Not many things bring as much joy as a new puppy. They’re cute and fun, and they help teach the whole family valuable lessons in responsibility. As vets, we too are not immune to the cuteness that comes with puppies — and we love it when pet parents bring in their new babies for checkups and advice on looking after them.
Along with all the preparation and training you need to consider when welcoming a new puppy, a common concern for pet parents is what and how to feed them properly.
Here, we discuss puppy nutrition and how to ensure they are healthy, happy and have everything they need to grow into strong adult dogs.
Why puppies need special diets
Puppies are weaned from their mother's milk at around eight weeks old. As they transition to solid food, it is essential that they get the right amount of nutrients to support growth and development and create a healthy immune system. For example, puppies need higher amounts of fat than adult dogs. They also require specific amounts of elements like protein, calcium, and phosphorus.
A puppy's body burns a lot of energy with all the playing and growing they have going on. And they have a much faster metabolism, requiring more food at more frequent intervals.
Some puppies may experience stomach upsets and diarrhoea as they are introduced to new foods, but usually, this will settle quickly. If diarrhoea lasts more than a few days, take your puppy to your vet.
What's the best food for puppies?
We are lucky to have some high-quality dog food options in Australia. Whether you opt for wet food, dry food or anything in between, many brands available have passed government standards for daily feeding and include all of the vital ingredients our pups need.
Just like us, every puppy is different. With so many variables to consider, including size and breed, we recommend chatting with your vet to establish the most balanced diet for your little friend.
Browse our vet-recommended Puppy diets
Royal Canin Maxi Puppy Dry Dog Food
Royal Canin Maxi Puppy Dry Dog Food is suitable for large dogs with adult weight from 26 to 44kg. From 2 to 15 months old.
Immune System Support
Growth is an essential stage in your dogs life: it is the time of big changes, discoveries and new encounters. During this key period, the puppys immune system develops gradually. Maxi Puppy helps support your puppys natural defences thanks particularly to a patented (France, patent No EP1146870.) complex of antioxidants including vitamin E.
Combination of nutrients with high quality protein (L.I.P. (Protein selected for its very high digestibility.)) and prebiotics (FOS) to support digestive health and balance of intestinal flora, which contributes to good stool quality.
Long Growth Moderate Energy
Meets the moderate energy needs of large breed puppies which have a long growth period.
Hill's Science Diet Puppy Dry Dog Food
Hill’s Science Diet Puppy Dry Dog Food is rich in flavour & carefully formulated for the developmental needs of puppies, so they get the best start in life & grow to their full potential.
Your little pup is growing at a fast rate, and you'll need a quality dog food that can keep up with his or her growing needs. Hill’s Science Diet Puppy dry food provides the right balance of ingredients and minerals to support the puppy development, so they get the best start in life & grow to their full potential. To help your growing dog's brain and eye development, this puppy food made with natural ingredients contains DHA from fish oil, as well as quality protein for lean muscle growth. The balanced set of minerals helps promote your puppy's bones, as well as strong, healthy teeth. Plus, it's formulated with decades of cutting-edge research to be a great-tasting dog food puppies can truly enjoy.
- This dry puppy food is formulated to support a healthy immune system and overall growth for puppies
- This puppy food provides DHA from fish oil for healthy brain & eye development
- Supports lean muscle growth with quality protein
- Uses a balanced set of minerals to promote strong bones and strong teeth in young dogs
- Made with natural ingredients
Prime100 SPD Air Dried Lamb, Apple and Blueberry Puppy Dry Dog Food
Prime100 SPD Air Dried Lamb, Apple and Blueberry Puppy Dry Dog Food is a vet approved, single-protein diet for puppies. Designed by science with functional and fresh ingredients to form a complete diet. Contains Australian grass-fed lamb, fruit, natural prebiotics and probiotics (bacillus subtilis) to provide targeted gastrointestinal assistance and encourage healthy microbiome in the gut. Australian blueberries and apples deliver targeted levels of protein, fat and antioxidants for young growing dogs and the balanced nutrition required during the most formative stage of their life. Air Dried to Perfection.
- Nutritional solutions for prevention, diagnosing and treatment
- Australian grass-fed lamb
- No artificial colours, flavours or preservatives
- Gluten Free
- Grain Free
- GMO Free
- One meat protein
- Great for healthy skin and coat
- High in Omega 3 & 6
- Added blueberries and apples for rich levels of antioxidants
- Added seaweed to help close the immunity gap in puppies
SPD™ Prime100 Single Protein Diet contains only one meat protein
Zero Grain for easy digestion; no wheat, corn, rice, or barley
Zero Gluten for sensitive stomachs and dogs allergic or sensitive to gluten protein in wheat or corn-based diets
How often should you feed a puppy?
It is really important that you feed your puppy at the appropriate frequency to ensure they are getting enough food. Puppies have tiny stomachs, so they need smaller meals to be provided more regularly so they can refuel. In smaller breeds, the chance of hypoglycaemia is a risk, and they need meals even more frequently.
Always follow the guidance provided by your puppy food manufacturer, or speak to your vet about feeding schedules.
Giving your pup a little extra food may not seem like a big deal, but overfeeding can have serious long-term effects. Problems with overfeeding your pup include:
Avoid overfeeding by following your feeding schedule and not giving your puppy leftovers or excessive amounts of treats.
But what if my puppy begs for more food?
If you feed your puppy quality pet food and follow an approved food plan, your puppy should not need extra food. Occasionally, your pup's appetite may vary depending on how much energy they've used, but giving in to begging can cause bad habits.
If you think your dog isn’t getting enough nutrition, speak to your veterinarian about adjusting their diet.
For more Puppy behavioural tips, check out our comprehensive puppy guide: The Vet’s Puppy Guide: Facts, Care, and Training Tips
How much water does a puppy need?
Puppies need to drink plenty of water to maintain their fluids, regulate their temperature, and flush out harmful toxins.
In Australia's hot climate, it is absolutely essential that your puppy always has constant access to clean drinking water at all times, not just during the day, to avoid dehydration.
Should puppies be given treats?
Puppy treats are great as occasional rewards for good behaviour, training, or to help with grooming and nail clipping. At around eight weeks, you can start introducing treats to your puppy. Try to find treats with very few ingredients to avoid tummy upsets.
What about human food?
Giving puppies the odd bit of human food as a treat can be risky — even healthy food. These foods can cause an imbalance of nutrition, and some can even be harmful, so it's best to avoid feeding your pup human food entirely.
Browse our vet-recommended puppy treats
OraVet Dental Chews for Small Dogs
OraVet Dental Hygiene Chews for Small Dogs (Weighing between 4.5-11kg) contain a special ingredient, delmopinol, which forms a preventative barrier that blocks bacteria. This in turn slows the formation of plaque and calculus (tartar) that builds up on your dog’s teeth over time.
Given once a day, these tasty chews work to clean your dog’s teeth, freshen breath and provide ongoing protection.
Greenies Original Treat Pack Regular (12 treats)
One Greenies™ Dental Chew a day helps clean your dog’s teeth by using their natural chewing action to wipe away plaque and tartar buildup from the surface of the teeth. The chewy and flexible texture allows teeth to sink in with every bite all the way to the gums for more effective cleaning. Greenies bear The Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) Seal of Acceptance for plaque and tartar control.
The highly soluble ingredients in Greenies help the chews to break down quickly for easy digestion. And most importantly, dogs love the taste!
- Cleans Teeth & Maintains Healthy Gums: With a unique chewy texture for a sparkle in every smile.
- Fights Plaque & Tartar - with Veterinary Health Council (VOHC) Acceptance when fed daily, scientifically proven to reduce build up.
- Freshens Breath with Natural Spearmint makes mouths happy day after day, with powerful breath freshening ingredients.
- Natural Ingredients Plus Vitamins, Minerals & Nutrients
- Easy to Digest: Highly soluble ingredients
- Delicious & Nutritious: Balanced recipe for healthy treating
- Complete & Balanced Nutrition: Formulated to meet the nutritional levels established by the AAFCO Dog Food Nutrient Profiles for adult dog maintenance.
- Vet Recommended: For dental care
Hill's Prescription Diet Metabolic Weight Dog Treats 340g Bag
Hill's Prescription Diet Metabolic Canine Treats are tasty, healthy and rewarding treats for adult dogs to support healthy weight loss and weight maintenance. Prescription Diet Metabolic Canine Treats are a great complement for dogs being fed Prescription Diet c/d Multicare, c/d Multicare + Metabolic Weight, j/d, Metabolic, Metabolic Weight + j/d, r/d, or w/d Multi-Benefit dog food. They are also appropriate for all healthy adult and senior dogs or dogs being fed Science Diet Adult Perfect Weight or Science Diet Adult Light dog food.
Your dog will love these tasty crunchy bone-shaped biscuits which are moderate in calories, protein and phosphorus, low in sodium and have increased fibre. They are designed to complement many Prescription Diet foods and, when fed as directed, can help support healthy weight loss and maintenance.
These treats are also formulated to be compatible and complementary with Prescription Diet products that have the S+OXSHIELD.
- Created with wholesome ingredients with moderate fat & increased fibre to help support a healthy weight
- Easily digestible to be gentle for sensitive stomachs
- Delicious treats for pets enjoying Prescription Diet c/d Multicare, c/d Multicare + Metabolic Weight, j/d, Metabolic, Metabolic Weight + j/d, r/d, or w/d Multi-Benefit dog food.
- #1 US Vet Recommended therapeutic pet food
- Consult with your veterinarian to make sure Prescription Diet Metabolic Dog Treats are right for your dog
Do puppies need food supplements?
A puppy fed a healthy, balanced, vet-approved diet should get everything they need from food. But puppy supplements are occasionally required as a nutrient boost, to make up for a poor start, or to aid in digestive issues.
When introduced to a new environment, puppies can often suffer from digestion issues, leading to diarrhoea and other health problems. We highly recommend probiotic supplements for puppies, as introducing healthy bacteria to the gut can help solve digestion-related issues. As always, consult your vet before introducing new supplements into their diets.
Browse our vet-recommended probiotics
Synbiotic D-C Probiotic & Prebiotic Capsules For Dogs & Cats
Synbiotic D-C Probiotic & Prebiotic Capsules For Dogs & Cats is a daily capsule containing high-level probiotics and prebiotics.
Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that can help to re-establish the normal microbiota. They are particularly effective when delivered together with a prebiotic, a source of nutrition that stimulates growth.
Synbiotic D-C is available in packs of 50 capsules.
Pro-Kolin + Probiotic Paste for Dogs and Cats
Pro-Kolin+ is a probiotic paste for digestive support, and is the UK's leading companion animal probiotic, used to support gastrointestinal function.
A natural ‘friendly’ bacterium, Enterococcus faecium, which helps to keep the level of beneficial bacteria high and exclude pathogenic species.
A prebiotic, consisting of fructo-oligosaccharide (FOS) and acacia (Gum arabic), which helps to feed and stimulate the growth of beneficial bacteria.
A natural binding agent which helps to firm up the faeces.
To help soothe the gut lining.
Artificial beef flavouring
To improve palatability and compliance.
ProN8ure (Protexin) Probiotic Powder
- A blend of live viable microbes which benefits the host animal by improving the intestinal microbial balance.
- ProN8ure® helps maintain a balanced digestive system, thus optimising digestion of feed and enhancing your animals' health, naturally.
- These microbes are safe non-toxic and residue free.
- ProN8ure® may be used during periods of stress
- Compatible with feed ingredients including anthelmintics, coccidiostats, minerals and vitamins, and some antibiotics.
- Improved growth in farm animals
- Improved utilisation of food
- Reduced intestinal dysfunction, including treatment and control of scouring or diarrhoea and the exclusion or suppression of pathogens E.coli, Salmonella, and Aeromonas spp.
- Improved health by increasing resistance to infectious diseases, either by direct antagonism or by stimulating immunity
- Establishment/re-establishment of microflora, for immature animals or following antibiotic use.
Refer to label instructions for administration and dosage.
Withholding Periods: Nil.
Where to feed your puppy
Choose a quiet place where your puppy can eat peacefully and at their own pace.
We recommend that your puppy's food be given on a hard floor surface or that a wipeable mat is used so it is easier to clean. And be sure to keep food bowls clean and ant-free.
For a fun game and to help exercise their brains, you can try scatter feeding your puppy. Scatter feeding involves sprinkling dry food on the lawn so they can sniff it out and find it. If you have a particularly hungry puppy, you can use a slow feeder bowl to help regulate their eating and slow them down at meal time.
What not to give your puppy
A dog's metabolism is very different to a human's, and feeding human food to a puppy can be dangerous –– even fatal.
Here's our informative list of foods that can be fatal to dogs:
Why is it dangerous?
Contains a substance known as persin, which is harmless to humans but can be highly toxic to dogs.
Ingesting caffeine can lead to irregular heartbeats or respiratory failure in dogs. Coffee, tea, and other sources of caffeine should be kept away from dogs.
Grapes & Raisins
Even ingesting tiny quantities of these can trigger severe, potentially fatal kidney failure in dogs.
|Cherries pose a risk to dogs mainly due to the cyanide in their pits, leaves, and stems.
|Alcohol exposure can quickly harm dogs, causing symptoms from lethargy to death, even in small amounts or through accidental ingestion.
|Consuming chocolate can lead to a range of health issues in dogs and may even be fatal, with dark chocolate posing a greater toxicity risk.
Puppies and other young pets are vulnerable and count on us to keep them safe. As part of caring for them, giving them a balanced diet and monitoring their coat health, stools, and energy levels will ensure they grow into healthy, thriving adults.
With efficient planning, the right food and helpful advice from your family vet, you can be sure you're giving your puppy the best start to a long and happy life.