Raising a puppy can be a fun and exciting time. Between training, playing, walking and bonding there’s lots to do. Feeding your puppy correctly is a very important part of raising them as it’s vital for their development and growth.
There’s a lot of information out there about puppy nutrition and it can be overwhelming to know what’s correct and what’s not. When it comes to choosing a good quality puppy food, we’ve got you covered and we’ll explain how often to feed them based on their age and when to switch a puppy to 2 meals a day.
Choosing a Good Quality Puppy Food
The first thing that we need to do is choose what to feed our puppies. This is super important as there are lots of food choices out there and not all of them are necessarily good for our pups. Any food that we choose should be approved by AAFCO, the Association of American Feed Control Officials. Their statement will appear on your dog’s food label and state what the essential nutrients are. It will also state what life stage the food is for. It ensures that the food is nutritionally complete and balanced which is important for all growing puppies.
Another thing to check is the ingredient list. A long list of unfamiliar ingredients is a potential red flag as the food might contain lots of additives and preservatives. For this reason, the food should have a limited ingredient list and clearly state each ingredient.
The food should contain a good quality protein source (such as chicken, pork or beef) with adequate amounts for a growing puppy. AAFCO-approved food ensures that the food meets the nutritional needs of the pup. This is particularly important for rapidly growing large breed puppies that could be 70lb or more as an adult. They will require more nutrients to promote healthy growth.
There should be no preservatives in your puppy’s food. You can imagine that these wouldn’t be good for us, so why would we feed them to our dogs? Find a food that doesn’t contain preservatives.
How Often Should You Feed Your Puppy
Now that you know what your puppy should be eating, the next question is how often should they be fed. As a general rule, young puppies should be fed three times a day (in some cases even four!) until they’re six months old.
Feeding young puppies regular small meals is important for a few reasons. Firstly, it prevents their tummies from getting overloaded with food and bloated. Their tummies are quite small at this age so it’s important that we feed them smaller amounts that they can digest easily.
Another reason for feeding regular meals is to prevent your puppy from getting low blood sugar (hypoglycemia). This is common in young puppies and it can be very dangerous if not corrected quickly. Feeding your puppy high-quality food at regular intervals helps prevent the blood sugar from getting low.
Be sure to feed your puppy at similar times every day. This will help to develop a routine and provide consistency which is important for puppies.
When Can You Switch Your Puppy to 2 Meals a Day?
The common rule is that puppies can switch from three to two meals a day from six months of age. The meals should be 12 hours apart and the change from three to two meals should be gradual. This can be done by reducing the third meal (usually the middle of the day meal) down bit by bit over the course of a week until you leave out the third meal completely.
This is a broad guideline and it won’t apply to all pups. It depends on your puppy’s breed, weight and if there are any underlying conditions. Remember that there are variations amongst all dogs and just like humans, the same guidelines won’t suit everyone.
Switching from three to two meals at six months old is likely to be ok for most small breed dogs as they finish growing sooner than large breeds. Large breed pups can continue growing up until 12-16 months of age and for this reason, they might need to continue three times daily feeding until then.
The weight of your puppy might also affect your decision to reduce the feeds. If your puppy is underweight (prominent ribs) it might be a good idea to continue three times daily feeding for a while longer. On the other hand, if your puppy is a bit chubby it might be a good time to reduce the feeds to twice daily from six months of age.
It’s a good idea to keep in contact with your veterinarian and seek advice from them if you’re unsure. Six months of age might suit some puppies but likewise many will require more regular feeding for a longer period. Every puppy is different!
What If You Continue to Feed Your Puppy Three Times a Day?
Even though it’s important to continue three times daily feeding if your puppy requires it, it’s also vital not to continue this for too long. Feeding them three times daily permanently (unless advised by your veterinarian or canine nutritionist), can lead to them eating too much. Overfeeding can result in obesity which can predispose to diabetes, arthritis, and other inflammatory conditions. In large breed dogs, it can increase the chance of joint problems e.g. hip dysplasia.
When Can You Walk Your Puppy After Eating?
Whether you feed your puppy three or two times daily, you shouldn’t walk them directly after eating. You should wait 2-3 hours after feeding before bringing them for a walk.
This is for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it can be uncomfortable. Imagine exercising with a full stomach of food. It doesn’t sound comfortable and it’s likely to cause a sore tummy for your puppy.
Another more dangerous reason is that exercising with a full stomach can lead to bloat. Bloat is a dilated stomach filled with food, fluid, and air. A bloated stomach can twist which is called a GDV (gastric dilation-volvulus). This is a true emergency and can be fatal if not treated promptly. Large, deep-chested breeds are particularly prone to this condition.
So avoid taking your puppy for walks after they’ve eaten and continue this rule into their adulthood.
When Can Puppies Start Eating Adult Food?
This can vary with different puppies but as a general rule, small breed puppies can start eating adult food at 12 months of age. Large breed puppies usually need puppy food between 12-18 months of age depending on their expected weight and breed.
As a general rule, puppies can switch from three times daily feeding to twice daily from six months of age. However, one size doesn’t fit all and this is very true when it comes to puppy feeding. Puppy breed, weight, and any underlying health conditions can affect when we reduce their feeding times. Large breeds often need three times daily feeding until they’re 12-16 months of age. Consult with your veterinarian if you’re in doubt.
How do you transition a puppy from 3 to 2 meals a day?
Gradually reduce their middle meal over the course of a week until you remove it completely.
When should I switch my puppy to eating 2 times a day?
Generally, puppies can switch to 2 times a day from 6 months of age. This won’t be the case with all puppies however and will depend on their breed, weight, and any underlying health conditions.
Can I feed my puppy 2 times a day instead of 3?
No, puppies need regular feeding to prevent bloat and low blood sugar. They need feeding 3-4 times daily.
How long do puppies need feeding 3 times a day?
They need 3 times daily feeding until at least 6 months of age, large breeds often need this for much longer.