photo of a girl with a puppy

Nutrition for Puppies: What to Know In the First Year

Jane McDonald | March 22, 2018

If you are reading this, it is likely that you are (or are thinking about) welcoming a new puppy into your home. Congratulations! It is a widely agreed upon fact that puppies are one of the best things in the world! Oversized paws, extra soft fur and impossibly cute cuddle sessions are just a few of things you have to look forward to this first year, but along with that comes critical (and lightning fast) development that requires a balanced diet specific to the puppy stage of life.

But don’t worry, you’ve got this! You’re educating yourself and will be a puppy expert in no time! To make it a bit easier, we’ve pulled together the nitty gritty on what you need to know about the first year of nutrition in your sweet new puppy’s life:

Pup Food 101

For the first year of life, puppies need to be fed a diet specially formulated to support growth - and we mean need. Feeding them adult food would deprive them of puppy food ingredients like DHA, which is a naturally occurring omega-3 that supports eye, brain, heart and nervous system development and function.

Choose a food that is made with high-quality ingredients, skips synthetic preservatives and fillers and is packed with the protein, vitamins and nutrients your new puppy needs to be nourished and happy.

You will also want to consider the size of your new pup’s breed, as larger breeds need a diet that will support bone and lean muscle development throughout all stages of their lives. Size will also effect serving size, along with energy level, growth rate and food type.

Finally, all dogs have different needs so your first step should be a visit to the vet and continue to consult them as the expert when issues arise.

After choosing the right food, your next job is to make sure the amount you’re feeding aligns with your dog’s lifestage:

Brand New

When pups are especially wee from 6-12 weeks old, you can almost see them growing before your very eyes! Feeding them a nutritionally balanced food formulated for puppies 3-4x / day will help keep up with this rapid growth stage.

Ch-ch-ch Changes

Around 12 weeks old, most pups start to loose their pudginess and an adult dog begins to emerge. (You will inevitably wonder, where did my baby go!?) Between 3-6 months you will be able to decrease feedings to 2-3x / day, depending on their growth rate.

Big Kid

Around the time you celebrate their 6-month birthday, you can move to 2x / day feedings. Once you spay and neuter your new pup, energy levels will decrease so this is a good time to move your big puppy to adult food. Small breeds will be ready for the switch around 7-9 months and larger breeds will be ready for adult food between 12-14 months.

Again, each dog is different so make sure you are talking with your vet about these important choices and timeline. Most importantly, cherish this wonderful (occasionally messy) time of your dog’s life and the warmth that your new family member brings to your home. They are so lucky to have you!