Bringing a new puppy home can ignite many emotions. In an instant, you’ve officially joined the pup parent club!
You marvel as your new friend stares up at you with those sweet, innocent eyes. In these moments, you find yourself imagining the road ahead and all of the memories you’ll make together.
But then your mind wanders to the more practical things…what if you mess this all up? This tiny soul is totally dependent on you!
You’ve gotten them home, but now you’re wondering: how much do I even feed this little guy?
Puppies should mostly eat their mother’s milk for around the first month of their life. If they are not gaining enough weight or their mother isn’t present, supplemental feedings may be needed. Weaning starts around five weeks, and they usually transition fully to puppy food by two months.
In this article, I will outline what to feed a puppy, week by week of their life.
I will detail how many times a day (and how much) to feed them and explain appropriate ways to feed a puppy who is away from their mother or isn’t gaining enough weight.
Still feeling a little mystified about how to feed your new little one?
Spoiler alert: it’s not as complicated as it seems, I promise!
Ready to hone your puppy-feeding powers?
So, good news: as far as feeding goes, the first few weeks of your puppy’s life may be relatively carefree for you. In a very cool work of nature, your pup’s mother’s instincts will likely run the show in the beginning. This enables you to sit back, observe and help out as needed.
Let me explain:
During the first month or so, your pup’s mom will be caring for her puppies almost entirely.
The amount of food and the frequency that your pup consumes it will largely be a seamless biological process between mama and puppy. It is actually preferred that humans don’t interfere unless needed during this time.
Your puppies will need you to check periodically to ensure that their mom is producing adequate milk.
A nursing mom may fail to produce enough milk for her litter. Her milk may also become infected.
Most likely, your puppies’ tears will clue you that there is a problem in the milk production department.
If you hear your puppies crying, this is reason to spring into action immediately. If puppies aren’t able to get enough of their mother’s milk or if they consume infected milk, the entire litter can die within just 24-48 hours.
In addition to monitoring the mother’s milk supply, you will also want to weigh your puppies daily and weekly. A new puppy should gain around 5-10 percent of their body weight each day, and they should double their birth weight during their first week of life.
If the mother’s milk supply has become compromised or if your puppies aren’t gaining as much weight as they should, you can supplement with a milk replacer containing DHA and essential vitamins and minerals like this one from Lactol. If you are led to supplement, it’s generally safe to feed your puppies according to the instructions on the bottle.
There is no need to stress if you find yourself in this predicament. Bottle-feeding your new pup is the way to go and totally doable.
To do this, you will need to:
Around 5 weeks, give or take a week or so, is the time that dogs begin to wean off of their mother’s milk. This weaning process will generally span between the 5 and the 8-week mark.
During this time, you’ll want to feed your dog commercial, formulated dog food. Try softening it up with broth or water if you’re using kibble. If you go the wet puppy food route, simply add some water to make it more palatable for your puppies.
Continue to weigh your puppies throughout the weaning process. If they are steadily gaining a healthy amount of weight, continue feeding them as you are. Generally, puppies may eat 3 to 4 meals of their dog food mix as they slowly consume less of their mother’s milk.
By around 8 weeks, your dog will have likely completed the weaning process.
So now what?
After your dog has weaned, you must have them consume pet food that is formulated specifically for puppies, not adult dog food.
At this point, you’ll likely need to feed your puppies around three times a day, on average.
Around this time, you may also want to start trying to feed your puppies treats. If you’ve started training your pups, or you just want to show them some extra love, feel free to shoot some treats their way every now and then.
But don’t get too crazy!
Treats should only make up about ten percent of your pup’s diet.
Kinda like how desserts should only take up a tiny portion of our diets…right? Right.
The exact amount and type of food your puppies will need may vary depending on their size, breed, activity level, and individual health needs.
Puppy food will have protein, phosphorus, fat, and calcium percentages formulated just for puppies.
These puppy foods are commonly made of different mixtures of animal protein like turkey or chicken. Chicken and rice-based options like Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula are jam-packed with vital nutrients and antioxidants to support your puppies’ growth.
Whatever your puppies’ special needs may be, there is likely a perfect puppy food out there for them. For example, Purina Pro Plan has a formula made just for puppies with sensitive skin and stomachs.
Well, maybe not easy. There’s definitely some skill, care, and attention involved in feeding your puppies, week by week.
But just as your puppies’ mother is led by instinct as she feeds her young, trust that as their human parent, your instincts will kick in as well!
As a new puppy parent, your eye is watchful over your youngins. You will likely be clued into every cry, noise, look, and movement they make. And thankfully, their cues make it quite easy for them to alert you to problems so you can step in and help.
Hard as it may be, I encourage you to try not to let the responsibility of feeding and caring for your puppies weigh on you. I hope you take pride in the way you nurture them as they grow.
Trust me, you’re doing better than you think!