Welcoming and raising a puppy is undeniably one of the most joyful experiences of life. They invariably bring out the most nurturing side of us and help us become better versions of ourselves. The least we can do for them is give them the absolute best of everything they deserve. Nourishing their body and mind is a great starting point.
This article will explain everything you need to know about providing your pup with the right quantity of food.
The correlation between age, weight, size and feeding
A dog’s age, weight and size primarily decide their nutritional requirement. A German Shepherd puppy’s food requirement will greatly differ from that of a senior Chihuahua. For that matter, a Chihuahua puppy’s nutritional needs are much different from an adult Chihuahua; and the same comparison applies to an adult vs a senior Chihuahua.
Small-breed dogs have an incredibly high metabolic rate. Their little feet take longer strides every single day, making sure they burn through calories super quickly. Small breeds require an average of 40 calories per pound. On the other hand, the metabolism of larger dogs is relatively slow. They only require an average of 20 calories per pound.
Feeding your large dog, a variant of food that is meant for small dogs, or feeding puppy food to a senior dog would mean feeding them higher calories than necessary and putting them at risk of obesity. Furthermore, if a small breed dog or a puppy does not receive their daily quota of calories and protein, they may develop hypoglycemia, further leading to weakness, muscle tremors and seizures.
When it comes to a growing puppy, their needs can be dynamic in the 1st 12 months as they are rapidly growing. It is crucial to feed them dog food specifically tailored to their needs.
The core nutritional requirement of puppies
Talking about the anatomy of the nutritional makeup of puppies, they need a comprehensive, well-balanced diet for healthy growth and development. They require a good blend of fat, protein, fibers, vitamins, minerals and carbs while meeting the nutritional and quality requirements of AAFCO (American Association of Feed Control Officials). Let’s break it down for a better understanding of feeding our puppies the ideal quantities of each of the following –
Protein forms the crux of a puppy’s diet, without which they cannot survive. The protein requirement for growing puppies is highest immediately after weaning. The amount of protein they need will steadily decrease thereafter. A healthy protein intake range is about 22-32% for growing puppies.
Recognizing the source of proteins in a bag of food is as important. Animal protein sources have the highest amounts of essential amino acids. Good quality food will contain organ meat as the primary source of protein.
It is recommended that 8% of a puppy’s diet should be made up of fats. To avoid weight gain issues, puppies must be fed healthy fats that come from animal tissue and are minimally processed such as herring, salmon, poultry fat, etc. They are also excellent sources of Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids.
Carbohydrates are as important as proteins and act as building blocks for energy and development. Puppies that especially have high-energy needs must be fed a diet with at least 20% carbohydrates on a dry matter basis. Healthy sources of carbohydrates include brown rice, barley, oats, etc. They must appear within 1st 5 ingredients of the bag.
Simply put, the calorie requirement of a puppy is directly proportional to their weight and size. A couple of additional factors at play would be their activity level and whether or not they are spayed or neutered. Here is a table explaining the calorie requirement of dogs from 0-4 months and then from 4-12 months-
|WEIGHT IN POUNDS||CALORIES PER DAY|
4 months – 1 year
|WEIGHT IN POUNDS||CALORIES PER DAY|
Vitamin A, Vitamin B (biotin, niacin, pantothenic acid, riboflavin, thiamine, pyridoxine, and vitamin B-12), Folic Acid, Boron, Vitamin D and Choline are essential vitamins that puppies need for optimal development and functioning of eyes, brain, gut, bones and joints.
However, before administering vitamin supplements, it is highly advisable to consult with a vet or a certified canine nutritionist to understand your puppy’s body composition.
Feeding chart for puppies
In a nutshell, a puppy’s life is eat-sleep-play-cuddle-repeat. They replenish and expend their energies at a rapid rate and hence need more calories that can keep them going. One of the best ways to monitor a pup’s diet and growth is to do weekly body condition score evaluations and feed them accordingly.
A good way to tell that your puppy is at optimal weight is by the ribs. You should be able to feel them on the outside but they should not stick out dramatically. From the side view, you should see a “tuck up” right in front of the hind legs. If you’re not able to feel the ribs or if they’re too faint on the hand, it may be a sign of overfeeding and you may want to cut back a little.
|Expected weight at maturity||1.5 – 3 months||4 – 5 months||6 – 8 months||9 – 11 months||1 – 2 years|
|3 – 12||½ – 1||2/3 – 1-1/3||1/2 – 1-1/2||Feed as Adult||Feed as adult|
|13 – 20||½ – 1-¼||1-1/8 – 2||3/4 – 1-1/3||1 – 1-1/2||Feed as adult|
|21 – 50||½ – 1-½||1-1/2 – 2-3/4||1-1/8 – 2-1/3||2 – 3||2 – 4-1/4|
|51 – 75||5/8 – 2-1/3||1-1/2 – 4||1-1/2 – 3-3/4||2-1/2 – 4-3/4||2-5/8 – 6-1/4|
|76 – 100||1 – 2-2/3||2-7/8 – 3-3/4||2-7/8 – 6-1/3||3-7/8 -7||5-5/8 – 11|
|101+||2-2/3 + 1/3 cups for each lbs of body weight over 100 lbs||3-3/4 cups plus 1/3 cup for each 10 lbs of body weight over 100 lbs||6-1/3 cups plus 1/3 cup for each 10 lbs of body weight over 100 lbs||7 cups plus 1/3 cup for each 10 lbs of body weight over 100 lbs||11 cups plus 1/3 cup for each 10 lbs of body weight over 100 lbs|
Working dogs and activity levels
The nutritional requirement of every breed is different and unique. A dog’s activity levels are one of the biggest determining factors of how much food their system requires. The food requirement of a Border Collie is obviously more than a mini-Poodle, but it should also be noted that the nutritional needs of an agility champion Border Collie are different than one that just goes for 2 walks a day.
The quantity, quality and type of food a working dog should receive depends on a variety of factors. The intensity of the work being performed, duration, the ambient temperature in which the dog is working, the terrain being worked at, the dog’s temperament, size, age and activity levels are some elements that must be considered while narrowing down food options and quantity.
Some dogs may need more protein, some may need more fat, some may need more quantity, some may need more hydration in their food whereas some dogs may do much better on raw food rather than store-bought options.
How many times a day should I feed my puppy?
Puppies need small amounts of food, frequently throughout the day. For the first few months, especially as they are transitioning from their mother’s milk to solid food, they will need several small meals to sustain themselves.
Toy-breed puppies will need 4 to 6 meals per day for the first three months. After that, four meals a day until 6 months, then three meals a day may be best.
Medium-breed puppies will require three meals per day up to 6-7 months of age. After that, depending on their activity levels, you can transition them into 2 meals a day with some light snacks during the day.
large-breed puppies typically need 3 to 4 meals per day up to 6-7 months. They can be transitioned to 2 meals a day after that.
Though the breed is an important consideration, metabolism and energy levels can vary by up to 30 percent as the dog ages. Therefore, it is crucial to proportion meals accordingly.
What to feed a puppy?
The global pet food market size is currently valued at USD 94.76 billion, according to Grand View Research.
Pet owners today are spoilt for options in terms of dog food. With options ranging from homemade food, dry food, wet food, freeze-dried, raw food, raw patties and fresh food, there is something out there to suit the needs of every dog there is.
Most puppies are weaned off of their mother’s milk by six weeks. However, they should be able to start consuming solid food starting at about four weeks as this is period is when they’re not able to get all the calories they need from their mother’s milk.
Store-bought kibbles are a popular choice as most of them are AAFCO-approved. They are a one-stop shop to fulfil a pup’s nutritional requirements and they’re easy on the wallet while also being widely accessible. However, a downside to them would be their questionable sourcing of ingredients, highly processed manufacturing and lack of hydration.
If you would rather be aware of every ingredient that goes into your puppy’s system, raw or fresh food may be better suited to you.
You can also hit a middle ground by blending kibbles with wet, fresh, or raw food to enhance the taste and quality of your pup’s diet.
Avoid feeding table scraps and cooked bones. Even though your pup may seem to enjoy them, cooked bones may splinter into shards and can cause choking and serious damage to the dog.
“My puppy seems to be hungry all the time”
This is the story of almost every puppy parent’s life (unless your pup is a picky eater). If your dog loves and lives to eat, you can trust them to master the act of manipulating you into believing that they are being starved! However, be sure to check your puppy for internal parasites, such as roundworms and coccidia. These parasites drain nutrients out of your puppy’s gut. External parasites like fleas and ticks can also be energy and calorie thieves, especially on small puppies.
Furthermore, if your pup spends a considerable amount of the day outside or needs to go outside in cold weather, even to eliminate, they will burn up some extra calories to stay warm. In such cases, they may need more calories.
As discussed above, working breed puppies, as well as mixed breeds of those groups, tend to be very active, regardless of whether they have a job or not. If you are planning some outdoor excursions with your dog, such as hikes, swims or a day at the beach, make sure to feed your pup extra on those days.