Did you know that about 80% of puppy feeding recommendations are inaccurate? That’s right– you’re not the only one confused about how much to feed your puppy.
Knowing how much you should feed a puppy can be challenging. Unlike older dogs, puppies’ caloric needs can change from one day to another. We sat down with our veterinary nutritionist Dr. Justin Shmalberg to get a clearer idea of how much to feed our puppies. (If you’re just here for your dog’s daily caloric needs, skip to the chart below!)
Adult and senior dogs are fed based on their current weight, which makes for a simple way to calculate caloric needs. However, with puppies, this number would change every single day as their weight constantly increases. To promote growth, puppies should actually be fed according to their predicted adult weight more so than their current puppy weight.
So, the primary step here will be determining your puppy’s predicted adult weight. You can ask your vet for this number if you’re unsure.
1. How much to feed a puppy?
Now, we’re going to use that estimated adult weight and put it to use! The chart below shows how much you should be feeding your puppy, in terms of calories. Never rely on recommendations such as ‘1 cup’ across the board, as 1 cup of one brand of dog food will be completely different than ‘1 cup’ of another.
Some dog food brands will tell you (down to the gram/calorie) how much to feed, which is ideal. If they don’t, it’s fairly easy to calculate this yourself as every dog food should provide information as to how many calories it contains per gram (and then you can determine how many grams your dog should eat per day, and translate that into cups or another measurement you prefer).
*Keep in mind that these values are for dogs with average activity levels. This may vary if your dog has above average activity levels.
2. What’s the difference between fresh dog food and kibble?
Not all calories are created equal. One kibble calorie is not equal to a fresh dog food calorie, so these large variations in how much you should feed your puppy of different kinds of food don’t actually mean your dog will eat less food. Fresh dog food is much more digestible than processed kibble, or even processed wet food, so your dog can get more energy and nutrients from “less”.
For those curious to know how this actually translates to calories…The calorie variation comes down to how AAFCO (the group that designs pet food guidelines), says calories should be calculated. With kibble diets, AAFCO says that food should be calculated with carbs and proteins at 3.5 calories/gram, fat at 8.5 calories/gram.
Of course, this is very different than how we calculate calories from human food, and veterinarians and researchers say that fresh food diets should use a modified factor much closer to human calorie factors (since dogs and humans have similar digestive systems, and can unlock the same value from the same food). At these values, used for fresh dog food, carbs and proteins are 4 calorie/gram, and fat is 9 calories/gram.
Put simply, if you use a recommended serving size from kibble for a fresh dog food diet, your puppy will likely pack on excess weight as they’re actually able to digest and use much more food from every gram. And you certainly don’t want that!
3. When is a dog considered a puppy?
Is your dog still considered a puppy? And for how long should your dog be eating as a puppy, before transitioning to eating like an adult? If buying dog food that is suitable for all life stages, you’ll never have to change the actual food your dog eats as they grow older, but you will be changing the portions. If you plan on feeding your dog a ‘puppy food’, and then switching to an ‘adult food’, this change will be even more important.
For dogs with a predicted adult weight of less than 30 pounds, your dog will mature around 10-12 months and can then be fed as an adult. For dogs with a predicted weight up to 80 lbs, they will mature around 12-16 months and can switch to adult dog food at this time. For dogs that have a predicted adult weight of more than 80 lbs, they will mature closer to 2 years.
So, using your dog’s predicted adult weight, you now know for how long the values above will be used.
To learn more about a healthy, fresh, veterinary-recommended puppy food full of supplements and nutrients, try NomNomNow here.