Updated November 29, 2020
It’s very easy to feed a puppy correctly. Do it right and you’ll have a healthy, happy eater for life. Do it wrongly and you may end up with a fussy dog eating all the wrong foods. Or worse.
What do I feed my puppy?
Simple. Any puppy food which is complete and balanced will by law provide for your puppy’s needs.
Surely they need something else?
No, you seriously can’t do better than put your trust in these highly researched and tested foods.
Won’t dogs be bored with just one food?
No, in fact, the opposite seems true. Read here how it’s often the puppies who are given a variety that become fussy later.
Should I feed my puppy what my breeder recommends?
Thankfully, most breeders agree with vets and recommend complete puppy foods. If you have been told to make a complex diet at home, there is a real risk your puppy will miss something.
What if my puppy won’t eat?
Try starting with moist food, or wet the biscuits with lukewarm water. You may need to find out what the breeder was feeding and mix some of this in for a few days. Healthy puppies should eat, so contact a vet if you are worried.
How do I know if my puppy is eating enough?
Small puppies have tiny appetites. If your puppy is bright, happy and playful, they are probably eating enough. To be sure, weigh your puppy every day on gram scales and make sure their weight trend is upwards.
Do I need to feed both wet and dry puppy food?
No. Either alone will be perfectly fine.
Are all puppy foods the same?
No. All “Balanced and Complete” diets should have the correct nutrients but quality and specific details vary. Most vets agree that price is a reasonable guide to the quality of the ingredients and the composition of the diet.
Do I need to buy a puppy food made for his or her breed?
No, breed-specific diets are probably unnecessary. It is a good idea to buy a diet made for large breeds if your puppy will be over 25kg as an adult.
Do I need to give my puppy milk?
No. Any good breeder will not let you take a puppy who isn’t ready to feed on solids alone. Water is best.
Should I feed meat to my puppy?
Meat is one of the most dangerous foods you can add, and believe it or not in the past it caused a lot of suffering. How? By creating a diet deficient in calcium. One of the most critical aspects of your puppy’s food is the balance of calcium to phosphate. If you add meat (high phosphate) you can cause calcium loss from the bones leading to fractures or deformities.
Can I make my puppy’s food?
By now you can probably see how hard it is to balance a diet. If you want to do this at any stage, talk to your vet first but we advise waiting at least until a puppy is fully grown.
Should I give my puppy calcium?
No, for the same reason you shouldn’t feed meat. High calcium to phosphate ratios are also bad for puppies. Why so many rules? Wolves get their ideal calcium to phosphate ration by eating a balanced diet including whole carcases which is very hard to copy.
Surely just a little bit of meat is OK?
Maybe, but your puppy will prefer the meat and refuse the better, balanced food. It will then be very hard to get your puppy to eat enough good food.
Should I leave the puppy food in the bowl?
You may have to. It’s actually better to feed at set mealtimes but in the early days puppies are so easily distracted they probably won’t finish. If you put the food in a central place or their crate they should eat better.
Can I feed chicken necks or bones to my puppy?
No. We never recommend chicken necks as they are a significant choking hazard. We will talk more about bone feeding at your puppy’s health check.
Do I have to feed my puppy in a bowl?
No. You can use fillable chew toys to keep your puppy amused if they are eating too quickly. Just don’t let your puppy get used to being fed from the hand except for treats during training. You don’t want to have to keep that up for life.
How many times a day do I feed my puppy?
Puppies from 8 to 12 weeks should be fed three times a day. From 12 weeks to 6 months they need twice daily feeding.
Can I feed our leftovers to the puppy?
No. Many human foods are toxic or poorly tolerated in puppies. Puppies who are fed leftovers usually also learn to beg at the table and become fussy about eating their own food.
Can I feed my puppy treats?
Yes, but treats aren’t good for them. If you feed too much, they won’t eat their good food. Keep it down by giving fingernail-sized pieces only.
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By Andrew Spanner BVSc(Hons) MVetStud, a vet in Adelaide, Australia. These articles are from a series regularly posted on email and Twitter. Subscribe via email here to never miss a story!