Read Dr. Kristy Conn’s Advice:
Congratulations on your newest four-legged addition to your family. I understand the excitement and trepidation that comes with bringing home a furry ball of joy. You want to do right by her and that includes making sure she is getting the correct amount of nutrition. This is a popular time of year for bringing home puppies so I’d like to take the opportunity to review basic puppy feeding guidelines for the first year of life while covering your question which may also answer any future questions you or other readers may have.
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. The 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 especially 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.
Feeding Puppies 8 weeks old
The decisions you make about your puppy’s nutrition will affect his growth, development and even his behavior.
Feeding your puppy a high-quality, complete and balanced puppy food helps set him up for a long and healthy life as an adult dog. This raises a lot of questions for first-time (and even veteran) puppy owners, though.
How much should you feed your puppy and when? When should you stop feeding puppy food?
Get answers to these questions and more in our complete puppy feeding guide below. Our experts answer your questions and offer advice to help set you and your puppy up for success.
When it comes to feeding puppies, there are a lot of factors to consider. Overall nutrition, breed size and the type of food all play a role. Here’s what you need to know:
Puppies need puppy food. Feeding puppies a complete and balanced puppy food ensures 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 formulas rich in high-quality proteins to support their growing bodies. Fat and 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.
Not only do puppies need puppy food, but certain breed sizes can benefit from size-specific formulas.
If you have a large breed puppy, he may benefit from a large breed-specific puppy formula. Small breeds can also benefit from small breed-specific puppy formulas. Regardless of breed size, the food should be complete and balanced for growing puppies.
The difference in formulas comes down to the unique needs of large and small breeds. Large dogs have a higher risk of developing joint problems, so a large breed puppy food should include proper levels of nutrients to support their healthy growth and development.
Small breeds may prefer smaller kibble so they can more easily chew their food, which helps ensure they get all the nutrients they need.
According to Purina Nutritionist, Karina Carbo-Johnson, MS, “Small breed-specific dog food is important due to their increased metabolism. This results in a nutrient-dense, high-energy formula which adults and puppies need to support a healthy lifestyle.”
Although dry kibble is a popular choice, it’s not the only option. As you walk the dog food aisles, you may see both dry and wet puppy foods.
This can make it harder to decide what to feed your puppy. Fortunately, as long as both the wet and dry formulas are complete and balanced for growing puppies, you can feed either one to your pup with confidence.
You and your puppy may have a preference when it comes to dry versus wet. Feeding a combination of the two is also an option.
According to Purina Nutritionist, Allison Millican, PhD, “If you’re feeding your puppy a combination of wet and dry food, it is extremely important to ensure the total caloric value does not fall short or exceed their daily energy requirement. Use the calories reported on the package to understand how much wet food will replace the dry and vice versa. This allows you to calculate the amount of each product needed to meet your puppy’s nutritional requirements.”
“For example,” Millican explains, “one thirteen-ounce can of wet puppy food may contain four hundred and seventy-five kilocalories and replace approximately one cup of a dry puppy formula with a similar value of kilocalories per cup. In this scenario, you could substitute a thirteen-ounce can of wet food for one cup of the daily dry food recommendation.
“Remember puppies will grow at various rates and body condition may change rapidly,” she says. “As a result, it is extremely important to monitor your puppy’s body condition and adjust calorie intake as needed to prevent over- or underfeeding your puppy,” Millican continues.
The brand websites and your veterinarian are great resources and can help you develop a feeding plan specifically for your puppy’s needs.