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Puppy Food -- Types, Feeding Schedule, and Nutrition

From homemade puppy food to store brands, WebMD helps you choose the best food for your puppy’s nutritional needs.
By
WebMD Pet Health Feature
Reviewed by Audrey Cook, BVM&S

Cute, furry, and hungry. Your new pet is ready for puppy food, and you want to make sure you start him off right. Puppies grow fast. And providing the proper nutrition is important for building strong bones and teeth, adding muscle, and supplying all the energy needed for play and learning.

But what should you feed him? There are dozens of varieties of puppy food. Plus, there’s the one your puppy received from the breeder or animal shelter. Which food is right for your puppy, and how do you tell if it’s a good fit?

If you are wondering how to feed a puppy, read on.

How and why do puppies’ nutritional needs differ from adult dogs?

Puppies are growing rapidly, building bone and muscle, and developing organs. Adult dogs are maintaining their bodies. Your puppy needs extra nutrients to fuel his growth.

When should a puppy start eating solid food?

Puppies should get solid food starting at about four weeks, when they’re not able to get all the calories they need from their mother’s milk. Most puppies are weaned by six weeks.

Joseph Wakshlag, DVM, PhD, is assistant professor of clinical nutrition at Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine. He tells WebMD that for puppies younger than eight weeks, you may need to moisten dry food until it feels spongy.

How do I select a high-quality puppy food?

Start by asking your veterinarian what he or she recommends, says C.A. Tony Buffington, DVM, PhD. Buffington is a professor of veterinary clinical sciences at The Ohio State University Veterinary Hospital. “In the first six months or so, the nutrient needs are changing very quickly. And, they leave the least margin for error.” So asking your vet is a good idea since veterinarians typically recommend diets they’ve had the most experience with.

How do I know the puppy food will meet my dog’s needs?

The Association of American Feed Control Officials sets nutrient guidelines that most pet food manufacturers follow. Check the package label for a statement saying the food is formulated to meet AAFCO nutrient guidelines for complete and balanced nutrition, or that feeding trials following AAFCO guidelines have substantiated that it provides complete nutrition.

Along with that statement, the label should give the life stage the food is suited for. Puppies should be eating food labeled for growth or for all life stages.

After a month or six weeks on the food, assess your puppy’s health. He should be playful and energetic, with a shiny, thick coat. Formed brown feces are a sign that your puppy is digesting most of the nutrients in the food.

How often should my puppy eat?

Puppies should eat three times a day from weaning through four to six months, if possible. After six months, twice-a-day feedings are fine.

But if you’re not able to feed your pup three times a day, don’t worry. Buffington says puppies can adapt.

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