Dogs are intuitive, sniffing out when you're sick before you even realize it and curling up at your feet, and they're loyal to the point of only thinking when you're getting back home as they wait by the door. It's not an exaggeration to say we're their world, so making sure they're healthy is top priority, especially for things under our control. Exercise is key, with benefits for your dog like a stronger heart and more energy, even reducing common behavior problems. But food is just as or even more important — up to 50 percent of dogs in the US weigh too much due to improper eating habits, and just like people, that puts dogs at risk for heart disease, liver disease, and more. So in addition to sticking to a vet-recommended dog food, creating proper habits when it comes to your puppy's eating schedule is imperative.
How Many Times a Day Should You Feed Your Puppy?
The amount of times you choose to feed your puppy a day can be tricky. Online, advice can vary, from a standard twice-a-day morning and night schedule to even a "go with the flow" approach — it's pretty confusing. Every puppy is different, and a veterinarian should always properly assess your dog's needs based on their breed and unique situation. But there are general rules of thumb to follow when it comes to making sure your puppy is getting the right amount of food per day at the right moments.
According to veterinarian Ignacio Casali, DVM, dogs "have the highest energy requirement of their entire life" during the weaning age and in puppyhood. When it comes to their feeding schedule, according to Dr. Casali, "puppies can become hypoglycemic (low blood sugar) after a short fasting period, so frequency is important." Dr. Casali recommends puppies be fed three to four times a day in smaller portions until approximately 6 months of age. After that, a slow reduction to twice a day during adulthood will make sure your growing dog stays in tip-top shape. Maria R. Mendoza, DVM, agreed, explaining how "for puppies less than 8 weeks of age, the stomach is very small and can't hold much food, plus their liver is still underdeveloped and there are high risks for hypoglycemia. For these reasons, it is extremely important to feed them small portions approximately every four to five hours." But once puppies get older, Dr. Mendoza said, you "can start decreasing the frequency."
It is also imperative to feed your dog the recommended food from the get-go, and although it's a common belief that supplements are necessary for your puppy, that isn't always the case, Dr. Casali said. "Supplements are not necessary for your puppy unless otherwise indicated by your veterinarian, as long as they are being fed high-quality, vet-approved food."
Do Some Puppies Need to Be Fed More Frequently?
Even if feeding your puppy three to four times a day already sounds like a lot, smaller-size breeds may need even more frequent feedings to ensure their energy requirements are met. According to Dr. Mendoza, "smaller breeds have smaller stomachs, so they need more frequent feedings, while bigger breeds in turn have larger stomachs and need less frequent feedings." By assuring your puppy is getting adequate doses of nutrient-rich food at the right times, you'll not only have a happier pup but a healthier, more balanced one, too.