Feeding puppies and dogs

Feeding puppies and dogs

Dogs need to be fed a good quality diet to help them grow into fit and healthy dogs. Find out about feeding puppies and dogs, including what they can and can’t eat and how often they need to be fed.

What to feed a puppy?

Puppies need a balanced diet to help them grow into healthy, strong dogs. To begin with, find out what your puppy has been fed by the breeder or rescue centre and stick with the same food – it is fine to change your puppy’s diet but this needs to be done gradually otherwise it may give them an upset stomach.

Most pet food manufacturers sell dog food that is designed specifically for puppies, which they need to be fed until they are 9-12 months old. Adult dog food isn’t suitable for puppies as it will not contain the right nutrients and calories they need to grow into fit and healthy dogs.

You can buy puppy food in most supermarkets and pet shops, or online,  and you can often buy food directly from vets. Follow the instructions on the packet about how much and how often to feed your puppy. The instructions will be based on your puppy’s ideal weight as an adult. If you don’t know this, you can ask your vet.

It’s important to weigh your puppy’s food as per the instructions to make sure they are getting the right amount. Overfeeding can lead to your dog becoming fat and unhealthy.

How often should you feed a puppy?

Puppies have small stomachs, so they should eat little and often. The number of times a puppy is fed will reduce as they get older, from three to four meals a day at 8 weeks old to two meals a day when they are six months old. Follow the guidance of your pet food manufacturer about feeding puppies.

When do you stop feeding your dog puppy food?

Your dog will need a diet formulated for puppies until they are 9 – 12 months, depending on their size. Smaller dogs stop growing earlier – at around 9 months – than medium and larger dogs so they are ready to transition to adult dog food a few months before their first birthday.

What to feed a dog

Dogs need to be fed a balanced, nutritious diet. Options range from fresh food to complete dry food. Choose a good quality dog food to make sure that your dog gets all the nutrients they need.

How much should I feed my dog?

Dogs can easily gain weight if they are fed too much food, leading to obesity and serious health issues. Likewise, underfeeding your puppy can lead to malnutrition or unwanted behaviours such as begging, scavenging or guarding. Follow the dog food manufacturers’ instructions for guidance on how much to feed your dog. The guidance will be based on the ideal weight of your dog. If you are not sure how much your dog weighs, you can have them weighed at the vets.

Alternative diets for dogs

There is a growing trend in dog owners moving away from traditional types of dog food towards alternative diets for dogs, including raw, vegetarian and vegan dog food.

Raw diet for dogs

Raw feeding is a diet of raw meat, offal and bone and sometimes fruit and vegetables. This can be homemade or bought via a supermarket or pet store. Supporters of raw diets for dogs say that it is more natural and closer to the diet that dogs would have lived on in the wild and is easier to digest. Dogs fed a raw diet tend to fart less too! The concerns are that it may not be nutritionally balanced – particularly if home made – to support the healthy development of dogs. Some commercial raw diets are sold as complete meals, but others are described as complementary. It’s important to check the information on packaging carefully. There are also food safety risks associated with raw meat, such as chicken. All commercial producers of raw diets must comply with stringent food safety regulations. 

Can puppies eat a raw diet?

Puppies can be fed a raw diet, just like adult dogs. However, puppies need a nutritious diet to help them to develop and grow, so it’s important that they are fed a formula designed for puppies. You can buy commercial raw diets for puppies. If homemade, you will need to carefully research your puppy’s nutrition needs to make sure they get everything they need. Remember to change your puppy’s diet slowly, over a few days, to avoid tummy upsets.

Can dogs be vegetarian?

The simple answer is yes, dogs can survive on a vegetarian diet. However, it can be difficult to achieve the right nutritional balance if homemade, so if you would like to feed your dog a vegetarian diet the advice is to use a commercial vegetarian dog food, which has been carefully formulated to meet the nutritional needs of dogs.

Can dogs be vegan?

A growing number of people are turning to a vegan, or plant-based diet, and for some people this may pose an ethical dilemma about what to feed their dogs. Dogs are omnivores and can be fed a well-balanced vegetarian diet. However, a strictly vegan diet should first be checked out with your vet to make sure your dog gets all the vitamins the need. You can buy a range of tasty vegan dog snacks, such as vegan pigs ears. These are made from vegetable-based ingredients, and they smell a lot nicer too!

What about insect-based dog food?

An emerging diet for dogs is insect-based dog food, which, if properly formulated can provide dogs with the nutritionally-balanced diet they need. It uses around 45 times few resources than a traditional meat diet for dogs which means its good for the environment.

What human food can dogs eat?

There are many foods that we eat that dogs can enjoy too. These include tasty snacks such as cheese (in small amounts), cream cheese and peanut butter (which make great fillers for a Kong). Dogs can eat some fruits (except avocado – see below), including bananas (but watch the calories), sliced apple (remove the seeds first as they are toxic) and blueberries. Remember that treats count as calories, so factor these in when calculating how much to feed your puppy or dog and introduce new foods gradually to their diet. 

There’s also a list of things that are poisonous to dogs and should never be fed to them. These are:

  • Chocolate
  • Avocados
  • Caffeine
  • Alcohol 
  • Grapes, raisins, sultanas and currants (often found in cakes)
  • Onions, garlic and chives
  • Macadamia nuts
  • Xylitol – an artificial sweetener used in foods

If you are concerned that your dog has eaten any of these items, you should contact your vet. You can also contact the Animal Poison Line for advice if you are worried that your dog may have eaten something poisonous.

Further reading

The Pet Food Manufacturers Association has produced some helpful fact sheets about feeding dogs:

  • If you’re finding this advice helpful, you can get more tips on how to make sure your puppy gets a balanced diet and how to prevent mealtime problems such as fussy eating and resource guarding in our Feeding Your Puppy: Puppy Parenting Toolkit. Our Puppy Parenting Toolkits are available to download for just £2.79 each or you can access the complete set of 10 as part of your package as a member of our Puppy Parenting Club. Sign in or join today for a one-off payment of just £24.99.

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