how many times a day should a puppy eat

How Many Times a Day Should a Puppy Eat?

Feeding your puppy correctly is imperative to its health and well-being. Starting off your dog’s life with the right puppy food and feeding schedule helps meet his nutritional needs seamlessly from the moment he is weaned from his mother’s milk. We’ll help you find the best feeding schedule from young puppyhood to the transition into adult food. The potty and crate training is tough enough, so leave the feeding to us.

The Importance of Puppy Nutrition

Puppy eating carrot rich in Vitamin E
Image by KrystianGraba from Pixabay

Nutrition for very young puppies is a key factor in their development. However, it needs to be just right. You can’t over-feed a puppy, because that will lead to weight gain. If you under-feed a puppy, then it won’t grow into a healthy adult dog. Puppy growth is more than just what you see on the exterior, but it also encompasses healthy organ development and immune function. The growth rate can’t be too fast or too slow.

Dog parents can foster optimal growth with the pet food they choose to give their dog the best chance at life and health.

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How Much Food Should I Feed My Puppy?

How Much Food Should I Feed My Puppy?
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Puppies are in what we call a developmental or growth stage, while adult dogs are in more of a maintenance stage. The difference impacts the type of food, how much, and how often they eat. Here are a few things small to large breed puppies all need.

  • Higher amounts of protein compared to adults around 22 to 32%
  • Fat for vitamins and energy, about 10-25% of the food
  • Calcium needs to be monitored in a stricter manner for large breed dogs compared to small breed dogs, but calcium is necessary for healthy bone growth
  • You also need carbs for development, but no more than 20%

For the first month or two after weaning off mom’s milk, your dog should be eating appropriate puppy food 4 times a day. When your dog hits 4 months old, it’s safe to transition into feeding 3 meals a day. As your puppy becomes an adult, you can reduce the frequency to feeding 2 meals a day.

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Puppy Feeding Schedule

Puppy Feeding Schedule
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There are no “best” feeding guidelines or schedules because everyone’s routine is different and if your dog has special dietary needs, your vet may also recommend something different. It’s imperative that you give your dog smaller meals more frequently throughout the day with 3 being the least.

Do what works for you. For example, if you are on a 4 meals a day feeding plan, you can give your dog one when you and he wakes, once at lunch, once sometime during the afternoon, and once in the evening.

As for the amount, look at the feeding guidelines on your puppy food label or consult with your vet. Know how much your puppy needs in a day, and split the meal into 3 or 4 equal portions.

Can a Puppy Have Two Meals Instead of Three?

Can a Puppy Have Two Meals Instead of Three?
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The question isn’t a matter of “can”, but a matter of “should”. Yes, you can feed a puppy even just one meal a day, but you shouldn’t. The more you feed your pooch at once during the puppy stage, the more difficult it is for him to digest it. You want to avoid digestive issues and do not want to overload your dog’s system.

Giving more meals a day will also keep help maintain your dog’s energy and give him a dose of nutrition to meet his output. While you can give your dog just 2 meals a day, we don’t recommend it.

Some owners attempt to compensate for their lack of time and inability to keep to a regular feeding routine with free-feeding, or grazing. You can really only do this with kibble as fresh dog food spoils more quickly, and it’s definitely not recommended in a multi-dog/animal household.

How Do I Know If My Puppy Is Eating the Right Amount?

How Do I Know If My Puppy Is Eating the Right Amount?
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You won’t really know if your puppy is eating the right amount until physical signs start to manifest. If you notice your dog is lethargic, tired, always hungry, and not really wanting to play, then you may not be feeding him enough to sustain his energy output.

Physical signs may also show an underfed puppy. If you start seeing a tummy tuck and your dog’s rib cage, then it’s time to increase the amount. On the other hand, if you start noticing a round belly and you are unable to feel your pup’s ribcage under his skin, then your dog may be overweight.

If you are feeding your dog complete and balanced nutrition by following the feeding guidelines, then your dog should be at a good weight.

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When Should I Switch from Puppy Food to Adult Dog Food?

When Should I Switch from Puppy Food to Adult Dog Food?
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It’s generally recommended to begin the switch from puppy to adult food a little before or after your dog hits adulthood. The time frame is different for dog breeds and dog sizes. For regular medium-sized dogs, we’re looking at 12 months. For small and toy breeds, the time frame is only 6 to 10 months, and large to giant breeds may need 1.5 to 2 years!

Then there is the issue of dogs on the cusp of the weight cutoffs, leaving pet parents with questions about which category their dog falls under. If this is the case, we would recommend asking your vet’s opinion, monitoring your pet’s growth, and taking into account his energy levels to decide.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What are the best times to feed a puppy?

The best times to feed a puppy are once in the morning, once at lunch, once in the afternoon and once in the evening if you are feeding 4 times a day. You can cut out the afternoon meal and move the lunch meal to an hour or two later if you’re feeding 3 times a day.

How often should a 12-week-old puppy eat?

A 12-week-old puppy should be eating 3 to 4 meals a day. We generally wouldn’t recommend transitioning to 2 meals a day until your dog is at least 6 months old. Make sure to know how much to give your dog a day and split the total into equal portions to avoid overfeeding.

Conclusion

Giving your dog a balanced diet is key to healthy growth and puppy care. Aside from feeding the right amount, you also have to make sure to do it at the right frequency and pick the best puppy food tailored for your dog’s needs. We also recommend choosing dog food formulated for your dog’s size.

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