As your puppy grows you want to make sure they’re getting everything they need from their diet to develop into a healthy and happy adult. Understandably, there is a lot of confusion around puppy nutrition and what should be happening at what time. This article will answer commonly asked questions surrounding transitioning your puppy to 2 meals a day, as well as to their adult diet when it’s time.
When you should switch your puppy to 2 meals a day
Young growing puppies should be fed multiple small meals every day to meet their energy requirements without overwhelming their small tummies! Puppies are also at risk of developing hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) if they aren’t eating regularly. In most cases, this means at least 3 meals per day, with smaller breeds and young puppies even having four.
As a general rule, puppies can switch from 3 meals per day to 2 meals a day from 6 months of age. However, it’s important to remember that every animal is an individual, and factors such as breed, weight, or an underlying medical condition may affect their nutritional requirements. This is one of the reasons why it’s always best to discuss changing your pet’s diet or feeding plan with your veterinarian first.
Why you should feed your puppy twice a day
Twice-daily feeding is generally recommended once your puppy reaches 6 months of age and will continue during their adult life. This schedule tends to work well with a dog’s digestion and hunger patterns – it also fits nicely into most of our daily routines.
Just remember, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to nutrition and some pets may require a different feeding schedule due to their breed, size, or an existing medical condition.
One of the key benefits of scheduled meal feeding is having control over the portions you feed your puppy. While puppies have a lot of growing to do, the progress should be steady and controlled. Your veterinarian will regularly check your puppy’s weight and can show you how to monitor their body condition to make sure they aren’t growing too fast or becoming overweight.
In comparison to scheduled meal feeding, ‘ad lib’ or ‘free feeding’ is discouraged by veterinarians as it puts your puppy at increased risk of becoming overweight. For large breed puppies prone to developmental orthopedic disease (such as hip or elbow dysplasia), this can have serious consequences.
When are the best times to feed your puppy?
Consistency is key! Dogs love routine and you’ve probably already noticed your puppy looking for food around ‘dinner time’. Meals should be spaced approximately 12 hours apart and timing will simply depend on your puppy’s unique routine and lifestyle!
How soon after feeding can I walk my puppy?
It’s best to wait at least 2 hours after a meal before you take your puppy for a walk, although young puppies should be taken out to toilet immediately after eating as part of their toilet training.
Though running around after eating can be uncomfortable, the main reason is to try to prevent bloating of the stomach. A bloated stomach can become twisted – a condition known as GDV (Gastric Dilatation and Volvulus).
Why you shouldn’t walk your puppy after eating: GDV
GDV is a life-threatening condition that requires urgent veterinary attention and emergency surgery, as the twisted stomach cuts off its own blood supply causing shock. Large breed dogs with deep chests such as Greyhounds and German Shepherds are at higher risk for developing GDV, however, it can happen in any breed. Signs your dog may have bloat or GDV include:
- Attempting to vomit (usually multiple times but not bringing anything up)
- Swollen abdomen that is hard or tight to touch (not always obvious in deep-chested breeds as their stomach sits under the rib cage)
- Distress or agitation
- Signs of abdominal pain such as turning to look at their belly or becoming protective of the area.
Other nutritional factors may increase the risk of GDV. These include:
- Feeding one large meal per day
- Eating rapidly
- Increased stress around mealtimes (such as competition from another dog)
- Feeding a dry food with oil or fat among the first four listed ingredients
- Feeding from a height using an elevated bowl
If your puppy is an at-risk breed, this is another important reason for feeding two meals a day instead of one large meal. Adding canned food to a dry diet is also considered beneficial and make sure to wait at least one hour after exercise before feeding a meal. Larger-sized kibbles or the use of a slow-dispense feeder can also be helpful to slow rapid eaters.
When should I switch from puppy food to adult food?
Puppies are growing, so they have increased requirements for energy, protein, calcium, and phosphorus, compared to adult dogs. That’s why it’s important to make sure they receive a high-quality complete and balanced puppy food appropriate for their breed and size. Large-breed dogs should be on a large-breed puppy food, to help their growth.
When they’ve reached their mature size, they can transition to an adult diet better suited to their needs. The age at which this should occur is dependent on your puppy’s breed and size.
Large and giant breed puppies grow more slowly and may not reach their mature weight until they reach 18 months or older! For smaller breeds, 12 months of age is usually an appropriate time to transition onto an adult diet.
Your veterinarian will able to advise you on the right time to change your puppy’s diet to an adult dog food and how to do so gradually. Sudden diet changes can cause an upset tummy, so a new food should be introduced slowly and gradually over a couple of weeks.
Getting the right nutritional advice is so important to keep our beloved puppies healthy and support them while they’re growing. We hope this article has answered all of your questions but remember, your veterinarian is here to help and it’s always best to discuss any changes to your pet’s diet with them first.
- Kealy et al, Evaluation of the effect of limited food consumption on radiographic evidence of osteoarthritis in dogs, JAVMA, 2000, 217 (11); 1678-1680
- Kealy et al, Five-year longitudinal study on limited food consumption and development of osteoarthritis in coxofemoral joints of dogs, JAVMA, 1997, 210 (2); 222-5