Helping cats and dogs live their healthiest lives.
Black Labrador Retriever puppy eating from a red bowl

Puppy feeding and nutrition

As puppies are growing rapidly, and their digestive and immune systems are developing slowly, they have very specific nutritional needs that are different from adult dogs. Feeding your puppy a nutritionally complete diet tailored to their specific needs is vital for supporting healthy development and laying the foundation for a healthy future.

 

Why your puppy’s diet is so important

Puppies go through intense growth and development. Their diet plays a key role in supporting this and is crucial in influencing how strong and healthy your puppy is as an adult dog.

How your puppy’s nutritional needs change

A puppy’s dietary needs change at each stage as they move towards adulthood, which different breeds reach at different ages. To make sure that your puppy is appropriately supported throughout growth, they should remain on a puppy-specific diet until they reach adulthood.

English Cocker Spaniel puppy eating from a stainless steel bowl

One month old

At one month, a puppy can start to be gradually weaned from its mother’s milk onto solid food. They need nutrients to build their natural defences and promote  good bacteria in their delicate digestive system.

Puppy lying on a blanket next to mother

Two to four months

At this stage, the focus is on supporting the development of your puppy’s skeletal structure with carefully regulated amounts of calcium, phosphorus and Vitamin D.

Jack Russell Terrier puppy eating from a stainless steel bowl outdoors

Four to seven months

Your puppy’s starting to build its body mass at this age and needs plenty of high-quality protein that’s easy to digest.

Welsh Cardigan Corgi puppy eating from a red bowl

10 months old to adulthood

As puppies approach adulthood, they still need extra nutritional support for their joints, especially larger breeds as their muscles are filling out and putting pressure on their skeleton.

Husky puppy standing in a kitchen eating from a bowl

When does your puppy become an adult dog?

 

X-SMALL SMALL MEDIUM LARGE GIANT
Average adult weight
Up to 4kg
Up to 10kg  11-25kg
26-44kg 45kg and more
Growth duration (birth to adulthood) 8/10 months
8/10 months  12 months 15 months 18/24 months

 

ROYAL CANIN®'s scientific approach to puppy nutrition

We specialise in health nutrition because, for us, puppy food isn’t just about providing energy. It’s about building and maintaining the body’s cells, protecting against disease and preventing digestive, joint and age-related issues.

Our Puppy Ranges

ROYAL CANIN® puppy nutrition supports growth and development by providing all the nutrients essential to a puppy's needs in the first year of life.

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How much should I feed my puppy?

Puppies have different nutritional needs according to their breed and eventual adult size. Ask your vet for help checking the expected adult weight of your puppy according to their breeding. You can then choose the right food for them and make sure you give it to them in the right quantities.

Dogs are categorised in five different sizes:
  • X-small – up to 4kg when adult
  • Small – up to 10kg when adult
  • Medium – 11kg to 25kg when adult
  • Large – 26kg to 44kg when adult
  • Giant – over 45kg when adult

Breeds of different sizes have different needs as puppies. For example:
  • X-small and small breeds have weaker jaws and smaller teeth so need food that’s the right size and texture.
  • Medium breeds tend to be more active outdoors so need plenty of energy and helping building their natural defences.
  • Large and giant breeds grow slower and need less energy per kilo of bodyweight than small breeds.

Without taking your puppy’s expected adult size into account, it’s easy to feed them too much or too little. Underfeeding can lead to issues including malnutrition and stunted growth. While overfeeding can make your puppy overweight, which can cause painful bone and joint problems, difficulty breathing and more.

Puppies don’t know how to regulate their food intake, so it’s important you control their portions to avoid them becoming overweight. This is particularly crucial for large breed dogs, as overfeeding can cause them to grow too quickly and develop skeletal problems.
 
Always refer to the portion recommendations on the pack and weigh each meal carefully. Remember that the quantity stated is usually a daily recommended amount, so you’ll need to split this across your puppy’s meals. Any treats you give your puppy should be included in this daily amount too – it’s easy to overfeed with rewards.

Setting the right puppy feeding schedule

Puppies have small stomachs and their immature digestive systems don’t react well to being overloaded. To avoid your puppy suffering from disorders such as diarrhoea, it’s best to split their daily recommended food portion into small meals throughout the day.

Dachshund puppy in black and white

X-Small or Small breeds

Up to 4 months 3 meals a day

4-10 months 2 meals a day

Adult 1-2 meals a day

English Setter puppy sitting black and white

Medium breeds

Up to 6 months 3 meals a day

6-12 months 2 meals a day

Adult 1-2 meals a day 

German Shepherd puppy black and white

Large or Giant breeds

Up to 6 months 3 meals a day

6-15 months 2 meals a day

Adult 1 or 2 meals a day

How a puppy’s feeding schedule changes

Initially, during weaning, your puppy will need four meals a day spread evenly from morning to evening. By the time they reach adulthood, they’ll be able to cope with one or two meals daily.
 
Smaller breed dogs reach adulthood sooner than others, so they can move to fewer meals a day at an earlier stage. Below is a guide according to your puppy’s expected adult size. But it’s always worth checking with your vet about the best feeding schedule for your individual puppy.

Akita puppy sitting indoors on a wooden floor next to a stainless steel bowl

Puppies thrive on routine and don’t need variety in their diet like humans do. To help them feel secure, and avoid upsetting their digestion, give them the same food, preferably at the same times, in the same place, using the same bowl.

What is mixed feeding for puppies?

Mixed feeding is when you give your puppy a combination of wet and dry food – either at the same time or at separate meals, but never in the same bowl. They both offer important benefits such as wet food helping with hydration and appealing to picky eaters. While dry food can slow down fast eaters.

The benefits of mixed feeding for puppies

Hydration

In dry foods, the moisture content is around 8%, while in wet foods, this is usually at least 75%.

Palatability

Our wet formulas are designed to be highly appealing to the fussiest of puppies.

Weight Management

Wet food’s high moisture content means you can serve a larger portion for the same number of calories.

When should I begin mixed feeding?

Puppies can start mixed feeding at any time, but introducing them to variety at an early age may avoid fussy behaviour in adulthood. A dog's digestive tract becomes accustomed to the composition and type of food. So when starting a mixed feeding method, it’s important to gradually introduce the dietary changes.

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Golden Retriever puppy standing indoors next to a stainless steel feeding bowl

Good feeding habits for your puppy

Feeding your puppy can feel stressful, especially if you’re facing problems such as them refusing to eat or eating too quickly. Here are some good habits to establish straightaway to help your puppy build positive associations with feeding times and get the nutrients they need.

Maintain portion control

To avoid overfeeding your puppy, check the dietary guidelines on the food packaging and measure each portion carefully. Remember the stated amounts apply for the whole day, not per meal.

Avoid human food

Dogs have different nutritional needs from humans and what’s good for us can cause serious stomach upsets in dogs. Giving your puppy scraps or hand feeding can also cause bad behaviour.

Be careful with treats

A treat must always form part of your puppy’s overall daily food allowance to avoid overfeeding. Limit how many you give and always offer them at the right time for the right reason.

Limit activity before and after feeding

To prevent stomach upsets, try to avoid your puppy jumping about for an hour or two after eating. And don’t feed them straight after they’ve been very active.

Feed your puppy after you

As dogs are pack animals, they need to know the hierarchy. To show your puppy that you and your family are in the dominant position, feed them once you’ve eaten.

Keep feeding times calm

Distractions can put your puppy off their food, so keep their feeding area quiet. Watch them while they’re eating to check they’re safe, but don’t fuss over them – it can cause protective behaviour.

Set the pace

If your puppy bolts their food, try a slow-feed bowl or feeding puzzle. Even if they’re a slow eater, remove the bowl after 15 to 20 minutes so they don’t slip into snacking habits.

How to change your puppy’s food

Sudden changes in your puppy’s diet can give them digestive upsets or even make them wary of their food. Whether you’re switching to adult food, changing products or beginning mixed feeding, it’s important to introduce new foods slowly. We recommend you do this during a week-long transition using the following proportions:
  • Day 1 and 2: 75% previous food + 25% new food
  • Day 3 and 4: 50% previous food + 50% new food
  • Day 5 and 6: 25% previous food + 75% new food
  • Day 7: 100% new food

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how to transition onto new food illustration

Puppy feeding FAQs

The amount of food your puppy needs depends on the size they’ll grow into as an adult – x-small, small, medium, large or giant. Make sure you choose the right puppy food according to their expected adult size and always follow the portion recommendations on the pack.

A puppy needs to continue eating specialist puppy food until they’ve fully transitioned into adulthood. For smaller breeds this can be as early as eight months, but for larger breeds it can be up to two years. Check with your vet to make sure your puppy’s ready to move onto adult food.

Puppies can start to eat dry kibbles when weaning, which begins at around four or five weeks. But to make them easier for very small puppies to eat and digest, it’s best to soften them with water initially.

Many of the foods that are healthy or enjoyable for us can be poisonous for dogs and puppies. These include, but aren’t limited to: cooked bones, fatty foods, chocolate, coffee, almonds, macadamia nuts, walnuts, onions, some mushrooms, avocados, raw potatoes, tomatoes, garlic, spinach, apricots, peaches, cherries, grapes, raisins and rhubarb.

Homemade food may not be the best for your puppy as it’s difficult to ensure the nutritional balance they need. It also perishes faster and tends to be more expensive and time-consuming to make. Good quality, manufactured puppy food is tailored to your puppy’s specific needs and includes the convenience of both dry kibbles and wet food in cans or pouches.

Keeping an eye on your puppy’s weight is useful to make sure they’re growing, but the body condition score gives a clearer picture of whether they’re overweight or underweight. This is important to know as both can cause health issues. The body condition score focuses on the look and feel of your puppy to assess whether they’re a healthy shape. Your vet can show you how to score your puppy.

If you choose the right high-quality food, manufactured specifically for your puppy’s needs, it should provide all the nutrients they need without having to give them supplements. It’s always worth checking with your vet though about your puppy’s individual dietary needs.

Although dogs are often considered to be carnivores, they would eat their prey whole in the wild. By eating the guts of their herbivorous and omnivorous prey, they would eat some vegetable matter too. So our formulas are designed to reflect the fact that dogs don’t naturally eat 100% meat.

Puppy feeding quiz

Test your knowledge and find out how much you've learnt by taking our quiz

Chocolate Labrador Retriever puppy in black and white on a white background Dalmatian puppy in black and white on a white background

Question 1 of 4

How often should you feed a three month old puppy?

Correct!

For all breed sizes, three month old puppies require three equally sized meals a day. Puppies are unable to regulate their food intake, so more regular, smaller portions are gentler on their digestive system.

or

Puppy standing outdoors next to a feeding bowl

Wrong

For all breed sizes, three month old puppies require three equally sized meals a day. Puppies are unable to regulate their food intake, so more regular, smaller portions are gentler on their digestive system.

or

Puppy standing outdoors next to a feeding bowl

Question 2 of 4

When should a large breed puppy transition onto adult food?

Correct!

Large breed dogs, with an average adult weight of 26 - 44kg, reach adulthood at 15 months. If large dogs transition onto adult food at a younger age, their nutritional needs may not be appropriately supported.

or

White Swiss Shepherd Dog puppies walking together outside

Wrong

Large dog breeds should be transitioned to adult diets at 15 months. Any sooner and their nutritional needs may not be appropriately supported. Any later and your dog may be receiving higher energy and protein content than they need.

or

White Swiss Shepherd Dog puppies walking together outside

Question 3 of 4

Why is it important to transition your puppy onto a new diet gradually?

Correct!

Dogs have sensitive stomachs, so transitioning their diet slowly over the course of a week will help to prevent digestive upset and ensure your puppy doesn’t become wary of food.

or

Two Golden Retriever puppies standing together outdoors drinking from a stainless steel bowl

Wrong

Dogs have sensitive stomachs, so transitioning their diet slowly over the course of a week will help to prevent digestive upset and ensure your puppy doesn’t become wary of food.

or

Two Golden Retriever puppies standing together outdoors drinking from a stainless steel bowl

Question 4 of 4

Which of the following micronutrients are responsible for supporting healthy joint development?

Correct!

Protein plays a vital role in healthy development of puppy tissue, muscle and skeleton.

or

Golden Retriever puppy running outdoors in the grass

Wrong

Protein plays a vital role in healthy development of puppy tissue, muscle and skeleton.

or

Golden Retriever puppy running outdoors in the grass

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Puppy nutrition explained

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