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Feeding a puppy is a determinant of how healthy he will grow to be. Puppies grow fast, and providing the proper nutrition is important for building strong bones and teeth, adding muscle, and supplying all the energy needed for play and learning. It is essential to let your puppy nurse as long as possible from their mother to receive antibodies to fight off infections.

They need to take in a lot of calories to fuel their rapid growth. At the start, that means about twice as many per pound as an adult dog of the same breed. Puppies grow the fastest in their first five months. Puppies should get solid food starting at about four weeks when they’re not able to get all the calories they need from their mother’s milk. Most puppies are weaned by six weeks.

Puppies need puppy food. Feeding puppies a complete and balanced puppy food ensure they get the proper nutrition to develop and grow into healthy adult dogs. Puppy foods are formulated with a balance of nutrients to help puppies grow up healthy and happy.

Look for protein-rich formulas to support their growing muscles. Carbohydrates supply the energy active and playful puppies need, while calcium supports developing teeth and bones and DHA helps support healthy brain and vision development.

Consult your puppy’s veterinarian to understand what type of nutrients your puppy needs. Certain breeds have a predisposition for certain health-related issues that appropriate nutrients can help avoid or manage. This will be an important factor in determining what kind of food to feed your puppy

First 6 to 8 Weeks

During the first six to eight weeks of life, the puppy should stay with the mother and be allowed to nurse ad-lib. It is especially important they nurse from the mother. Mother’s milk provides the best nutrition and provides antibodies to help protect your puppy from disease.

Sometimes it is not possible to keep a puppy with the mother for the first eight weeks such as when the mother develops eclampsia or mastitis. In these situations, milk replacers and bottles specially designed for puppies can be found at any major pet store.

Weaning Your Puppy to Solid Food

Weaning your puppy to solid food should not be an overnight endeavor but should ideally take place over the course of two to three weeks. First, select the brand of puppy food you intend to feed. Puppies have high caloric and nutritional needs and so the food selected should be a high-quality brand of puppy food.

Talk to your veterinarian for specific recommendations but generally, the best puppy foods will be a good source of protein, calcium, and calories.

Starting around four to six weeks of age begin introducing your puppy to puppy food by making a gruel by blending the puppy food with milk replacer. Offer the gruel three to four times a day gradually reducing the amount of milk replaced used to make the gruel.

This way your puppy gradually learns to adapt to solid food and gastric upset is minimized. By around eight weeks of age, your puppy should be eating solid food.

Type of Foods to Feed a Puppy

Many pet-food companies have worked with canine-nutrition scientists to develop special formulas for both large- and small-breed puppies.

Canned food is the most expensive to feed, and dogs often find it most palatable. Be careful of “all-meat” claims, though. Your dog should have a complete, balanced diet to fulfill nutritional requirements. Meat alone may not do it.

Semi-moist food is available in one-serving packets. It is usually made to look like hamburger.

Kibble is the most economical, and the major makers offer a complete and balanced diet for dogs of all sizes and ages. Dry food can be fed exactly as it comes from the bag.

Some dog owners say there is an oral-hygiene advantage in hard kibble because the friction produced helps to keep the gums and teeth healthy. Kibble can be moistened, either with water or canned food. Although unnecessary, that addition may make food tastier.

Puppy Feeding Management

Feeding management refers to how you feed your puppy and there are a couple of options to consider:

  • Free feeding/graze feeding: this is when your puppy has free access to food either all day or for a large portion of the day.  While this is convenient and allows your puppy to eat when he or she wants to, it can be difficult to monitor food intake.  It can also make house training your puppy more challenging. This strategy is not recommended in multi-pet households unless pets are kept separately.
  • Meal feeding: this is when your puppy is fed at specific times throughout the day.  This method allows you to have more control over how much food your puppy is eating and helps get your puppy on a feeding schedule which makes house training easier.  Puppies have small stomachs and so when they are young it is better to feed them smaller more frequent meals (3 to 4 per day). As your puppy gets older and can eat a larger volume of food, you can transition to fewer meals.

Feeding large-breed puppy

Large breeds such as Great Danes, Labrador retrievers, and Doberman Pinschers are more likely to develop skeletal and joint problems, including hip dysplasia. Although these conditions are primarily triggered by inherited factors, overfeeding can worsen the situation.

Large-breed puppy foods are designed for controlled growth and may be lower in calcium and phosphorus than other puppy foods. Excess levels of calcium and phosphorus can contribute to skeletal problems. Large-breed puppy food also may contain more fiber to add bulk to the diet without calories.

Small breeds may prefer smaller kibble so they can more easily chew their food. It helps ensure they get all the nutrients they need. Small breeds can also benefit from small breed-specific puppy formulas.

Feding Treats

Some treats contain high amounts of sugar, colourings, milk products, and fat. Some treats can contain sugars or lactose (milk sugar) so always check the ingredients label.

Quality prepared treats have been developed with dogs’ dietary needs in mind. However, all treats should be given sparingly, never more than 15% of the total calorie intake.

If used regularly, reduce the amount of main meal food your dog is receiving in order to avoid obesity. Some chew treats have been proven to help prevent dental diseases. Again check the label to ensure you are getting a genuine product.


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