Bringing home a new puppy is a wonderful thing, but it’s also an adjustment that your family and pup will need to get used to. Paying close attention to his ever-changing nutritional needs is one of the most essential ways to keep him on track to lead a healthy life.
Your puppy’s feeding schedule should stay as regulated as possible, especially when he’s very young. A very young puppy should continue eating the same food the breeder or shelter has been feeding him for a few days to help settle him into his new surroundings. Whenever you switch him to a new food, do it gradually. Mix a little of the new food in with the old, gradually increasing the proportion of new food over the course of a week. This is easier on his stomach and will help him get used to the flavor and texture. Putting your puppy on a daily feeding schedule will regulate his digestion and make housetraining easier for both of you.
If you’re not sure whether you switch food from what the shelter or breeder has been feeding your puppy, be sure to ask your vet at your pup’s first veterinarian appointment. Your vet will be able to provide recommendations based on your puppy’s health, breed, rate of growth and more. Even if you have had a puppy in the past and fed him a certain type of food it is still wise to consult your vet as different dogs have different nutritional needs.
How Much Should my Puppy Eat?
The amount of food your puppy eats should be enough to maintain his ideal body weight. Use the puppy feeding guide on the label of your dog food as a starting point—the amount you feed him depends on his age, size, breed, activity level, temperament, environment and health. To keep him at a healthy weight, do not overfeed him, even if he still seems hungry or begs for more food. If you have a large-breed puppy, you may be inclined to leave food out for him at all times or feed him a few extra cups per day, but this can lead to obesity and bone development problems. As a general rule, a young puppy should be fed 3 to 4 times a day to keep up with his high-energy lifestyle. This amount should be reduced to twice a day after he reaches 6 months of age.
Talk to your vet about how much your puppy should be eating each day. Be sure to tell your vet what type of food you are currently feeding your puppy, as not all dog food contains the same level of nutrients. This could affect the amount of food that is recommended for you to feed your puppy.
Choosing the Right Food for your Puppy
The right diet for your puppy should be high in fat, protein and calories to nurture and maintain his development into adulthood. Make sure you read the packaging to see what benefits your food offers your puppy. Some foods contain health-enhancing vitamins and antioxidants to protect the immune system and minerals that promote urinary health.
Puppy food is available in wet or dry forms, and what you choose will largely depend on your and your puppy’s preferences. Dry food is made up of small pieces called kibbles. It’s cost-effective, keeps well and is easy to serve. Wet food is available in cans, and is better for puppies who need extra hydration, as it contains up to 70% more water than dry food. If you want to add variety to your puppy’s meals, you can mix the two foods together. Do your research and choose a food that gives him everything he needs to grow and develop to his full potential. Look for foods that are “complete.” This means you can feed him without the need for supplements or additional food.
When your puppy becomes an adult, he will need a different level of nutrients than he did when he was younger. Depending on his size and breed, he should be switched from puppy to adult food somewhere between 1 and 2 years of age. Larger dogs may not reach adulthood until they are around 2 years—it’s important to continue feeding them puppy food until they are fully grown.
Aside from the occasional dog treat, your puppy should only be eating food specially made for him. If you get into the habit of feeding him table scraps, he may become a finicky eater. This can cause bad habits that affect his behavior, health and weight later in life.