Puppy nutritional feeding guidelines are printed on the packaging as an amount to feed per day.
So, how often do you need to feed a puppy?
The answer is both age-dependent and individually led. Most puppies go to their new homes when they are at least 6 weeks old, so the guidelines below are suitable from this age.
Ages 6-12 Weeks
For puppies aged between 6-12 weeks, breakfast, lunch and dinner is appropriate, with the daily recommended amount divided evenly between 3 meals.
Depending on your schedule, you may need to provide breakfast, afternoon tea and dinner, but as long as 3 meals are provided, the exact timing between meals can be adjusted to your schedule. Try to keep the times that the meals are provided as consistent as possible.
Ages 12-16 Weeks
During this age bracket, feed a higher proportion of the daily food requirements for breakfast and dinner, with a smaller amount offered at lunch time. You may find that as your puppy approaches 16 weeks, he or she no longer eats all of the lunch on offer.
The stomach size is larger by this age and your puppy can digest more food in the morning meal, which reduces the need for as much lunch at this age.
In fact, a lot of puppy owners by the 16 week puppy vaccination tell me that their puppy has already stopped eating their lunch altogether, which makes it very easy for owners to decide when to reduce the feeding frequency to two meals per day. If your puppy is still very keen on eating 3 meals per day and this does not affect your day-to-day schedule, then this is perfectly acceptable, provided you are following the daily nutritional guidelines set for your puppy’s age and size.
Ages 16 Weeks and Over
From 16 weeks of age (4 months old), you can start to offer your puppy two meals per day, but this should be done gradually, rather than cold turkey, so that the routine of eating lunch each day is not suddenly discontinued. Gradually reduce the quantity of food that your puppy receives for lunch and incorporate the total daily requirement into breakfast and lunch. There is no problem with still offering a ‘snack’ in the middle of the day for those extra hungry puppies, as long as it is not over and above the daily recommendations.
My preference is to continue to feed dogs twice daily for life, as I find this reduces the tendency to scavenge and eat things from around the garden or even the bins while waiting for their next meal.
Your dog can also smell the food being prepared for family meals, so it makes sense to offer them a meal at the same time as the family for breakfast and dinner. Avoid feeding dogs food scraps from your plate as this encourages undesirable behaviour and may not be suitable for your dog’s digestive system.
Overall, puppy parents need to establish a feeding regime that suits both the individual puppy to maintain optimum health as well as fitting in with their daily schedule. A good daily schedule can help as your pup grows into adulthood and starts to transition to adult dog food. Discussions about how often to feed a puppy can be addressed in more detail with your veterinarian when you attend routine puppy health examinations.
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