How Much Food Should I Feed My Dog? A Life Stage Guide

Last Updated on November 22, 2022 by Becky Roberts

We all know how important it is to feed your dog the right food, but did we also know that dogs’ nutritional needs change with age and growth?

Your dog’s life will change and you may have to adjust the amount and type of food that you give it.

Let us look at some factors to consider when choosing a diet for your dog, as well as the appropriate amount of food to give to them, and considerations for each stage in their life.

How Much Food Should I Feed My Dog_

How is Dog Food Regulated

The FDA makes sure that pet food ingredients are safe and used for the correct purpose. The FDA requires that pet food labels include certain information, such as the name of the manufacturer and the correct list of ingredients arranged in order of weight.

Some states also insist on that further information be included on packaging, following a model from The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO). AAFCO is an association of voluntary members that regulate the sale and distribution of animal feed. It helps define common ingredients and nutritional requirements in pet food.

Looking at products that have AAFCO approval gives additional assurance that your pet’s food is appropriate for them. This also confirms the accuracy of any nutritional claims made.

What Should I Consider When Choosing My Dog’s Food?

Here’s some advice for choosing the right diet for your dog.

Select a diet that is appropriate for your dog’s size and life stage

Choose a diet that suits your dog’s age and stage of life, including whether it is a puppy or an adult. All foods are subject to FDA regulation, but it is a good idea to choose a diet with additional AAFCO approval in order to ensure that any manufacturer claims are not made.

Decide How Much You Want To Spend

Cost is an important factor for dog owners when selecting a diet. It can be difficult to determine what you’re getting for your money, and the differences between different price points.

The World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA) has created a list of recommendations for pet parents selecting a diet. Using these recommendations will allow you to explore other brands once you have considered your budget.

A comparison page is available on the Pet Nutrition Alliance Website. Here, some manufacturers have been asked questions. This may prove a useful way to see what you are getting for your money because it explains whether a company employs qualified veterinary nutritionists and provides straightforward answers to nutrition questions.

Decide whether to feed dry or wet food

Think about whether your pet will eat dry or wet food. Although dry foods are easier to prepare and more messy than wet foods (especially for puppies), some animals prefer the texture and ease of dry food.

Ingredients to Seek Out

A look at the ingredients list can tell you a lot more about the diet. Good quality dog food includes animal-based protein ingredients, such as meat, meal and by-products. This diet is high in protein and lower in carbohydrate-based ingredients. AAFCO has some helpful information on how to interpret the ingredients list further.

It’s worth mentioning that exotic-sounding ingredients don’t necessarily make a diet better. While emu and flaxseed sound great to us, they are not nutritionally beneficial for pets. Even though they may only contain a small amount of these ingredients, manufacturers can charge higher prices for fancy-sounding food.

What should I eat at different life stages?

Generally speaking, you should only choose a commercial diet that is appropriate for your dog’s age and life stage. It is worthwhile to break down each life stage and examine the needs of specific ages.

Newborn Puppies

Newborn puppies receive all of their nutrition from the mother’s milk . Some puppies may need to be hand-reared with commercial milk substitute fed via small bottles with a nipple. These puppies require regular feedings, about once every two hours from the start.

The milk replacer has specific instructions, but most puppies need about 180ml per kilogram of body weight per 24-hour period. Ask your veterinarian for advice.

When puppies turn 3-4 weeks old, they begin to wean and start eating solid food. Give them food that has been combined with warm water or puppy milk substitute to create a wet-gruel-type mix and let them explore on their own.

Young Puppies

Puppies are usually 8 weeks old by the time they have been weaned from milk and rely solely on solid food. Puppy’s this age have small stomachs, and only need four meals per day.

Refer to the guidelines on your dog’s commercial food label. This tells you how much you should give him per 24-hour period. Divide this total into four portions for each meal (4 meals per days). Puppy’s this age don’t require milk. Make sure they have fresh water at all times.

When your puppy reaches 4 months old, you can allow him to have three meals per day. When your puppy reaches six months old, you can reduce his daily feeding to two meals per day. Refer to the package instructions again, but split the daily amount into two portions and not three or four.

Puppy foods are high in calories and protein, supporting growth and development. They are easy to digest. Young pups might like to have their dry kibble soaked with water in order to soften it a bit if they are having trouble eating hard food.

Adult Dogs

The exact onset of adulthood varies according to breed, but it tends to be around 12 months on average. It takes longer for large dogs or giants to reach their full adult size. Talk to your vet about when your dog is ready for adult food.

Once your dog is an adult, he needs to be on an adult diet that is appropriate for his size (i.e., a toy/small, medium, large, or giant diet). If you continue feeding puppy food to an adult dog, they could gain unwanted weight, as they no longer require the same amount of nutrients as a young, growing puppy does.

Adult dogs should be fed twice daily to keep them happy. Hunger and frustration can result from feeding your dog only once a day. Refer to the packet feeding guidelines for details and ensure that you accurately weigh the food. Keep an eye on your dog’s body condition (see below) in order to maintain his ideal weight. Dogs that are active may require more food than others, while dogs that are more sedentary may need less.

Mature (7+ Years) And Elderly Dogs

Dogs at this stage may show signs of slowing down. You might consider a diet that supports them. They may need to eat less calories as their energy levels change. However, good nutrition is essential for healthy organ function as they age.

There are some breed variations, with larger or more powerful dogs ageing faster than smaller breeds.

Some diets for older dogs contain additional ingredients such as joint supplements to help with the effects of osteoarthritis or antioxidants and omega-3 to help with declining cognitive function.

Remember that elderly and mature dogs need to be fed twice daily. Make sure you weigh the food accurately according to the instructions on the packet. Continue to monitor your dog’s body condition score and weight to make sure you are keeping things under control.

Frequently Asked Question

What should I feed my pregnant dog?

Pregnant dogs require slightly less energy than adults during the first stages. As they enter the third trimester of their lives, their energy needs increase. You should help her transition to a high-energy diet like puppy food. She continues this process after giving birth to her puppies, while she is still lactating.

How often should I feed my puppy?

Your puppy should eat four small meals per day from the time they turn 4 months old. Then, it is recommended that they eat three meals per day until 6 months. You can allow them to eat two meals per day beyond that. This should be continued for the rest their lives.

How do you know if you are feeding your dog the right amount?

Make sure you follow the instructions on the pack and weigh your dog’s food accurately using measuring scales. If you are concerned about your dog’s health, check with your veterinarian.

Final Thoughts

Before you can decide how much you will feed your dog, it is important to first decide what you will be feeding them. The first step is to choose a high-quality AAFCO-approved diet suitable for your dog’s age and stage of life.

As soon as you have chosen the diet, follow all the instructions and divide the recommended daily food into the appropriate number of meals according to your dog’s age. Talk to your veterinarian if you have any questions. You can also call the helplines of many pet food companies for information about your pet’s diet.

Becky Roberts

Becky Roberts

One of Becky's favourite things to do every morning is to browse the top pet-related forums, looking for issues and questions that people have. She then shortlists the most common ones, and turns them into blog posts for Fuzzy Rescue. She's had over 4 cats and 2 dogs over the past decade, so she does know a thing or 2 about raising/training, and more importantly, loving them. She's the only one on our team that doesn't like coffee, but it seems to us she really doesn't need more energy :). We're very fortunate to have her on board as she does most of the heavy listing for the site, outputting an insane amount of content each month. Read More

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