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How to Feed a Puppy – The Most Important Rules **New 2022!

The nutrition of puppies is an area that appears very often in my dietary practice. Many conscious dog keepers want to properly take care of their pet’s diet from the very first moments together.

Feeding puppies can be divided into stages depending on the animal’s age. The first stage is the feeding period only with the mother’s milk. This is the time when puppies are entirely dependent on their mother for both nutrition and care, including, for example, warmth and hygiene.

How long does the female dog feed the puppies?

The next stage is when the puppy, apart from consuming mother’s milk, also begins to eat solid foods, and at the beginning, semi-liquid. It happens around 3-4 weeks of age, and this is the perfect moment for the pet’s guardian to introduce the puppies to the new diet.

Then we have the weaning stage, which ends around 6-8 weeks of age. Then the puppy is no longer fed by the bitch and wholly switched to solid food.

At the age of 8 – 9 weeks, behavioral weaning occurs when puppies leave their homes and find new owners.

How to feed puppies

There are times when puppies become orphans. Usually, the reason for animal orphans is the mother’s death, disease, e.g., mastitis, or rejection of the puppies by the bitch.

Feeding orphaned puppies is a big challenge for the guardian, as it requires both knowledge and a lot of time commitment. The female dog feeds puppies 6 – 12 times a day during the first week. Later, the suction frequency is reduced to 4-6 times a day.

The best solution for orphaned puppies is finding a nurse, another nursing female. Unfortunately, it is not always possible, and then we have a properly balanced milk replacer at our disposal. We have a lot of ready-made products available on the market, but unfortunately, they are not always good in terms of composition. Therefore, a milk replacer prepared on its own is often a good alternative. However, this is not an easy task, and then it is worth consulting an animal nutritionist or veterinarian specializing in dog nutrition. Keep in mind that bitch’s milk is different from cow’s milk, which is most often the basis of the milk replacer.

We also have two methods of using the milk replacer. The first is to administer with a bottle, syringe, or pipette. Please note that the dish should be adapted to the puppy’s size. Feeding an orphaned puppy takes place in the sternum or standing position with its head raised. Take care that the animal does not ingest air during the meal.

The second method is feeding with a pediatric gastric tube. This is a more advanced method involving inserting a feeding tube into the puppy’s digestive system. It is a method that prevents food from entering the respiratory system.

An important issue when feeding newborn dogs is gently massaging the abdomen and perineum after each meal. In this way, the body is stimulated to urinate and defecate.

Feeding puppies from weaning

During this period, the puppy is fully fed on solid food. Here we have a ready-made commercial or home diet.

Because puppies grow intensively, it is essential to remember that meals should be fully balanced and cover the demand for individual nutrients, minerals, and vitamins. I often hear that a veterinarian advises against home diets such as BARF or a cooked diet in puppies. The argument is that it is impossible to balance such a diet, which is not valid. Such a diet can be suspended, and even more so, it can be individually adjusted to the needs of our puppy. However, it should be borne in mind that the home diet of puppies is more complicated requires more knowledge and more frequent changes depending on the animal’s growth rate. An inseparable element of dieting in puppies is the observation of the caregiver and, on this basis drawing conclusions and introducing appropriate changes.

The home diet cannot be based on the so-called scraps from the table, and it must be in the right proportions, including supplementation. Critical parameters in the nutrition of puppies are calcium and phosphorus and the ratio of the two elements to each other. Both calcium and Phosphor are involved in skeletal growth, which is a very intense process in every puppy’s life.

puppy feed

Because puppies grow, meals should be of the highest biological value and digestibility. Caloric content is also significant, as the energy demand of puppies can be very high.

You can also distinguish the rules of puppy nutrition depending on the breed’s size.

Nutrition of small breed puppies

The nutrition of puppies of such breeds as, e.g., Yorkie, Shih Tzu, French Bulldog will differ from the nutrition of large species. This is because smaller dog breeds, in particular, have a faster metabolism. Therefore, their energy requirements are sometimes more significant, and it is advisable to use more meals during the day, sometimes even 5.

Energy demand is also closely related to reaching the target body weight faster in smaller breeds, usually around 8-10 months of age.

Nutrition of large breed puppies

The nutrition of puppies of such breeds as, for example, German Shepherd Dog, Golden Retriever, Bernese Mountain Dog, Labrador Dog will be different from that of puppies of small and miniature breeds. Puppies of larger breeds usually reach their target body weight around 18-24 months of age. Sometimes it happens faster and is related to, for example, the animal’s genetics.

Puppies of large and giant breeds are also often prone to skeletal ailments. It is worth thinking about additional supportive supplementation. Still, the most critical issue is the appropriate calcium to phosphorus ratio. In the case of larger dogs, due to the high risk of developing osteochondrosis, it should not exceed 1.54: 1.

How often to feed a puppy

This is one of the most common questions I come across. First of all, the most important thing is to observe your pet and, on this basis, adjust the number and times of meals during the day. However, depending on the stage of life, there are different recommendations.

It is assumed that puppies from 6 to 8 weeks of age should consume food in 4 – 5 portions per day. From 8 weeks to 6 months, preferably 3 – 4 meals a day. After six months of age, you can limit the dosage to 2 – 3 servings during the day. From 7 months, you can switch to feeding twice a day.

I always rule that the minimum amount is to feed my dog ​​2-3 times a day.

Can the puppy eat adult dog food?

This is one of the aspects that I decided to address in this article. I often get asked if the puppy can eat adult food, and here the answer is – it depends. It all depends on the composition of such food, including the amino acid, mineral, and vitamin profile. There are foods for adult dogs that meet the needs of puppies but only require adjusting the appropriate dose of the daily fare. However, this requires knowledge of reading food labels. If we are not sure or the food manufacturer does not provide information that it is a product dedicated to dogs at every stage of life and development, it will be safer to choose puppy food.

Puppy feeding table

When analyzing our puppy’s needs for individual nutrients, minerals, and vitamins, we should reach nutritional standards. Nutritional standards applicable to pet food producers in the USA are the European Federation of Animal Food Industry (FEDIAF).

A – For puppies of dog breeds weighing less than 15 kg adults during the entire period of late growth (≥14 weeks).

b – For puppies of dog breeds with an adult body weight of more than 15 kg until they reach approximately six months of age. Only after this time, the calcium content can be reduced to 0.8% DM (2g / 1000kcal or 0.48g / MJ), and the calcium/phosphorus ratio can be increased to 1.8 / 1.


Knowing how to feed your puppy correctly is essential to any pet carer. How we take care of our pets in adolescence may positively affect health and development in the coming months or years. An important issue is also that the way a puppy is nourished from weaning to about three months of age largely determines the dog’s preferences in adulthood.

A common problem with puppies is eating feces.

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