Puppies experience many changes during their first year of life, from being welcomed into their forever home to learning about the world and growing into a mature adult dog. Because of this, special attention must be paid to their feeding schedule and nutrition to ensure healthy growth. Learn everything you need to know about feeding a puppy to raise a healthy and happy pup.
Start by putting together a schedule for your puppy that includes mealtimes and potty breaks. This schedule should be the same each day. To keep up with his growing body, your puppy needs to eat several times a day, and most experts recommend 3-4 daily feedings for young puppies. When your pup reaches 6 months of age, you can cut back to feeding 2-3 times per day. Meals should always be fed at the same times each day; this will also help set your puppy up for success with potty training.
Here’s an example feeding schedule for three meals a day:
Be sure your puppy always has access to fresh water, and wash his food and water bowls daily to prevent the buildup of bacteria.
It’s important to feed your pup a high-quality puppy food, rather than a food made for adult dogs because puppy food provides the proper nutrition for a growing dog. There are many different options, so you may already have a preference, but you can also ask your veterinarian for recommendations, or check out our list of the best foods for puppies. Large and giant breed puppies have different nutritional requirements than small and medium dogs, so it’s important to choose a food formulated for their expected adult size. This will help promote steady growth and prevent possible development and musculoskeletal disorders that can arise from growing too quickly.
Domestic dogs (and especially puppies!) have mastered the pleading puppy eyes but hold strong and don’t give in with extra food or treats! Overfeeding can lead to obesity, and carrying too much weight puts your puppy at risk of diabetes, development and orthopedic problems, and other health issues. Keep treats to a minimum, and if you are training your puppy with treats as rewards, break them into the smallest possible sizes.
Though the puppy food labels will provide recommended feeding amounts, they are general guidelines and not strict rules. Each puppy is different with regards to their metabolism and how much they need to eat each day. If your puppy doesn’t finish or skips a meal, don’t worry. It could mean that he’s had enough for the day.
When you’re ready to switch your puppy to adult food, usually at around 1 year of age, it’s ideal to do so gradually. Abruptly changing to a new food can be a surprise to your pup’s digestive system and may cause tummy troubles. Start with a mix of about 25% of new food and 75% of their original food. The next day, give him a 50-50 mixture, then the third day offer 75% of the new food and 25% old food. By day four, your puppy will be ready to eat a meal of only the new food.
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