It doesn’t take long for that cute, cuddly little puppy to turn into an adult dog. No matter what kind of puppy you have, you should expect him to grow fairly quickly. Small-breed puppies generally reach their adult size within 8 to 10 months while large and giant breeds may need 12 to 18 months or more to reach maturity. Because different breeds grow at different rates and have different maximum sizes, the recommended amount of food to feed your puppy will vary. Keep reading to learn more about how much to feed your puppy and to discover ways to tell if you are feeding him too much, too little, or just the right amount.
How Much to Feed a Puppy?
Different puppy food recipes have different calorie contents, so you cannot accurately determine how much to feed a puppy in a number of cups alone. For example, Blue Buffalo Basics Turkey & Potato Recipe puppy food has 416 calories per cup while the Wellness Complete Health Grain-Free deboned chicken puppy recipe has 490 calories per cup. A difference of 74 calories may not seem like a lot a person who eats 2,000 calories or more per day, but a 3- to 5-pound puppy may only need 400 to 600 calories a day. If you go overboard on calories with a large-breed puppy, it could cause him to grow too quickly which could put a strain on his bones and joints. If you overfeed a small-breed puppy, he could gain an unhealthy amount of body fat which could put him at risk for obesity as an adult.
Although there is no easy answer to how many cups of food your puppy should eat, there are a few ways you can tell if you are feeding your puppy too much, too little, or just enough. During the first week of your puppy’s life, he should double in weight. After that, however, he should gain about 1 to 2 grams per pound of anticipating adult weight per day. For example, if you have a Labrador Retriever who you expect to reach about 75 pounds at maturity, you should expect him to gain about 3 to 5 ounces per day as a puppy. Weighing your puppy once or twice a week and keeping track of the results is a good way to see if you are feeding your puppy enough.
Another way to see if the amount you are feeding your puppy is adequate is to keep an eye on his body condition. It is natural for puppies to have a bit of a potbelly when he is young, but it should start going away around 3 months (12 weeks) of age. If your puppy is getting enough to eat (but not too much), you should be able to feel his ribs but not see them, and he should have a visible waist when you look down on him from above. If your puppy has so much fat that you cannot feel his ribs or if his belly protrudes from the sides, you may need to cut back on the amount you are feeding him. If you can see his ribs, you may need to feed him a little more.
How Often to Feed a Puppy?
Before they are weaned, puppies spend most of their day eating and sleeping. As your puppy gets old enough to start eating solid food, however, you’ll need to start monitoring his consumption. Puppies need a lot of calories to supply their bodies with fuel for healthy growth and development, but you don’t want to overfeed your puppy to the point that he gains an unhealthy amount of body fat.
Here are some guidelines to follow regarding how often to feed your puppy determined by his age:
- 6 to 12 weeks – By six weeks, your puppy should be at least partially weaned and he should be fed about four times a day to ensure that his needs for energy and nutrients are met. For six to eight weeks, you should be feeding your puppy moistened dry food. Small-breed puppies should be transitioned to plain dry food by 12 weeks and large-breed puppies by 9 or 10 weeks.
- 3 to 6 months – Around 3 months (12 weeks) of age, your puppy should start to lose her puppy fat and you’ll want to decrease her rations to three feedings a day instead of four. Keep an eye on her weight and body condition to ensure that she is developing properly.
- 6 to 12 months – For small-breed puppies, you can expect growth to slow down a little bit around 6 months, though they may not be ready to transition to adult food for another month or two. Large-breed puppies will still need a puppy formula until they are at least 12 months old. Around 6 months is when you should consider spaying or neutering your puppy as well which could change his metabolism, so keep feeding her three times daily but keep an eye on his weight and condition.
- 12 months and up – At this point, most puppies will be ready to switch from a puppy formula to an adult formula. Depending on your dog’s size and activity level, you may want to switch to two daily feedings. Large-breed dogs should be fed twice daily while small-breed dogs may still do best with three daily feedings, as long as the portion sizes and calories are controlled.
Every puppy is different, so there is no definitive answer to the question of how many cups to feed a puppy per day. Small-breed puppies may not eat as many cups of food as large-breed puppies, but they generally need more calories per pound of bodyweight than larger dogs. To make sure that your puppy gets what he needs it is best to feed him a size-specific puppy formula until he reaches 80% of his adult size and then switch to a size-specific adult recipe.