While it’s always important to feed your dogs well, it’s especially important to know how much to feed a puppy, so they can get the best start in life with the proper nutrition.
Your puppy’s growing bones, muscles, brain cells and tissues require specific nutrients: Too few or too many calories, over supplementing or nutrient deficiencies—all of these can be harmful to your pup in the long run, making it vital to know how much to feed a puppy. And, no, feeding a standard dog food is not the solution as most will not fulfill these needs.
If you have found yourself to be the caregiver of a puppy (or puppies—lucky you!), take a look through our guide below to learn how much to feed a puppy. It will help you understand what your puppy needs nutritionally through every stage of their young life so you can help them thrive.
Feeding Puppies From Birth Through 4 Weeks of Age
The best puppy food for your puppy’s first month of life is their mother’s milk, which has the best balance of nutrients for a growing puppy.
If you are raising puppies yourself without the mother, or you need to supplement puppies for another reason, a formula specifically made for puppies is the best option. (Don’t substitute a kitten or human formula.)
Puppies should be weighed daily. While a pup may not gain weight the first day (a healthy starting weight is different for each breed and can be determined by your veterinarian), there should be steady weight gains after that. If a puppy loses weight or fails to gain, contact your veterinarian.
How to Bottle Feed Puppies
Whenever possible, puppies should be nursed and raised by their mothers. There are times, however, when bottle feeding puppies becomes necessary (such as when a pup is orphaned).
But bottle feeding the wrong thing, the wrong way, the wrong amount or on the wrong schedule can lead to illness or even death. Here is how to bottle feed puppies:
Milk replacers designed specifically for puppies is the best alternative to mother’s milk. You’ll also need several pet nurser bottles as well as a variety of nipples.
- Reconstitute powdered milk replacer per label instructions or use a premixed variety.
- Warm the bottle by placing it in a cup of hot water until the milk reaches body temperature.
- Test the nipple before every feeding to ensure that milk only drips from the opening.
- Puppies are best fed in a belly-down position. Place the pup on your lap or on a towel on a table and insert the nipple into their mouth. Tip the bottle so that any air inside stays away from the nipple.
- Continue feeding until the puppy’s suckling stops or slows dramatically. Put a finger against the puppy’s throat to feel if they are still swallowing.
- Newborn puppies need to eat every 2 to 3 hours, but as long as they get four to five full-sized meals in the course of the day, nighttime feedings are generally not necessary.
- A 2 to 4-week-old puppy feeding schedule should consist of feedings every 6 to 8 hours.
- Young puppies must be stimulated to urinate and defecate. Wipe the area around the anus and penis or vulva with a warm, wet washcloth after every feeding.
It is usually not necessary to determine exactly how much puppies are eating as long as they gain weight daily and don’t act hungry (crying, for example) until just before the next feeding is due.
Commercially available milk replacers provide puppy feeding charts or guidelines for what a typical puppy might eat over the course of a day—for example, 2 teaspoons per 4 ounces bodyweight.
Follow these closely, as puppies who drink too much at one feeding can develop diarrhea, and if you have any questions or concerns, talk to your veterinarian.
How to Wean Puppies
As for a 5-week-old puppy feeding schedule, this is around when most people will start to wean their puppies.
For what to feed puppies who are weaning, use a commercially made, balanced food. Kibble should be softened with water or broth to a soupy texture, or you can add a little extra water to wet puppy food.
To get the puppies interested, dip your finger into the mush and then let them lick it. Puppies quickly learn to lap up the food.
- Make sure each pup is getting their fair share. Separate dog bowls given under supervision is ideal.
- While feeding puppies your weaning mix, there is no standard set of directions for how much a puppy should eat. Continue to weigh your puppies daily. You want pups that are growing but not overweight.
- If the puppies are still nursing a bit, figure on offering them three or four meals a day as a puppy feeding schedule. Toy and small breed pups may need some extra snacks, as they are susceptible to hypoglycemia (low blood sugar).
- Nutritional weaning is complete when the puppies are eating only puppy food and no longer nursing at all. When litters and moms are kept together, pups are usually eating only puppy food at around 8 weeks of age.
Feeding Your Pup After Weaning
Once puppies are fully weaned, continue to watch their diet and their weight. As for what to feed puppies, stick to puppy dog food (as opposed to adult formulas) since they are specifically formulated for ideal growth, with a balanced diet and supplements for brain development.
How Much Should I Feed My Puppy?
The Best Puppy Food
Now that your “How much should I feed my puppy?” question is answered, we bet you’re look for good foods for puppies.
When you compare a puppy food to an adult dog food, you will notice some differences. Guidelines established by the AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials) require more of almost every nutrient for puppy food versus adult food. The exception are some vitamins, which can easily be overdosed.
One of these differences include the minimum protein requirement, which is 22.5 percent on a dry matter basis for puppies and 18 percent at minimum for adult dogs.
One percent calcium with 0.8 percent phosphorus is listed for puppies, while adult dogs need 0.6 of calcium and 0.5 of phosphorus. Puppy foods will also contain more fat and often have DHA added for brain development