Feeding Your Puppy Kibble

Updated June 27, 2019
Golden Retriever Puppies Eating Food In Bowl

Puppy kibble is created specifically to meet your pup's nutritional needs during its rapid growth period. Your choice of kibble can help your puppy grow into a healthy, active young adult.

Why Choose a Food Specifically for Puppies?

A puppy is very much like a human infant with specific dietary needs. Puppy kibble is formulated to provide higher levels of protein, vitamins, and minerals than adult dog food in order to support the accelerated growth of their joints, muscles and organs. An adult food, or a food not listed "for all life stages" on its packaging, won't be able to provide the nutrients a puppy needs for optimal growth.

When to Start Feeding Kibble

Most puppies can begin eating some solid food around the age of four weeks. You can feed them wet food or if you use kibble, you will need to soak it in some water or low-sodium broth as their teeth won't be able to handle hard kibble at this point. By the age of six weeks, a puppy should be completely weaned from his mother's milk and eating solid food.

Puppy Feeding Schedule

Until six months of age, you should feed a puppy three times a day. After that you can move to a normal twice-a-day schedule like an adult dog. If you absolutely can't feed a puppy three times a day because of a work schedule, they should be fine with twice a day but discuss your concerns with your veterinarian.

What if a Puppy Stops Eating?

It's not unusual for a puppy to stop eating. While it can be related to a general lack of interest in the kibble you've chosen, usually a puppy stops eating due to stress, parasites or an illness. You can try making the food more appetizing by adding in a bit of canned dog food or some low sodium chicken or bone broth or even shredded plain chicken. If your puppy still isn't interested in eating and shows other symptoms like diarrhea, vomiting, lethargy, coughing or sneezing, contact your veterinarian right away.

Puppy Eating Food At Home

Feeding Your Small Breed Puppy

Small dogs are generally considered 20 pounds or less. These dogs go through a rapid growth period that usually sees them attain their full adult size by one year of age. This means they metabolize their food at a very high rate.

Small Breed Puppy Feeding Schedule

Small breed puppies should be fed three to four small meals daily. You can soak small bite-sized puppy kibble in a little water to help soften it a bit for easy chewing. Most small breeds can be switched over to adult diets around one year of age. Begin with a ratio of three parts puppy kibble to one part adult diet and gradually replace more of the puppy diet with the adult until the switch is complete.

Best Kibble for Small Breed Puppies

DogFoodAdvisor highlights Instinct Original Small Breed Recipe with Real Chicken as a top choice for small breed puppies. The food gets a five-star rating and is cited for its inclusion of omega-3 fatty acids, calcium and phosphorus to aid in healthy growth. Another good choice for puppies is Merrick Lil' Plates Real Chicken and Sweet Potato Recipe which has smaller bites that are easier for small breed dogs to chew. It's recommended by Chewy.com for its higher levels of fat and protein which works well with a small breed puppy's high metabolism.

Feeding Your Medium Breed Puppy

Medium-sized breeds generally range from twenty to fifty pounds, so an individual puppy's nutritional needs would depend a lot on the size he's expected to reach as an adult. This means you might need to adjust the number of meals closer to either the small or large puppy feeding guidelines.

Medium Breed Puppy Feeding Schedule

On average, medium-sized breed puppies should receive two to three meals each day. If your medium-size breed puppy tends to the smaller end of the spectrum, you may want to choose a smaller size kibble. Most medium breeds are ready to make the change from puppy to adult diets between twelve and fifteen months. Follow the method described for small dogs.

Best Kibble for Medium Breed Puppies

Farmina N&D Small and Medium Breed Puppy gets a five-star rating from the website DogFoodAdvisor. It cites that above average amounts of protein and fat and below average rate of carbohydrates and high quality ingredients. Another good choice is Taste of the Wild High Prairie Puppy Recipe which has high quality, lean proteins like bison and venison and supplements like Omega-3 fatty acids. It also has smaller kibble bites and it works well for medium size dogs on the smaller side.

Feeding Your Large Breed Puppy

Large dog breeds are typically classified as those weighing fifty pounds or more as adults. This group takes as long as two to three years to reach maturity. The metabolism rate for this group is slower than it is for small dogs, so you must choose a puppy kibble formulated to support long term skeletal growth while not being as high in fat as to cause excessive weight gain that could lead to joint stress and skeletal complications as adults.

Labrador puppy eating

Large Breed Puppy Feeding Schedule

Large breed puppies should be fed two to three times a day. Follow this schedule until they reach 12 months of age, depending on what your veterinarian advises for your individual dog. Large breeds are usually ready to switch to an adult diet around 12 to 14 months of age As with small and medium breeds, make the change gradually to avoid digestive upset.

Best Kibble for Large Breed Puppies

Wellness Core Natural Grain Free Large Breed Puppy is recommended by lab owners and trainers for Labrador Retrievers and other similar large breed dogs. It has 35% protein and uses high quality sources such as deboned chicken, chicken meal and turkey meal. DogFoodAdvisor recommends Wellness also and recommends Orijen Puppy Large as an alternate choice. The food gets a five-star rating and has 43% protein with deboned chicken, deboned turkey, yellowtail flounder, whole Atlantic mackerel and whole eggs.

Feeding Your Giant Breed Puppy

Giant breeds are dogs that weigh around 110 pounds and up when they reach their full adult weight. Like large breed dogs, giant breeds take about two to three years to mature. Because of this you need to find a puppy food that is lower in fat, calcium, phosphorus and vitamin D to meet the needs of their different metabolism. Feeding your puppy a diet too high in calcium and phosphorus can actually cause developmental orthopedic disease.

Giant Breed Puppy Feeding Schedule

Like other sizes of puppies, feed your giant breed puppy two to three times a day. Make sure you don't "free feed" as you want to be able to monitor their food intake. Giant breed puppies can switch to adult food around 18 months of age but consult with your veterinarian first.

Best Kibble for Giant Breed Puppies

The Dog Nutrition site recommends Holistic Select Natural Giant Puppy for giant breed puppies. It's specially formulated for large and giant breed puppies with 25% protein, 16% fat and has healthy probiotics and prebiotics to support your puppy's growth needs. DogFoodAdvisor suggests the kibble Eagle Pack Large and Giant Breed Puppy with a four-star rating. It has below average levels of fat and near average levels of protein and carbs and uses quality proteins like chicken meal and pork meal.

Making Your Own Puppy Kibble

With all the recalls of dog food on the market, pet owners are understandably concerned about what goes into their puppy's food. It is possible to make your own puppy food. However, because a puppy's development growth needs are so vital and will affect them for the rest of their lives, it's advisable not to do so without speaking with a veterinary nutritionist. An expert in veterinary nutrition can work with you to develop a recipe to follow that will help your puppy grow into a healthy adult and direct you to a nutritional service to create the necessary supplements to add to your puppy's meals.

Choosing the Best Kibble for Your Puppy

Always talk to your veterinarian if you're not sure what direction to go in regarding choosing the best kibble for your pup. You should pay special attention to the needs of your dog's breed size. Keep track of your puppy's weight gain so you can be sure he's getting the right amount of kibble and let your veterinarian know if you he stops eating or develops any concerning symptoms.

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Feeding Your Puppy Kibble