Feeding A Puppy

LAST UPDATED 24 JANUARY 2022

This article is written by Pet Circle veterinarian, Dr Belinda Stancombe

What your puppy eats in the first year of life has a direct effect on their growth, skeletal development and immune system. It also influences their risk of developing obesity later in life.

Puppy food has the right balance of energy, protein, fat, calcium and phosphorus to help your puppy develop properly, it is also highly digestible which is good for sensitive little tummies. Depending on your puppy's breed and size they will need to stay on puppy food from 10 to 24 months of age.

Our vets have put together this helpful guide with everything you need to know about feeding your new puppy!

Contents:

How Much to Feed A Puppy

Knowing how much to feed of a particular food can be tricky; the ideal feeding amount will vary from formula to formula and depends on your puppy's age and weight. To work out how much to feed your puppy, consult the feeding guidelines on the food packaging and use this as a starting point, adjusting the amount up or down depending on your puppy's needs. As every puppy formulation is different and your puppy's energy requirements will increase as they grow, check the feeding guide on the packaging to ensure that you are feeding the correct amount for your puppy's weight. If you need help or aren't sure how much to feed, check with your veterinarian or ask a pet circle vet.

What is the Best Puppy Food

Puppies require special food to support their increased need for energy, calcium and other nutrients during growth. Feeding your pup a high quality puppy food in their first year, will set them up for a happy and healthy life. Look for premium diets based on scientific research and development from brands including Hill's Science Diet, Royal Canin and Advance.

Science based puppy foods are rigorously tested to ensure safety, quality, nutritional soundness, palatability and digestibility. The end result is food that tastes great, is gentle on your pup's tummy and delivers everything they need to grow and thrive.

When to Start Feeding Puppies Wet Food

Puppies can be weaned from milk onto solid foods at approximately 4-6 weeks of age. It is best to start puppies on a wet food diet with a soft, mousse-like texture to make the transition onto solid food easier. When introducing wet food for the first time it is best to mix with your puppies regular milk.

During weaning, puppies will continue to feed off their mother's milk, an important source of nutrition until around 8 weeks of age. Therefore this is considered the minimum acceptable age for puppies to be removed from their mother.

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The most convenient and economical means of feeding your dog is with dry food, although many owners like to offer a little wet food as a treat or to aid hydration. The choice of whether to feed wet food, dry food or a combination ultimately comes down to you!

For more information, check out our Wet vs Dry Dog Food Guide.

Toy and Small Breed Puppy Food

Small and toy breed puppies (those with an expected adult weight under 10kg) mature faster than medium and large breeds, so choosing tailored small breed formulas ensures that their unique nutritional needs are met.

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Medium Breed Puppy Food

Medium sized dogs have an adult weight of between 10 and 25kg and include popular breeds such as the Staffordshire Bull Terrier, German Shorthaired Pointer, Border Collie and Kelpie. Medium breed puppy foods cater to the growing energy requirements of a medium breed puppy and include extra nutrition to support healthy digestion, brain development and a shiny coat.

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Large and Giant Breed Puppy Food

Large and giant breed puppy diets (those with an expected adult weight greater than 25 kg) have been formulated to account for the rapid growth rate and heavier body weight that is placed on these puppies growing skeletons.

Large and giant breed puppy diets are less energy dense to reduce the risk of overfeeding, because an overweight body condition is an important risk factor for the development of orthopaedic disease. These diets typically also have an appropriate balance of calcium and phosphorus with a lower overall calcium content when compared to a regular puppy diet.

We recommend feeding a diet from a reputable pet food company that is marketed specifically for large or giant breed growth, and has ideally undergo AAFCO feeding trials. These diets should be fed in controlled amounts to promote slow rate of growth and a lean body condition.

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How Often to Feed A Puppy

One of the most common questions that new puppy owners ask is 'How many times a day should you feed a puppy?'

Puppies need to eat more frequently than adult dogs, after all they only have tiny little stomachs! Up until the age of about 5 to 6 months it is recommended to split your puppy's daily feeding amount into 3 separate meals. Also ensure that your puppy always have fresh water available.

When to Transition from Puppy Food

Puppies should change to an adult diet once they are fully grown. This varies in small, medium, large and giant breed dogs due to their different rates of development.

Typically, dogs reach their full growth at the following ages:

Dog Adult Age
Small Breed Dogs 7-12 months
Medium Breed Dogs 10-12 months
Large Breed Dogs 15-18 months
Giant Breed Dogs 18-24 months

Once your puppy is fully grown, a diet labelled for 'adults' can be fed. Remember to transition your dog slowly to reduce the likelihood of tummy upsets.

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How To Introduce a Puppy to a New Food

When you first bring your puppy home, it is best to start feeding them the food that they were eating at their previous home. Sudden changes in diet can result in tummy upsets leading to diarrhoea or vomiting, and should be avoided if possible.

Once your puppy has settled into their new home, they can be transitioned to the puppy diet of your choice, over a 1 week period.

How to transition your puppy from one diet to another:

Day 1-2: Mix 25% of the new food with 75% of the old food

Day 3-4: Mix 50% of the new food with 50% of the old food

Day 5-6: Mix 75% of the new food with 25% of the old food

Day 7 onwards: 100% new food

What Age Can Puppies Start Eating Dry Food?

Puppies can start being introduced to dry food from around 6-8 weeks of age. Initially, it is best to soak dry food in warm water to allow the kibble to soften and make it easier for pups to eat. Combining with wet food can make meal time more enticing and help increase water intake, ensuring your puppy stays hydrated.

What is the Best Food Bowl for Puppies?

While it may be tempting to use any old container that you have at home, it is best to invest in a safe, pet approved bowl. This is especially important if you have a puppy in the house as cheap plastic can easily break and can be dangerous if swallowed.

Choosing the right bowl for your pet is more than picking out your favourite colour. Factors like material, design or functionality are important too!

Ceramic Bowls are heavy and offer greater stability than a plastic or stainless steel bowl however be careful not to drop this one! If your pet has a habit of tipping over their bowl or has difficulty keeping it still, this could be the solution you're looking for. Try to avoid purchasing an unglazed ceramic bowl as it is highly porous and will require regular scrubbing to get rid of any nasty bacteria.

Stainless Steel Bowls have earned the title of "vet favourite" as they are easy to keep clean and disinfect. Stainless Steel bowls are sturdy, durable and safe to use around teething pups.

Plastic Bowls are generally a more cost effective option than ceramic or stainless steel. High quality plastic is quite durable however can be difficult to keep clean as scratches from general wear and tear can become a breeding ground for nasty bacteria. It's best to avoid plastic bowls if you have chewing puppies in the house.

Slow Feeder Bowls have a unique maze-like structure of internal ridges which helps slow down meal time for pups that are natural gluttons. Eating or drinking too quickly can cause painful or improper digestion and may lead to bloat, a life threatening condition.

Interactive Toys: Consider ditching the bowl and go for an interactive toy instead. Toys such as the KONG Wobbler dispense food while providing environmental enrichment, to help keep your pup mentally stimulated and avoid boredom.

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What is the Best Puppy Treat?

Treats are a great way to bond with your puppy and are an essential tool in teaching basic obedience and manners.

A good puppy treat should be:

  • Delicious! Make sure it's something extra special that your pup doesn't normally eat
  • Soft and easy to chew; baby teeth are not as strong as adult teeth, plus teething can make crunchy treats uncomfortable for some pups
  • Mild on sensitive little tummies