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The Ultimate Puppy Feeding Guide

Two Puppies eating from bowls on the floor

We all know that puppies only get one chance to grow up, and so it’s crucially important that we provide them with the right nutrition to support them during development so they can grow into healthy, active and happy dogs. However, if you are a new puppy owner it can sometimes be a little confusing where to start so we’ve provided this puppy nutrition guide to help get you going. 

Puppy Feeding Timeline

For the first four weeks of your puppy's life, your puppy's nutrition will rely mostly on its mother's milk. This nutrient-dense milk will help provide important immunity properties to help your puppy grow. At about four weeks of age, your breeder will begin the weaning process to transition your puppy from its mother's milk to a formula suited for puppy growth. This will often begin with softened kibble with a porridge-like consistency to help puppies’ developing mouths to process and digest, this should be gradually introduced into the diet. 

Over the next few weeks, your puppy will begin to develop and their personality will begin to show, during this time their digestive tracts and baby teeth are also developing and they will begin to gradually adjust to firmer kibble pieces. At 8 weeks of age, your puppy should be able to happily eat a complete and balanced diet tailored for puppy growth. 

HOW TO CHOOSE THE RIGHT DIET FOR MY PUPPY.

By the time your puppy is ready to go home, your breeder would have already selected a diet that they have been feeding for the past few weeks. It will be important to take note of this and have some of the same food ready to ease the transition into a new household, this will help avoid any digestive upsets caused by changing the food too quickly. If you wish to change your diet, it is important to do it gradually over a 7-day-period.

Puppies have unique nutritional needs and need a diet that will be suitable for growth rather than a diet tailored for maintenance. Puppy diets will generally be higher in protein, fat and calories to supply the much needed extra energy. They will also include vitamins and minerals to help boost the immune system and DHA, an omega 3 fatty acid vital for brain development. 

However not all puppies are the same, for instance, a smaller breed puppy will have a faster metabolic growth rate compared to a large breed puppy and will need different nutrient levels in their diet to support their different growth needs. This is where size health nutrition plays an important role, a puppy with an estimated adult weight of 10kg and under would need to go on a small breed puppy diet, and a puppy with an estimated adult weight of 11kg to 24kg will need to go on a medium puppy diet, and a puppy with an estimated adult of 25kg and over would need to be placed on a large breed puppy diet. 

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How Much Should You Feed A Puppy?

One of the most important aspects of a growing puppy is identifying how much food they need to be fed while they are growing. The best way to do this is to understand how to read a puppy feeding guide on the package of your puppy food. 

Most puppy feeding guides will be based on the estimated adult weight of your puppy and not their current weight. As we now know that different size puppies have different nutritional needs this will enable us to ensure our puppy is getting the correct calorie requirements suited for their breed and size. The estimated adult weight can be based on a variety of factors, this can include the sex of your puppy, genetics and breed. If you are unsure of your puppy's estimated adult weight you can reach out to your breeder, or your case veterinarian who can do a general body condition score. 

The first 5 months of your puppy's life is an important developmental stage, not only are the muscles and bones developing but their digestive system is also developing too. This means that puppies can only handle smaller quantities of food at a time to avoid getting diarrhoea from having too many nutrients to digest. We would advise from 8 weeks of age up until 5 months of age to feed the daily portion of your puppy's food into three meals, this will help ease the stress on the digestive system. When your puppy reaches 6 months of age you can divide the daily portion of food into two meals per day ongoing. 

Some breeds of puppies may be more active than others, and as a result, can tend to burn more calories a little quicker. It is important to monitor your puppy's body condition while they are growing and adjust the feeding recommendation if needed. If you are unsure about how your puppy is progressing, check in with your veterinarian who can guide you along the way. 

Should I Be Feeding My Puppy Wet or Dry Dog Food?

When choosing the right puppy food for your growing puppy, one of the many questions asked is what is better, wet food or dry dog food, and in reality, both have their own nutritional benefits as long as they are both complete and balanced meaning they have all the essential nutrients required for growth. As wet food is generally softer in texture compared to dry food it can be easier to help wean puppies off their mother's milk and onto a more solid formula and for those puppies with smaller mouths, feeding wet food can be easier for them to chew.

Wet food also has a higher meaty aroma compared to dry food, and for those fussy puppies who might be stubborn to eat kibble, the aroma of wet food can help entice fussy eaters to get those nutrients into their bodies. Wet food compared to dry food also has a higher moisture content. This higher moisture content can be beneficial for urinary health and help with hydration. However due to this higher moisture content, generally more amount of wet food is needed to be fed compared to its dry food equivalent. 

Dry food obviously has its own benefits, the number one being to help maintain dental health through the crunching of the kibble itself. Dry food, once opened, will also have a longer life span of up to two months if kept in the right conditions. Wet food, however, should be used within three days and kept in the refrigerator. The most important thing to remember is that as mentioned above, both diets need to be complete and balanced and tailored to your puppy's needs. In terms of wet or dry, there is no wrong answer and you could easily consider mixed feeding into your puppies' diet. 

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What Are The Best Times To Feed a Puppy?

The right time to feed your puppy depends on various factors like what time you wake up in the morning or what time your puppy wakes you up. It’s important to set a routine from the moment your puppy gets home, this will make feeding time a lot easier for you as your puppy develops. Ideally, between the age of 8 weeks and 5 months, your puppy should be having at least 3 meals a day. Smaller meals will be easier to digest for a developing intestinal system.

The first meal of the day would generally be around 7 am to 8 am, generally speaking, shortly after your puppy has eaten they will need to relieve themselves so setting an ideal routine can also help with house training. After they have exercised or played in the morning, they most likely have burnt some calories and will develop an appetite and so lunchtime should be around 12 pm-1 pm. The same rule would then apply around the house training. We could suggest dinner would be around 5 pm-6 pm allowing your puppy enough time to digest their food and go to the toilet before they sleep. 

Once your puppy reaches 6 months of age, you can divide the daily portion of food into two meals a day rather than three, feeding morning and night is often the most common routine. 


Should I Feed My Puppy As Soon As They Wake Up?

When getting a new puppy it is important to set the rules from day one and create a timetable suitable to you and your puppy’s needs. As your puppy is learning the ins and outs of toilet training, they are learning to hold their bladder overnight. As soon as your puppy wakes up, it would be important to take them outside to where you want them to toilet so they can focus on the toilet training, this will create a positive routine for you and your puppy. 

Once they have relieved themselves, they are most likely going to have a burst of energy and may want to play and interact with you. Once they have settled, you can look at providing them with their first meal for the day. Try and be consistent with the time you feed your puppy and, while they are young this could be between 7am to 8am, depending on how early they wake up. It's important that you don’t exercise your puppy right after feeding as this may cause them to be sick. We would advise waiting at least one hour after feeding to begin a walk to allow them to digest their meal first.  
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When To Stop Using Puppy Food & Transition to Adult Dog Food

As much as we would love them too, puppies do not stay puppies forever, and as they begin to enter into adulthood, we need to look at transitioning them to an appropriate diet. Due to the different growth requirements puppies have, this transition will begin at different ages and depend on the size and breed of your puppy. Small breed puppies (estimated adult weight 10kg and under) can reach adulthood at 10 months of age, medium breed puppies (estimated adult weight 11kg to 24kgs) from 12 months of age, large breed puppies (25kg to 44kg) from 15 months of age and giant breed puppies (45kg and onwards) from 24 months of age. 

Choosing the right adult diet for a puppy will be dependent on a number of factors, things you need to consider are the breed of your puppy and their energy requirements, for instance, if you have a very active puppy, you might want to consider transitioning to an active dog formula once they reach maturity. 

It’s important to remember not to switch your puppy's food right away, even if you are feeding the same brand. Puppy diet formulas will be different to adult dogs and a gradual transition over a 7 day period will be important to ease the digestive stress and allow your puppy to get used to their new diet. 


Should I Feed My Puppy Treats?

For any new puppy owner, it can be quite challenging to get your puppy to learn basic obedience skills while there are so many distractions around them. One of the easiest ways to get your new puppiy's attention is to reward them with treats. As owners, we provide treats to our puppies for many reasons and it can be a great way to encourage training while also showing affection to our new loved one. However, there is such a thing as too many treats, and the risk of this can lead to pet obesity. 

It’s important to remember that the majority of treats don’t provide a complete and balanced diet, so any trat fed in addition to your pet's meal is counted as added calories. Treats should not make up more than 10% of your puppy's diet and should be given only occasionally. 

Instead of using treats to reward your puppy, try using their own kibble as a reward which will also provide a higher nutrient value. This amount of food should then be included in your pet's daily calorie count to avoid excess calories. Once your puppy has mastered their training, try replacing the treats with positive reinforcement such as pats or playing with toys. 

Try avoiding using bones as a reward as they can sometimes be damaging to your puppy. As your puppy's teeth are still developing, you could risk mouth injuries such as broken teeth, splinters or even serious obstructions. 

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Puppy Feeding Advice and Tips

Setting boundaries for your puppy at a young age, will hopefully help to limit unwanted behaviour as they get older in life. Set the ground rules from day one. 

Generally, we would not advise giving your puppy table scraps while you’re sitting at the dining table. This can lead to begging behaviour and the expectation that when you are sitting down your puppy will get food. The added leftovers will also add to your puppy's daily calorie count and can increase weight gain. 

Although we may like to treat our dogs as a sign of affection, there is some food that can be dangerous to our four-legged canine companion. It’s important to avoid giving your dog the below food. 

  • Alcohol
  • Artificial sweetener (Xylitol)
  • Avocado
  • Caffeine
  • Chocolate
  • Cooked Bones and uncooked
  • Corn on the cob
  • Grapes and Raisins
  • Garlic
  • Fruit Pits and Seeds
  • Macadamia nuts
  • Onions
  • Yeast Dough

If you feel as though your puppy had ingested any of these ingredients call your veterinarian right away.
 
Before bringing your puppy home, ensure that all wires and any chewable are out of reach. We would also advise checking the plants you have indoors and outdoors in the yard as some can cause harm if ingested. 

We believe that every dog is born to be active, however, to start them on their journey they need the right nutrition to help fuel their growth and of course their play. Giving your puppy the right nutritional diet and the right portions the moment they step into your house sets them up for future success. If at any point you are unsure on the correct diet or nutritional needs for your young puppy we would recommend checking regularly with your veterinarian. 

Eukanuba Puppy diets