How Much Food Should a Puppy Be Given?

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Even a hungry puppy knows when too much is too much.
Image Credit: John Mcallister/Hemera/Getty Images

When you first bring home a puppy, you may be wondering how much you need to feed him and how often he should be fed. If you have a puppy as soon as he's born, then it's critical that you know how to feed him right away.

By learning about puppies and their eating habits, you can ensure your puppy will be safe and healthy and have a wonderful life ahead.

How much to feed newborn puppies

When puppies are first born, they need to drink their mother's milk right away. If they do not, or their mother's milk is infected, then the entire litter could die within a day or two. Puppies must gain 5% to 10% of their body weight daily, which means they need to eat multiple times per day. If the mother doesn't have enough milk or the litter has more than five puppies, then you need to do supplemental feedings one to six times a day with a milk replacer. This replacer must be 95 degrees to 100 degrees Fahrenheit, and you can give it to a puppy through a bottle. The milk needs to contain DHA, an omega-3 fatty acid. You can ask your vet which milk replacers are best.

When feeding your puppy, make sure you give them about 1 ounce of commercial puppy formula for every ½ pound, or 8 ounces of body weight, in a 24-hour period. A one-week old puppy that weighs 8 ounces, or ½ a pound, will eat 30 mls of formula total throughout the day.

Puppies that are less than two weeks old need to be fed every three to four hours, and puppies that are two to four weeks old need to be fed every six to eight hours.

How much to feed older puppies

For the first eight weeks, your puppy should be able to have access to his mother's milk whenever he needs. You can begin feeding your puppy a mix of puppy food and milk replacer around four weeks. You can feed them three to four times a day until they hit six months, when you can switch to once in the morning and once in the evening.

How much you feed your puppy will be based on his weight. For instance, if he's 5 pounds, you'll feed him ½ cup to 5/8 cup of food per day. If he's 10 pounds, that goes up to ¾ cup to 1 cup, and if he's 20 pounds it's 1 ¼ cups to 1 ¾ cups per day. If your dog seems hungry after he eats, you can always ask your vet if he needs to eat more or you need to switch out his dog food for a different brand. It's crucial that you feed your puppy only puppy food because adult food will not offer all the nutrients he needs.

Since the amount of food you feed your dog is based on his weight, larger breeds are going to eat more. If your puppy is 26 to 50 pounds, for instance, he'll need 2 to 2 2/3 cups of food per day, and if he's 76-100 pounds then he'll need 3 1/3 to 4 ¼ cups of food per day. Some breeds may also have issues with some types of foods. You can ask your vet what food they recommend for your breed if there are certain health issues going on.

Puppies can switch to adult dog food once they reach maturity, which happens around one year of age. Larger dogs take longer to mature – around 12 to 24 months – so you may need to switch to adult dog food later on. Again, it's best to inquire with your vet about when to make the switch.

Buying food for your pup

When shopping for food for your pup, make sure to stick to brands with high-quality ingredients. Purina Pro Plan Focus Chicken & Rice Formula Dry Puppy Food is an excellent dry food option comprised of smaller kibble intended for puppies up to one year old. It's packed with high-quality protein, with chicken as the first ingredient, to facilitate healthy muscle growth. It also contains omega-rich fish oil to promote brain and vision development, as well as a host of other healthy ingredients like calcium, phosphorus and other minerals to build strong teeth and bones.

For large breeds up to 18 months, Nutro Natural Choice Large Breed Puppy Dry Dog Food comes with a chicken and brown rice recipe that features chicken as the number-one ingredient. Like the Purina brand, it contains Omega-3 fatty acids to support brain and vision development, as well as essential antioxidants and natural sources of glucosamine and chondroitin, formulated to promote healthy joints in your pup.

To measure out your dog food, you're going to need a measuring cup, so don't forget to purchase one as well. Try the Tribal Cooking Measuring Cups and Spoons Set, since stainless steel is cleaner than plastic or ceramic. These measuring cups have an average of five stars on Amazon.