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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.
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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.

How much should I feed my puppy?

Puppies need to take in a lot of calories to fuel their rapid growth. At the start, that means about twice as many per pound as an adult dog of the same breed. Puppies grow the fastest in their first five months.

Look for feeding charts on commercial puppy food labels. You can use them as a guide. They provide recommended amounts based on a puppy’s age and weight. Adjust as necessary to keep your puppy in the best condition, something you may need to do weekly.

How do I know if my puppy is eating the right amount?

Veterinarians evaluate dogs using a body conditioning score, which ranges from one for emaciated, to five for obese. It's normal for very young puppies to have some baby fat, but after the first 8 to 10 weeks, "puppies should be a two", Buffington says.

You can learn to assess your dog at home. At a score of two, which is relatively thin, a puppy’s ribs may be visible. The tops of the back bones will generally be easily seen. You shouldn’t be able to feel any fat on its ribs. You should see a waist when looking down at your puppy and an abdominal tuck when looking from the side.

By five months, your pup should look lean as it starts to wrap up its most rapid growth period.

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