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Puppy feeding guide

In partnership with Dogs for Good

  • 25, May 2023
  • Read time: 11 mins

Nutrition is important for everyone, but a puppy's diet needs special attention. For them to grow and develop into healthy adult dogs, they need a balance of different nutrients.

Our Puppy Feeding Guide has lots of great advice on supporting your puppy's healthy growth.

Cocker spaniel puppy

Pet insurance and digestive health

A happy puppy isn’t the only benefit of keeping your pet healthy.

A balanced diet can help keep your puppy's weight in-check. This could prevent the issues that come from canine obesity - which is great news for you and your puppy.

What to feed my puppy

Before you start thinking about different brands of pet food, you should consider the type of food that is best for your puppy.

Dry food

Also known as ‘kibble’, dry food is baked with the nutrients and ingredients your puppy needs. Dry food is good value for money, and doesn’t need to be cleared up straight away, which is great for slow eaters. It can also be used as treats during training.

Our in-house vet Martin says “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 takes up less space than wet food.”

Wet food

Wet food normally comes in tins or pouches and, although more expensive than kibble, can be a good choice if your puppy doesn’t enjoy eating dry food.

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

A raw diet provides lots of protein, but you may need to give your dog supplements to keep their diet balanced. There are risks associated with raw meat and bones, so speak with your vet first.

Home cooked food

Getting the right balance of nutrients to support your puppy’s growth is tricky at home. We recommend food specifically designed for puppies instead.

Wheat and grain-free food

Wheat and grain-free options are made without soy, wheat, rice, barley or other grains often found in commercial dog foods. If you think your dog has an intolerance or allergy, wheat and grain-free options are widely available and could be gentler on their digestion.

Puppy nutrition – what’s important

Growing puppies need a different balance of nutrients compared to adult dogs. Your puppy’s breed, size, and age all affect what’s important for it to grow at an optimal, slow, and steady rate.

For puppy food to be ‘complete’ it needs the right amount of protein, dietary fibre, fat, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals. The ratio of each nutrient changes as your puppy grows into an adult dog.

An infographic that shows important nutrients your puppy needs: carbohydrates, dietary fibre, fat, minerals, vitamins, and protein.

How much should I feed my puppy?

Always follow the feeding guidelines on the food packet. There should be an age range and a dog weight or breed chart. Weigh out your puppy’s food to make sure they’re getting the right amount each day - you can buy specific scales and scoops to make it easier to measure.

Overfeeding and healthy growth

To prevent overfeeding, make sure everyone at home knows how much food your puppy needs, and when they are being fed. Too much food can be particularly dangerous if you have a large breed puppy as they are more prone to bone and joint issues if they grow too fast.

Where should I feed my puppy?

To find the best spot for feeding your new puppy, follow our simple tips:

  1. Find somewhere peaceful where they can eat without disruptions
  2. Use a clean bowl on an easy-to-clean surface
  3. Keep children away during mealtimes to avoid possessive behaviour or eating too fast
  4. If you have more than one puppy, feed them separately to avoid food theft or competition

What’s the best puppy feeding schedule?

A feeding schedule that works for you and your puppy gives them structure and helps them settle into their daily life at home. Young puppies have small stomachs, so need their food spread across more meals. As they grow, the number of meals they need each day will decrease.

When considering the time of day to feed your puppy, think about your own schedule as well as theirs. Make sure they have time to digest their food before bed and avoid feeding them before a car journey.

An infographic that details recommended daily meals for your puppy. Young puppy – 4 small meals a day. 4-month-old puppy – 3 meals a day. 6-month-old puppy – 2 meals a day. Adult dog at around 12-18 months – 1 or 2 meals a day.

Your puppy’s diet and treats

As a rule, treats should not make up more than 10% of your puppy’s daily calorie intake. Always check the food packet to ensure that they are suitable for your puppy's age.

There are lots of healthy treats to choose from, or you can use some of your puppy's daily meal allowance as treats throughout the day. You will just need to adjust your puppy’s meal sizes accordingly.

Activity feeding

“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" - Vicky, Puppy Manager at Dogs for Good.

Activity feeding makes mealtimes more fun and engaging. It provides mental stimulation, slows down fast eaters and even entices fussy puppies.

Types of activity feeding include:

  • Puzzles
  • Treat balls
  • Slow feeding bowls
  • Snuffle matts or treats/kibble rolled up in a towel
  • Scatter feeding
  • Using kibble to learn new tricks, such as boop

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 is safe for them.

Take extra care when you have the following foods in the house and keep an eye on their bowel movements. If your puppy or dog has consumed any of the following foods, contact your vet immediately:

  • Alcohol
  • Almonds
  • Avocados
  • Chocolate
  • Garlic
  • Grapes and raisins
  • Heavily salted or sweetened food
  • Ice cream
  • Macadamia nuts
  • Onion

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. Large-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.

How much water should my puppy drink?

Like humans, it’s important that puppies stay hydrated. Your puppy’s water intake will come almost entirely from drinking, so make sure they always have access to clean drinking water.

Daytime hydration tips:

  • Check their bowl is full of clean water
  • Move the bowl somewhere they often go if they’re not drinking
  • Have bowls in different areas of the house for easy access

Bedtime hydration tip: If your puppy sleeps in a crate, try a crate bowl. They connect to the side of the crate, limiting the splash zone if your puppy gets thirsty at night.

Covering your puppy

Your puppy needs a balanced and nutritious diet, as well as a good amount of mental and physical stimulation to keep them healthy. It's also important to make sure they are socialised properly. The early months and years of your dog’s life are especially important as this is when their bones, muscles, and mind are developing.

If your puppy does become unwell or eats something they shouldn’t, MORE THAN pet insurance could help. We have three levels of cover, so you can find the right insurance to suit your needs.

Support your new puppy in their new life with our pet insurance

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