Puppies are like little children. They need all the right types or kinds of nutrients in the right amounts given at the right time to help support their growth and development needs. While manufacturers of dog food already put feeding recommendations on their labels, serious pet owners still strongly recommend having your veterinarian take a look at your puppies to make sure that the kind and amount of nutrition you will give it will be the most appropriate one for its size, breed, and other inherent characteristics. So how much should you feed your puppy?
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Weaning Your Puppy
Like infants, young puppies should be fed exclusively by their moms for up to 4 weeks, even longer if possible. This is to make sure that all of the antibodies that the mother has developed throughout her lifetime are also transferred to her puppies and provide them protection against diseases.
By the time your puppy is around 6 to 8 weeks, you can start introducing solid food. Take note that the weaning process – that activity that calls for the gradual removal of one item and its replacement with another item – doesn’t happen overnight. You don’t remove your puppies from their mom’s breast milk one day and then give them wet puppy food the following day. It doesn’t happen this way.
In weaning your puppy from its principal source of nutrition, you will need to dedicate about 2 to 3 weeks of careful and gradual replacement of the breast milk with semi-solid and eventually solid dog food.
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Your Puppy’s Nutrition
Here’s what is tricky. The milk provided by mommy dogs is nutritionally-balanced for puppies. That is why it is imperative that the food you are going to replace the milk with should have the same nutrient contents as the mommy dog’s milk, or at least very close to its nutritional profile. Unfortunately, the nutrient profile of doggie breast milk varies from dog to dog, depending on the current health and nutritional status of the mommy pooch.
Here are a few guidelines to help you determine the kind of dog food to give to your puppy.
- Puppies require high-protein and high-calorie diets that are enriched with minerals and vitamins. Proteins are needed for organ development while calories will supply their energy requirements without significantly impacting protein stores.
- Puppies need healthy fats especially DHA for optimum development of the central nervous system as well as the eyes.
- Large breed puppies require a slower and more sustained growth if you want to prevent joint and musculoskeletal problems.
- Small breed and stocky puppies will require slightly lower-calorie diets because of their smaller built and uncanny susceptibility to hip dysplasia.
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How Much and How Often Should You Feed Your Puppy?
We already said that your veterinarian can help you determine the right kind and amount of dog food to give to your puppy. However, if we are to look at current veterinary guidelines, you can adhere to the following:
- If your puppy weighs not more than 5 pounds, give it anywhere between ½ cup and 5/8 cups per day.
- If your puppy weighs between 5.1 and 10 pounds, give it ¾ cup to 1 cup per day.
- If your puppy weighs between 10.1 and 20 pounds, give it 1 ¼ cup to 1 ¾ cup daily.
- If your puppy weighs between 20.1 and 40 pounds, give it 2 ¼ cups to 3 cups every day.
- If your puppy weighs between 40.1 and 60 pounds, give it 3 to 4 cups daily.
- If your puppy weighs between 60.1 and 80 pounds, give it 3-2/3 cups to 5 cups per day.
- If your puppy weighs between 80.1 and 100 pounds, give it 4 ¼ cups to 6 cups every day.
The suggested amounts of feeding are on a daily basis. Puppies that are between 8 and 12 weeks old can be fed up to 4 times a day. So if your pup is supposed to eat a cup every day, that means you have to give it ¼ cup every feeding 4 times every day. If your puppy is already 3 to 6 months old, you can divide its feeding into 3 servings. By age 6 months, your puppy is ready for a twice daily feeding which should already resemble the feeding pattern of an adult dog.
Feeding puppies can be tricky especially during the weaning process. Dog food brands typically have recommendations for how much and how often you should feed your puppy. However, the best person to help you decide on this matter is your veterinarian.
- Jennifer Coates, DVM, How Much Should Dogs Eat?, PetMD
- Sherry Woodard, Feeding Your Dog, Best Friends Animal Society
- Dog Nutrition Tips, ASPCA