what to feed a puppy

What to Feed Your Puppy 0-18 Months

Key Summary

  • Puppies require a diet rich in proteins, fats, and carbohydrates for optimal growth, with an emphasis on high-quality ingredients and avoiding fillers and artificial additives in puppy-specific foods.


  • Feeding needs vary with age; mother's milk or high-quality formula is essential for newborns, while older puppies gradually transition to solid foods.


  • Breed size significantly influences dietary requirements, with small breeds needing frequent, nutrient-dense meals, medium breeds benefiting from balanced growth diets, and large breeds requiring controlled growth rates to prevent bone and joint problems.


  • It's important to consult with a veterinarian or canine nutritionist, especially when considering homemade or grain-free diets.

What to Feed Your Puppy?

Puppies need a balanced diet rich in proteins, fats, and carbohydrates to support their rapid growth and high energy levels. Proteins are essential for muscle growth, fats provide energy, and carbohydrates are necessary for overall health. Vitamins and minerals also play a vital role in their development.

Fun Fact! Vitamin D, often known as the sunshine vitamin, helps your dog to balance minerals, such as phosphorus and calcium, to encourage healthy bone growth.

Understanding Puppy-Specific Food and Ingredients

Puppy-specific foods are formulated to meet the high nutritional demands of growing puppies. These foods are generally higher in protein and fat content compared to adult dog food. When choosing a puppy food, look for high-quality ingredients and avoid foods with excessive fillers or artificial additives.

Balancing Commercial and Homemade Diets

While commercial puppy foods are convenient and nutritionally balanced, some pet owners prefer homemade diets. If you choose to prepare homemade meals for your puppy, it's crucial to ensure that their dietary needs are met. When it comes to puppy care, consulting a veterinarian or a canine nutritionist is advisable when opting for homemade diets.

Feeding your Puppy Stage-by-Stage Guide

Birth to 2 Months

For newborn puppies, mother's milk is the best food source as it provides all the necessary nutrients and antibodies to protect them from diseases. A study has shown that colostrum, produced by the mother, is pivotal in the early stages of puppy development. 


If the mother is not available, a high-quality puppy formula can be used as a substitute and this should be what you feed a puppy up to the age of 3-4 weeks without a mum.


Puppy formulas are specially designed to replicate mother's milk but it is important to choose a formula suitable for puppies and follow the feeding guidelines strictly.


Healthy puppies should be active, have a healthy coat, and gain weight consistently. Regular check-ups with a vet can ensure they are developing properly.

2 to 4 Months

At around 8 weeks, you can feed a puppy solid food although it should be a gradual transition. Begin by mixing puppy kibble with a little water or puppy formula to soften it. Gradually decrease the liquid until they are eating dry kibble.


Younger puppies that are just beginning the weaning process have a greater need for higher levels of protein and fat so this should be considered when selecting a food that is good for puppies. 


Rachel Fusaro recommends in her YouTube guide on how to feed a puppy that now is the time to pick a nutrient-dense food, as puppy food must contain a good balance of protein, fat, carbohydrates, vitamins, and nutrients. Look for foods that list meat as the first ingredient and avoid those with excessive grain fillers.


Puppies need to be fed three to four times a day. The amount of food will depend on their age, size, and breed but the feeding guide on the food packaging should help. 

4 to 6 Months

As puppies grow, their nutritional needs change. During this phase, they require more calories and nutrients to support their rapid growth, especially larger breeds, such as golden retrievers.


Calcium is vital for bone development. Puppy food should have the correct calcium-to-phosphorus ratio to ensure proper bone growth and avoid health issues.


Continue feeding three to four times a day, adjusting the portion size to their growth rate and activity level. Avoid overfeeding, as it can lead to obesity.

6 to 12 Months

Around six months, you can start transitioning to adult dog food. The transition should be gradual over a week to avoid digestive issues.


Monitor your puppy's weight and body condition regularly. A healthy puppy should have a visible waist and you should be able to feel their ribs without pressing hard.


Treats and snacks should only make up a small portion of your puppy's diet. Choose healthy options and use them sparingly.

12 to 18 Months

As puppies approach adulthood, their growth rate slows down. Adjust their adult dog food diet to prevent overfeeding and obesity.


Some breeds, like the French Bulldog puppy, have specific dietary needs so you may need to feed them something different. Research your breed's requirements or consult a vet for advice.


Establish a balanced diet that will carry them into adulthood. Ensure they get all the necessary nutrients for a long and healthy life.

What Should I Feed a Puppy by Breed Size

Feed a Puppy by Breed Size

When it comes to feeding puppies, it's not just about what you feed them, but also understanding that different breeds have varying nutritional needs based on their size. Let's explore the dietary requirements for small, medium, and large breed puppies to ensure they get the right nutrition for their growth and development.

Small Breeds (e.g., Chihuahuas, Pomeranians)

Higher Metabolism

Small breed puppies have a higher metabolism. Their diets should be rich in protein and fat to support their energy needs.

Risk of Hypoglycemia

Due to their small size and rapid metabolism, they are at risk of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). Frequent, nutrient-dense meals are crucial.

Bone Health

Adequate calcium and phosphorus levels are important for their bone health, considering their petite bone structure.

Recommended Foods

  • High-quality, small-breed specific puppy kibble that is easier for their small mouths to chew.

  • Wet food can be mixed with dry food to encourage eating and provide hydration.

Medium Breeds (e.g., Beagles, Cocker Spaniels)

Balanced Growth

Medium-breed puppies require a balanced diet that promotes steady growth.

Muscle Development

A good balance of protein and fat is essential for muscle development and sustained energy levels.

Digestive Health

They often benefit from diets that include probiotics and easily digestible proteins and carbohydrates for optimal gut health.

Recommended Foods

  • Commercial puppy foods specifically formulated for medium-breed puppies.

  • Consider foods that include lean meats, healthy fats, whole grains, and vegetables.

Large Breeds (e.g., German Shepherds, Labrador Retrievers)

Controlled Growth Rate

Large-breed puppies need diets that promote slow, steady growth to prevent bone and joint problems.

Joint Health

Supplements like glucosamine and chondroitin can be beneficial for joint health, given their propensity for joint issues.

Appropriate Caloric Intake

They require a carefully controlled caloric intake to prevent rapid weight gain, which can strain their developing bones and joints.

Recommended Foods

  • Large breed-specific puppy formulas that are lower in fat and have appropriate levels of calcium and phosphorus.
  • Foods that are high in omega-3 fatty acids for healthy skin and coat.

What Can I Feed My Puppy?

Providing a well-balanced and nutritious diet is essential for your puppy's overall health and development. When choosing the best foods to feed a puppy, it's important to choose those that are rich in nutrients and appropriate for their age and breed. Here’s our breakdown of what puppies can eat:

Protein Sources

Chicken or Turkey

Lean meats like chicken and turkey are excellent protein sources for puppies, although we wouldn't recommend feeding your puppy raw meat as this carries a bacteria risk. Protein is essential for muscle growth and repair. These meats are also rich in essential amino acids and vitamins like B vitamins, which are crucial for energy metabolism and neurological development.


Fish is a good protein source and is high in omega-3 fatty acids, which are beneficial for cognitive development and maintaining healthy skin and coat. It also provides vitamins D and B2 (riboflavin), as well as minerals like iron, zinc, iodine, magnesium, and potassium.



Carrots are low in calories and high in fibre, which is good for digestion. They are also beneficial for dental health. Rich in beta-carotene, vitamins A, K, and potassium, carrots support vision and immune system health.

Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potatoes are a great source of fibre, which aids in healthy digestion. They are high in beta-carotene, converting to vitamin A in the body, essential for growth, eye health, and immunity.

Green Beans

Green beans are nutritious yet low in calories, making them a good snack for puppies. They provide vitamins C, K, and manganese, along with fibre.

Best Diets for Puppies

Balanced Commercial Puppy Foods

High-quality commercial puppy foods are formulated to meet all of a puppy's nutritional needs. They are balanced in terms of proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals.

Homemade Diets

Homemade diets can be tailored to individual needs and preferences, however, they require careful planning to ensure they meet all nutritional requirements. Always consult with a veterinarian or a canine nutritionist when preparing a homemade diet.

Grain-Free Diets

Grain-free diets are often chosen for puppies with specific grain allergies or sensitivities. They typically contain alternative carbohydrate sources like sweet potatoes. It's important to ensure that a grain-free diet is well-balanced and meets your puppy's nutritional needs.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Should Puppies Eat Wet or Dry Food?

Both wet and dry foods are suitable for puppies. Wet food can be easier for young puppies to eat, while dry food is good for dental health. The choice depends on your puppy's preference and dietary needs.

How Often Should I Feed My Puppy?

Puppies under 3 months old typically need three to four meals a day. As they grow older, this can be reduced to two meals a day.

Can Puppies Have Human Food?

Some human foods are safe for puppies in moderation, but many are not. It's important to avoid toxic foods like chocolate, grapes, and onions and consult a veterinarian for guidance.

Feeding Finale

Choosing what to feed your puppy from 0-18 months is crucial for their healthy growth and development. One thing is for certain; it needs to be balanced and nutritious. Whether you opt for commercial puppy foods, homemade meals, or a grain-free diet, the key is to provide a diet rich in proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals. 


Remember to tailor the diet to your puppy's breed size, ensuring that small, medium, and large breeds receive the specific nutrients they need. Regular consultations with a veterinarian will help guide you in making the best dietary choices for your puppy, setting the foundation for a healthy and happy life.


Got a new puppy? We’ve got you covered with all you need for a new addition available here.

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