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The complete guide to feeding your puppy

In partnership with Dogs for Good

  • Read time: 12 mins

Home time for a new puppy is an exciting time. The joy of them getting settled in their forever home is a moment to cherish.

Owning a puppy comes with its challenges, especially for first-time owners. There is a lot to know and do before they step their four paws through your door.

An important task to complete is sourcing what food your puppy should eat. It should support their development and keep them healthy. But with so many options out there, it’s hard to know where to start. Time to tick it off your list.

Our puppy feeding guide will answer your questions and give you expert advice from our vets. So, let’s see if we can help you with your puppy feeding confusion.

Cocker spaniel puppy

What should I feed my puppy?

The options may seem never-ending, but we’ve got the first steps right here for you. There are plenty of things to think about when choosing puppy food, so it can be useful to start by noting down:

  • Their age
  • What breed they are
  • What their exercise levels are
  • How much they weigh

When you have this information to hand, time to head to the puppy food aisle. Puppy food is your best option, as it is crafted with puppies in mind. This will make sure that they get the right nutrients for healthy growth and development.

These tips will help to narrow down your search in the first instance. Now, let’s dive into the different types of food your puppy could have.

Dry food

Dry food looks like a biscuit or kibble and comes in bags of varying sizes. They are baked with various nutrients and ingredients that your puppy needs.

Pros of dry food:

  • Good value for money
  • Can be left down in your puppy’s bowl if they are slow eaters
  • It is clean
  • Not strong smelling
  • Easy to store.

Cons of dry food:

  • Does not contain as much moisture as other foods, which can be especially important in hot weather.

Our in-house vet Martin says that “dry food is less likely to stick to your puppy’s teeth and so it can reduce plaque build-up. It is also cheaper per day and a month of dry food takes up less space than a month of wet food.”

Wet food

Wet foods are very popular, but they are often more expensive. It goes out of date quicker and you can't leave it down for your puppy to eat at their leisure, especially in warm weather.

Our in-house vet Martin says that “pets tend to like wet food and it can help those who need to increase their water intake for health reasons."

Raw food

Raw food is composed mainly of raw meat and bones. This makes it a riskier puppy food choice than dry or wet food.

Pros of raw food:

  • Raw diets provide a lot of protein
  • Pre-prepared raw food is available that often comes frozen. This is safer than home-prepared raw diets.

Cons of raw food:

  • Raw meat can contain lots of bacteria, which can be harmful to human and animal health
  • Bones found in raw food can get stuck and cause internal issues for your puppy, such as puncturing their gut
  • Raw food often isn’t a complete balanced diet and may cause nutritional deficiencies.

Approach raw diets with caution. Your vet will be able to help on the safest way to feed raw if you would like to go down this route.

Home-cooked food

Puppies have a lot of growing and developing to do. To support healthy growth, they have specific nutritional needs that are different from adult dogs.

It would be quite difficult for you to get the right balance of nutrients for your puppy with home-cooked food. It’s best to pick a tried and tested diet for your puppy.

Wheat and grain-free food

Wheat and grain are fine for puppies to eat. Over time, dogs have evolved to be able to digest grains better.

Grain-free food is available for puppies that have an intolerance. It is just as nutritious and healthy, so your puppy won’t be missing any of their essential nutrients.

Our in-house vet Martin recommends “you should visit your vet if you spot signs of skin problems, vomiting, or diarrhoea.”

What’s the best way to change my puppy’s food?

Once you have chosen your puppy's food, it doesn't mean they have to eat it for the rest of their puppy life. If you would like to change their food, make sure you do it slowly. Sudden changes in their food can upset their stomachs and may cause them to dislike their new food.

Try introducing the new food over at least a week, with a very small amount of the new food replacing the old food.

Important nutrients your puppy needs

For puppy food to be ‘complete’, it should include all the essential nutrients. Including fibre, minerals, protein, vitamins, fat and carbohydrates.

An infographic that details the nutrients a puppy needs to support healthy development and growth.

Fresh water is so important

Like humans, it’s important that puppies stay hydrated. Your puppy’s water intake will almost entirely come from drinking. Make sure you have a clean water bowl full of fresh water for them.

Some hydration can come from their food if they are having wet food, but they will need a dedicated water bowl for drinking throughout the day.

Daytime hydration tips:

  • Check that the water bowl is full
  • If your puppy isn’t drinking, try moving to somewhere they frequently go
  • Have many bowls in different areas of the house for them to find.

Bedtime hydration tip: if your puppy is sleeping in a crate at night, you may want to buy a crate bowl. These can connect to the side of the crate in case they get thirsty at night.

How much and where should I feed my puppy?

Always follow the feeding guidelines on the packet and adapt the amount to match your puppy’s age. It helps to weigh out your puppy’s food to make sure they’re eating the right amount. You can buy specific scales and scoops to make that easier.

We recommend that everyone in your house knows how much your puppy needs and when their feeding times are to prevent over or under-feeding. Overfeeding is particularly dangerous if you have a large breed puppy, as they are more prone to bone and joint issues if they grow too fast.

If you have more than one puppy mouth to feed, consider doing this separately. This will stop any food thefts and food competition.

Here are our tips on finding the perfect feeding spot for them:

  1. Choose a peaceful place where they can enjoy their meal with no interruptions.
  2. Choose an easy to clean surface for their bowl to on and always use a clean bowl.
  3. Keep children away during mealtimes to prevent them from becoming possessive and eating too quickly.

When should I feed my puppy?

Finding a feeding schedule that works for you and your puppy is important. It will help you give your puppy structure to their daily lives and help them settle into life with you.

Do I need to change my puppy’s feeding schedule as they mature?

Puppies need their food spread across more meals as their stomachs are much smaller. As your puppy ages, the number of meals each day will decrease. Follow our feeding schedule guide or consult with your vet.

An infographic that details the changes to puppy food that need to be made as they mature.

What about treats?

Always feed treats that are for puppies by checking the recommended age on the packet.

Weighing out some of your puppy’s food to use as treats is one way of ensuring they don’t over-eat. There are also healthy puppy treat options to choose from.

As a rule, treats should not make up more than 10% of their daily calorie intake.

Activity feeding

Make their mealtimes fun and get their brains working with activity feeding. Activity feeding is a great way to slow down speedy eaters, motivate picky eaters, and keep your puppy occupied.

Types of activity feeding include:

  • Puzzles
  • Treat balls
  • Slow feeding bowls
  • Snuffle mats or rolled up in a towel
  • Scattered around a room for them to find.

Start off with something easy, like a slow feeding bowl, then move onto a puzzle board or a more advanced option. If it’s too hard, your pup might give up and go off their food.

Vicky, the Puppy Manager over at Dogs for Good says, “it doesn’t matter whether a puppy is going on to be a companion dog or an assistance dog, using food and interactive toys as mental enrichment is a fantastic way to help your dog learn."

Using treats for positive reinforcement

Puppy treats are a great way of encouraging your puppy to learn and they also help you to build a nice bond with your pup.

You can use treats for positive reinforcement training. Treats are a reward for when your puppy does the desired behaviour. By giving the treat reward, it makes it more likely that your pup will repeat the behaviour. It’s a powerful tool to shape your puppy’s behaviour.

What shouldn’t my puppy eat?

Puppies can get crafty when there's a treat to be had, but not all human food and drink are safe for them. Be sure to be extra careful when you have these foods in the house:

If your puppy or dog has consumed any of these toxic foods, contact your vet immediately.

An infographic that lists what a puppy shouldn't eat.

What are some signs that I am feeding my puppy the wrong diet?

Our in-house vet Martin recommends you visit your vet if “you spot that your dog has a dull coat or dandruff, they have loose stools, vomiting, poor growth or growing too quickly. It’s important that you regularly weigh your puppy to help monitor their growth.”

Is my puppy over or underweight?

There are some simple checks you can make to see if your puppy is over or underweight:

Look at your puppy from the side – check if their tummy is tucked up from their chest.

Look at your puppy from above – check if their waist tucked in without too much hip bone protruding.

Feel their sides for the ribs – if you can’t feel their rib cages, your puppy may be overweight.

When should I switch from puppy to adult?

Depending on the breed of your puppy, you can move your puppy to adult food anywhere from 18 months to 2 years old. Larger breed puppies take longer to fully develop, so they will need the nutrients in puppy food longer than smaller breeds.

Our in-house vet Martin recommends “getting advice from your vet as the time your puppy moves to adult food can vary depending on their size.”

My puppy isn’t eating, what should I do?

Most puppies will dash to the kitchen in excited anticipation for their meal. But it isn’t uncommon for puppies to go off their food or be fussy eaters.

If they are not eating their regular meals or at all, this could be a sign of an underlying health issue. Contact your vet to find a solution sooner rather than later.

Balance a healthy diet with exercise and play

A healthy puppy needs nutritious food and a good amount of exercise. Mental and physical stimulation is important, especially in these early months and years of your pup’s life.

Covering your puppy

Should the worst happen, it’s best to have cover. Puppy insurance is there for you when you and your furry friend need it most.

Cover them if they fall unwell or get in an accident with our puppy insurance. With 4 options to choose from, as well as some optional extras, you'll be sure to find the right cover for your puppy.

Take a look at our dog and puppy insurance and get a quote today

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