flavours when transitioning to adult dog food. Start slowly by feeding your dog 90% of their usual puppy food with 10% of the new adult food mixed in. Then, once you are sure your dog is eating their food without any problems, you can gradually increase the ratio of adult food to puppy food over the course of a week or two.
While puppy food should have many of the same ingredients as adult dog food, puppy meals tend to have higher concentrations of essential nutrients. This is because puppies have different requirements to older dogs; just as human babies have different diets to adult humans. Puppies have a lot of growing and developing to do and building these tissues requires lots of protein, calcium and numerous other nutrients, as well as lot of energy.
Feeding a puppy adult dog food means you will need to feed them more often to ensure they get the nutrients they need, or risk stunting their development. One interesting example to illustrate this is that smaller dogs, including puppies, have a higher surface-to-volume ratio than larger dogs, which means that, relative to the amount of body heat they can create, smaller dogs have a larger area through which to lose heat. It is for this reason that puppies don’t only need to eat and exercise more to keep their body temperature at normal levels, but why many tend to love a nice heated dog bed.
Equally, feeding an adult dog puppy food can also be dangerous, as it can lead to an overload of nutrients which can lead to problems later in life. For example, large dogs are already prone to skeletal issues, which the extra calcium in puppy food can exacerbate.
While most puppies will rapidly scoff down whatever food you give them, some can be very fussy eaters. Not eating regularly, or at all, can be the symptom of a larger health problem, so you should see your vet and rectify this before turning to the food and your puppy’s eating habits.
Failing to eat due to illness is normally accompanied by lethargy and a change in behaviour, but not always. You may be able to check for bad teeth, growths, sores or foreign objects in the mouth or throat, but your vet has the tools and know-how to find and diagnose these things faster, as well as take the necessary actions or prescribe the essential medication to help your puppy recover. Furthermore, if your dog is not showing any external symptoms, but is still refusing to eat, vomiting up their food, or suffering from prolonged diarrhoea, then it could be something internal. Don’t try to solve the problem yourself; go to your vet to give your puppy the best chance of a speedy recovery.
Assuming your vet has given your puppy a clean bill of health, the next thing to examine is the atmosphere in your home, especially the area where your puppy eats. Try to keep this a quiet space and relatively free of too much foot traffic. While most dogs don’t mind other people being near them while they eat, if your puppy isn’t eating, this could be the reason.
As with their energy levels, a puppy’s metabolism can also go up and down, which leads to them not wanting to eat. If your dog doesn’t seem hungry, try putting the food down for twenty minutes and removing it after this time, regardless of whether it has been eaten or not, then do not give your puppy any other food or treats until their next mealtime. Puppies are great at manipulating their owners to get food, so don’t let them take advantage of your kind nature! Pet owners should be mindful that chopping and changing food and feeding times often causes puppies to become fussy. Try to create a set routine and stick to it.
If this doesn’t work, it may be that you need to try a different animal protein, or a different type of food. For example, if your puppy won’t eat dry dog food, you could try mixing in some warm water or adding some wet food as a tasty topper. We would advise switching food slowly by gradually introducing the new food and phasing out the old, and if your puppy continues to refuse food, you may need to seek expert advice. Do not make any changes to your puppy’s diet without consulting a vet first.
Remember, puppies need to have a special and balanced diet to grow properly and too little food may lead to growth and health deficiencies. If you are in any doubt about what to do, make an appointment to see your vet.
Puppies are far more likely to overeat than to not eat enough, which is why it is so important to evenly space out their recommended daily food intake via smaller portions throughout the day. If your puppy often eats too much, too quickly, it can lead to them developing long-term weight problems. Equally, even if you stick to a strict diet plan, if your puppy doesn’t get enough exercise or you give them a few too many treats, this will also cause obesity issues.
Obesity in dogs is just as dangerous as it is in humans, and can lead to a number of health problems for your puppy, including:
All of these can lead to a poor quality of life and a shorter lifespan. So, rather than risk these diseases, take your dog out for regular walks, stop the treats and table scraps and, if necessary, speak to your vet about switching to a lower calorie diet.
So, given how easily puppies can become obese and how bad that is for their health, here are the signs that your pet is overweight:
If you are concerned about your puppy’s weight, take them to see a vet, who can advise an immediate diet plan alongside veterinary consultation. Find more information on the weight of your dog here.
Full or partial anorexia in dogs can lead to a multitude of life-threatening health problems, including the body shutting down to save energy. Prolonged underfeeding will mean your puppy doesn’t get the nutrients they need to grow properly, and can lead to stunted growth, brittle bones and a weak immune system both in the short and long term. Anorexia is a condition which should be treated seriously and urgently. If your puppy doesn’t eat after 24 hours or continually vomits up his or her food, seek help from your vet.
Similarly to an overweight dog, there are ways of telling if your puppy is underweight:
An anorexic puppy is much harder to manage than an overweight pet, largely because there are so many things that can cause the problem, including hormonal imbalances and psychological issues. It is also harder to get a dog eating again after it has stopped than it is to control the diet of an overfed puppy. Once your vet has diagnosed the problem and come up with a plan for you to follow, you will likely need to begin feeding your puppy small but regular meals until they are able to digest food properly again.
However, if after a check-up, your vet is happy there is nothing physically or psychologically wrong with your puppy, it is time to try our earlier suggestions of first making sure they are eating in a quiet and comfortable space, and then try switching their food. You can also give them a few more treats to help encourage their diet and weight gain, but don’t be tempted to overdo this, or you will run the risk of your puppy ignoring his or her meals in favour of some tasty treats.
The best guide to how well your puppy is doing, both physically and mentally, is how interactive, sociable and happy they seem. Puppies want to play, they want love and affection, and they want to eat and sleep. So long as they are doing these things, you are doing a good job!
While it is up to you which puppy food you buy for your new family member, avoid the traps of home remedies or food meant for human consumption, just as you should avoid giving your puppy adult dog food. Puppies need to get the right amount of nutrients to ensure they have the energy to grow strong, and the best way to achieve this is to feed your dog puppy food that has been designed with their breed and health in mind.
Once you’ve established which food your puppy enjoys, a meal plan throughout the day, and a healthy exercise routine, your puppy will soon settle into the habits you set for them, including when to expect meal times. From then on, just keep an eye on their eating habits and behaviour and let your vet know if anything changes. Otherwise, focus on enjoying your time with your puppy; training them, playing with them, and maybe slipping them the occasional puppy treat as a reward.
We won’t tell if you won’t.