Whether you’ve just adopted a cute and snuggly pup or you’re thinking about doing so, one of the first questions you might have is, “What the heck do I feed my puppy?” Feeding your puppy the right food—and the right amount of food—is vital to their health. Not only will it help them grow healthy and strong, but it’ll ensure they’re not getting too much or too little.
Below, we’re covering everything you need to know about puppy nutrition, including the differences between puppy food vs. adult dog food, choosing the best puppy food, and knowing how much—and how often—to feed your puppy.
How Long Is A Dog A Puppy?
At what age is your puppy a puppy, and when do they officially graduate into adult canine? Generally speaking, dogs are considered puppies for the first year of their life. This is about how long it takes for them to be considered “full-grown.”
For large and giant breed dogs—which tend to take longer to grow into their full size—veterinarians often extend that to about 16 months.
When Should I Switch to Adult Dog Food?
Once your puppy becomes a bonafide adult canine, you can switch to adult dog food. Otherwise, puppy food it is! For most dogs, it means after the first year of their life while for large and giant breed dogs, it’s after 16 months.
By the way, if you’ve recently brought a puppy home, head on over to the purrch app, where other pet parents and industry experts have everyday conversations about all kinds of topics, including puppy nutrition, training tips, behavior deciphering, health issues, and more.
What’s the Difference between Puppy Food and Adult Dog Food?
Did you know there’s a difference between puppy food and adult dog food? There definitely is, and it’s important to make sure your young fluff is chowing down on kibble meant for them, specifically.
“Puppies grow very fast, and their very steep growth curve means they need a more calorically dense food than an adult,” explains Dr. Gary Richter, a veterinarian and the founder of Ultimate Pet Nutrition. “They also need a very specific balance of calcium and phosphorus in order for their bones to develop properly.”
Dr. Angie Krause, a veterinarian at Boulder Holistic Vet, adds that many puppy food formulations also contain specific vitamins and minerals that help your puppy grow. For example, this puppy food has an extra dose of protein and probiotics to help sustain energetic growing puppies.
How to Choose The Best Puppy Food
Now that you know the difference between puppy food and adult dog food, let’s dive into what to look for when buying food for your new pup.
“The most important thing to consider when selecting a dog food is to choose a formula that is balanced by Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) guidelines to thoroughly ensure they receive all of the vital nutrients needed to be healthy,” says Dr. Krause.
6 Essential Ingredients for Dog Food and Puppy Food
The AAFCO says that the six essential ingredients found in all dog and puppy foods include:
- Water (in wet foods)
In addition to choosing balanced formulas, avoid feeding your puppy foods made with excessive filler ingredients, which offer no nutrient value. Examples of dog food filler ingredients include corn, wheat, rice, and other starches. These are cheap ingredients that reduce the cost, but when too much is included it can create an unbalanced meal for your puppy.
What Happens to My Dog When they Eat Dog Food with Excess Filler?
Excess filler in dog food can lead to issues such as weight gain and dental issues and might prevent your puppy from getting all the nutrition they need.
Learn more about what foods puppies can and can’t eat with the easy askPurrch tool. You’ll get instant straightforward answers to questions such as “Can dogs eat blackberries?” and “Can dogs eat apples?” and “Can dogs eat peanut butter?”
How Much Food Should You Feed Your Puppy?
How much you feed your puppy ultimately depends on their age and size. Additionally, it depends on the nature of the ingredients in your puppy food of choice.
The best way to determine the right amount to feed your puppy is to look at the product label, which will have a recommended amount to feed them according to their weight and age.
You can also pay attention to your puppy’s current weight and build, notes Dr. Richter. For example, if they’re looking a bit rotund then that’s a sign you’re probably going a bit too heavy on the kibble pour. If they’re on the thinner side, you may need to give them a bit more with each meal.
How Often You Should Feed Puppies
Along with feeding them the right amount of food, you’ll want to make sure you’re properly breaking up your puppy’s meals.
“Puppy feeding schedules also vary greatly depending on the age and size of the dog,” notes Dr. Krause. “Very young, small breed dogs may need to be fed multiple times daily, while a large breed four-month-old puppy can be fed two to three times daily.”
Smaller, more frequent feedings accommodate their tiny puppy tummies. It also helps them maintain their blood sugar levels. As a rule of thumb, Dr. Richter says that once your puppy is over seven to eight pounds, you can probably switch to twice-daily feedings. Larger adult dogs are often good with two medium to large-sized meals, again depending on their weight.
If your puppy tends to scarf their food quickly, you’re one of many pet parents dealing with the issue. You’ll want to nip the problem early so they don’t get into the habit. Try a food bowl that helps slow them down, such as the Outward Hound Fun Feeder Interactive Dog Bowl.
How to Make the Switch from Puppy Food to Adult Dog Food?
Once your puppy has officially made it to adulthood, it’s time to start transitioning them to adult kibble. While it may be tempting to just jump into it, veterinarians recommend easing your pup into new foods to help prevent digestive upset.
“I recommend transitioning to a new food over a week period,” says Dr. Krause. “Slowly increase the amount of new food and decrease the amount of old food until there is only new food in the bowl.”
Do this over the course of a week or two until your pup has fully transitioned to the new food. If you notice they get an upset tummy, that’s a sign to slow down a bit more as you transition. This process requires a bit of patience, but your sweet fluff will thank you!
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