Feeding Puppies from Puppyhood to Adulthood: A How-To Guide

Companion dog obesity is one of the leading canine health crises our 4-legged family members face. How does this relate to feeding puppies? Well, we’ve been wondering if general confusion about how much to feed dogs from puppyhood onward is one source of the problem. 

Indeed, many companion dog parents may adopt or purchase a puppy or dog and grab what their parents fed without a clue as to feeding frequency or amounts. 

Coupled with that, full grown dogs range in size from Chihuahua to Great Dane, so there are special considerations when feeding dogs of different sizes, and ages. 

We will take you through the special considerations as well as give you a general guideline as to how much to feed your companion dog through the various life stages.

With that, first and foremost, you need to speak with your veterinarian or a qualified animal nutritionist about feeding your dog. Your veterinarian also can provide insight based on your pup’s body condition score and breed. 

Special Considerations

Adopted or Mixed Breed Companion Dogs

If you purchase a mixed breed companion puppy from a breeder, they should be able to tell you the percentages of the various breeds represented and the weight of each of the parents. When you go to the veterinary clinic, they can take that information into consideration and give you a ballpark adult weight. 

Adopted companion puppies or dogs are definitely more of a mystery. Was the dog relinquished with papers? Was the dog found on the street? The shelter should be able to give you a good idea of your canine’s estimated age as well as represented breeds. Again, take your new family member to the veterinarian with this information and they should be able to provide an ideal adult dog weight. 

If your veterinarian thinks your puppy is actually an adult dog and the weight is fine, you may still find the puppy sections below helpful to launch your dog’s daily feeding with the right calculations. 

Toy and Small Breeds

Toy and small breed puppies should be fed four equally proportioned meals per day for the first three months. They should also be fed puppy food as the are intended for growth until nine months of age at a bare minimum and even for one year. 

Medium Size Breeds

Medium size breeds are typically between 23-55 pounds. They should eat a minimum of three times per day of equal portions. Similar to toy and small breeds, they should be given puppy food until nine months of age and even for one year. 

Large and Giant Breeds

Large breeds are around 56-90 pounds and giant breeds are greater than that. Both of their needs are more intense than the smaller breeds. Remember, they shoot up dramatically in size and will be full grown typically before the age of two. Think about it this way: let’s say you – as a human – grew to the size of a 20-year-old within the first two years of your life. 

These dogs need a slower growth rate compared to the other breed sizes to avoid problems such as hip dysplasia and developmental orthopedic disease. Additionally, they have a predisposition for bloat. So, we typically feed them four equally proportioned meals per day of puppy food until 15-16 months. 

There’s more regarding large and giant breeds. They should not receive an excess of calcium. The calcium:phosphorus ratios in their diets should be between 1:1 and 1.3. Typically, we want the calcium content to be around 1.5% in the food.

Again, talk to your pup’s veterinarian about a good game plan for healthy growth. 

Need to Know Abbreviations

BW = Body Weight

RER = Resting Energy Requirement

MER = Maintenance Energy Requirement

LSF = Life Stage Factor. LSF refers to how many calories a day a cat or dog needs based on its life stage. It is a number that is applied to different life stages such as gestation, lactation, kittens/puppies, age, neutered, and intact.

kCal = Calories

Need to Know Equations

The calculation for RER is RER = (BWkg^.75)x70. That’s body weight in kilograms to the power of .75, then multiplied by 70. 


MER will tell you how many calories your companion pet needs to consume per day based on their age.

Don’t worry; we will show you step-by-step how to accurately use these equations for your pup’s weight. 

Figuring Out How Much to Feed Your Pup up to Four Months of Age

These are general guidelines established by the veterinarians. 

Remember before we kept saying, “adult weight?” This is target weight for puppies. Let’s say your puppy is currently 18 pounds and your veterinarian thinks the adult target weight is 30. You feed the puppy based on the weight goal of 30.   

LSF for puppies up to four months of age is 3.0. We are demonstrating three different sizes of dogs, so you will need to input the right calculation for your pup’s adult target weight based on your veterinarian’s recommendation.

Companion Puppies up to Four Months of Age

Breed Size Steps Calculation Unit Notes
Toy and Small Target Weight “Adult” 10 lbs.
Convert Weight to Kilograms 4.55 kg. Divide pounds by 2.2 for kilograms
RER = (BWkg^.75) x 70 217.91 kcal/day
MER = RER x LSF 653.74 kcal/day LSF = 3.0
Medium Sized Target Weight “Adult” 30 lbs.
Convert Weight to Kilograms 13.64 kg. Divide pounds by 2.2 for kilograms
RER = (BWkg^.75) x 70 496.73 kcal/day
MER = RER x LSF 1490.20 kcal/day LSF = 3.0
Large / Giant Target Weight “Adult” 100 lbs.
Convert Weight to Kilograms 45.55 kg. Divide pounds by 2.2 for kilograms
RER = (BWkg^.75) x 70 1225.41 kcal/day
MER = RER x LSF 3676.23 kcal/day LSF = 3.0

Does it seem like a lot of food? It is! But remember, they are puppies that are full of energy and growing quickly. Plus, you are feeding them a minimum of four times per day. 

Feeding Puppies Older Than Four Months of Age

Around four months of age, you can continue with frequency, but cut down on the amount of food. 

LSF for puppies four months of age and older is 2.0. Again, we are demonstrating three different sizes, so you will need to input the adult target weight for your pup.  

Once your pup reaches either 9 months, 12 months or 16 months based on breed, you will be able to reduce the amount of food again. 

Please consult your veterinarian who may want you to prolong feeding puppy food and this amount of food or reduce sooner in case your pet is becoming obese. 

Companion Puppies Older Than Four Months of Age

Breed Size Steps Calculation Unit Notes
Toy and Small Target Weight “Adult” 10 lbs.
Convert Weight to Kilograms 4.55 kg. Divide pounds by 2.2 for kilograms
RER = (BWkg^.75) x 70 217.91 kcal/day
MER = RER x LSF 435.82 kcal/day LSF = 2.0
Medium Sized Target Weight “Adult” 30 lbs.
Convert Weight to Kilograms 13.64 kg. Divide pounds by 2.2 for kilograms
RER = (BWkg^.75) x 70 496.73 kcal/day
MER = RER x LSF 993.46 kcal/day LSF = 2.0
Large / Giant Target Weight “Adult” 100 lbs.
Convert Weight to Kilograms 45.55 kg. Divide pounds by 2.2 for kilograms
RER = (BWkg^.75) x 70 1225.41 kcal/day
MER = RER x LSF 2450.82 kcal/day LSF = 2.0

Amount of Food

Now that we have calculated how many calories your puppy may need in a day, let’s apply it to food. We referenced a dehydrated puppy food that had 488 kCal/cup. 

Measurement Calories
1 cup 488
1/4 cup 122
1/3 cup 161.04
1/2 cup 244
3/4 cup 366

Let’s apply that to a puppy expected to be 100 pounds. Prior to 4 months of age, the puppy should eat approximately 7.5-7.75 cups. After four months of age, that is then reduced to 5-5.25 cups per day. 

We agree that it is mind blowing when you put the numbers together. We did look at the manufacturer’s box – which provides ranges of amounts to feed – and our numbers were in line with theirs, although ours were more precise.  

Now That Your Puppy Is a Young Adult Dog…

Now that your puppy is now a dog who is still as cute as the dickens, you need to adjust feeding again based on lifestyle, activity levels, and/or current virility or fertility status.

Again, you simply replace the puppy LSF with the new LSF. You have We assume that most young adult dogs that were placed on the proper feeding amounts from the start will fall into the neutered, intact or light activity category. 

Bear in mind, LSF does not factor in diseases such as hypothyroidism or Cushing’s that can affect what you should be feeding and/or the amount.

Nutritional Assessment Factors Life Stage Factor (LSF)
Neutered / Spayed 1.4 – 1.6
Intact 1.6 – 1.8
Inactive / Obese 1.0 – 1.2
Weight Loss 1.0
Gestation (first 48 days) 1.8
Gestation (last 21 days) 3.0
Lactation (based on number of offspring and weeks of lactation) 3.0 – >6.0
Light Activity / Light Work 1.6 – 2.0
Moderate Activity / Moderate Work 2.0 – 5.0
Heavy Activity / Heavy Work 5.0 – 11.0

So, a young adult, neutered 100 pound dog only needs 1,715 kCal/day, which is approximately 3.5 cups per day of the same food referenced above. 

Put the plan together on paper based on these factors, take it to your veterinarian, have a good and in-depth discussion, and get her sign-off to feed your dog for optimal weight for premium health. Believe us, she will be impressed!  


No, we did not factor in treats or supplements. You can reduce the caloric intake based on the amounts of these. Please remember treats do not need to meet any nutritional standard. So, we suggest small treats. Better yet, we suggest healthy and fresh treats such as very small pieces of carrots or apples.  


Cline, Martha G., et al. “2021 AAHA Nutrition and Weight Management Guidelines for Dogs and Cats.” AAHA, American Animal Hospital Association, https://www.aaha.org/aaha-guidelines/2021-aaha-nutrition-and-weight-management-guidelines/home.

Buzhardt, Lynn. Nutritional Requirements of Large and Giant Breed Puppies: VCA Animal Hospital. VCA, https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/nutritional-requirements-of-large-and-giant-breed-puppies

Dodds, Jean. Is Puppy Food Too Rich? Hemopet, 16 Apr. 2021, https://hemopet.org/is-puppy-food-too-rich/.

Dodds, W. Jean, and Diana Laverdure. Canine Nutrigenomics: The New Science of Feeding Your Dog for Optimum Health. Dogwise Publishing, 2015, https://www.amazon.com/Canine-Nutrigenomics-Science-Feeding-Optimum/dp/1617811548/.   

Scroll to Top