Customize Your Puppy's Diet

Expert advice for feeding your new puppy a healthy diet.

By Farrell R. Clancy |

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How Much and How Often?
Once you've chosen a brand of food, how much and how often should you feed? Dr. Nichol says the feeding guidelines printed on the label are usually very general and based on laboratory situations. "Like people, each pup is an individual, with a different metabolic rate," Dr. Nichol says. Ask your veterinarian for advice about how much food to feed your pup. Generally, puppies should eat small amounts about four times daily until 12 weeks of age, then three times daily.

Dr. Nichol explains the reason for this frequency: "Because puppies' livers are not yet mature, they are prone to low blood sugar [hypoglycemia], and therefore, must eat more often than adults." Once they reach adulthood, feed them only twice daily; once in the morning and once in the evening. Ask your vet for the best time to switch to an adult feeding schedule of two times a day. And of course, you should make sure your pup has access to fresh water at all times. For the most accurate feeding plan, ask your vet to body condition score (BCS) your pup and determine a nutritional plan from there. BCS uses a five-point scale that allows you to assess your pup's weight by look and touch with one being emaciated and five being obese.

When your Pup Grows Up
Owner, breeder and exhibitor of Yorkshire Terriers, Shumsky reminds us that toy breeds reach their full size at 6 months, but a large or giant breed, such as a Great Dane, may not be considered an adult until it is 1 to 2 years old. Therefore, you'll want to consider your pup's size and breed before making the switch from a puppy ("growth") formula to an adult ("maintenance") formula. Talk with your veterinarian to determine the best age for your puppy to make the switch to adult food.

By following the advice of our nutritional experts, doing some research before selecting a brand of food that works for your puppy, taking steps to prevent obesity and maintaining a good relationship with your veterinarian, you can help raise a happy, healthy dog. I'm sure you'll receive many licks, snuggles and wags as thanks.

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