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When to Switch a Puppy to Two Meals a Day

Puppies need to eat more frequently than adult dogs, but at some point they need to switch to two meals a day from three or more. Here’s a guide to transitioning your puppy to an adult dog feeding schedule.

Adding a puppy to your family is a new and exciting time. It can be a whirlwind between the playtimes, the housebreaking, the naps and snuggles, and all the food. Sometimes it feels like all they do is eat!

This food revelation and the cost that goes with it make you wonder when to switch puppy to adult dog food. Not only that, but also when to switch your puppy to two meals a day.

Why You Should Feed Your Puppy Three Times a Day

When dogs are young, they are still trying to figure everything out. One of the things that they need to learn is how to digest their food correctly. Puppies, in general, tend to eat food very fast. Because of this, kibble has specific puppy blends that are smaller in size. The small size helps the puppy to swallow without choking.

Additionally, giving them smaller amounts throughout the day helps them not to overeat. By giving them larger quantities, they will often eat all of it quite quickly. Eating like this can cause them to have digestive trouble, including vomiting. 

For this reason, it is best to feed your puppy a minimum of three times per day. 

When Are the Best Times To Feed Your Puppy?

Often, pet owners have difficulty knowing when they should feed their puppies. Should they be on a schedule? Can they eat at different times each day? For this, experts often recommend having your puppy on a plan that they can adapt to.

Puppy Feeding Schedule

When a dog is young and in the stage of needing to eat three or more times per day, it is best to space the times out. Spacing them out allows them to have plenty of time for digestion in between feeding times.

As a pet owner, you will have to time feedings based on your schedule. For those that work outside the home, this can be a bit more tricky to maneuver. However, as an example schedule, many veterinarians recommended spacing them out as follows:

  • First thing in the morning
  • Mid-day
  • Evening (a least an hour before bed)

Puppy Feeding Tips

There are several things that owners can do to make their pets’ mealtimes go smoothly. It is worth remembering that puppies can get distracted easily, and you will need to accommodate that.

Eat When They Eat

Many pet owners have luck feeding their dogs while they eat. This routine not only keeps the dog from begging for food but lets them know that their meal is coming too as they see you prepare yours.

Create A Quiet Place

We recommend setting up a separate meal space for your pet, preferably in the kitchen and where it is quiet. Having this area lets your dog know where they can go for their meals and water. The calm atmosphere also allows them to concentrate on eating without distraction, helping their digestion.

Stick With The Same Foods

The digestive system of a dog is quite sensitive. When you routinely change foods, this can cause discomfort to your pet. Keeping them on the same type of food helps them to stay healthy and comfortable. 

Puppy Feeding and Exercise

As humans, we often walk off a large meal to aid our digestion and combat bloat. The exercise helps our comfort level and allows the food to move more quickly through our bodies. 

However, that isn’t the case for dogs. Exercising soon after eating can cause more discomfort for them than if they did nothing at all.

How Soon After Feeding Can I Take My Puppy Walking?

No matter the time of day, it is beneficial to wait at least one hour after your pet eats before taking them on a walk. Additionally, you should not feed your pet for at least 30 minutes after a walk. Therefore, if you wake up and immediately take your dog for a walk in the morning, it is wise to wait at least half an hour before giving them their first meal of the day.

It is also essential in the evening to feed your pet with plenty of time between their meal and bed. Allowing your dog at least an hour for food to digest before going outside and getting settled for the night is beneficial. 

When to Switch to Two Meals a Day

Finding the appropriate time frame to switch from three to two meals per day is best decided on in conjunction with your veterinarian. This conversation will include addressing things such as:

  1. Growth Patterns
  2. Behaviors
  3. Schedule
  4. Appetite
  5. Nutritional Needs

Typically, most veterinarians will advise you to reduce your puppy to two meals per day starting around four months. However, this can also happen at six months or a year, depending on your pet’s needs. 

How to Switch Puppies to Two Meals a Day

When taking your pet from three meals down to two, it is best to space them out accordingly. They have adjusted to their meal times at this point, so keeping two of the scheduled times and dropping the mid-day feeding is the easiest route to take. 

Considering the total amount of food your puppy needs each day, separate the amount into two equal servings. You can serve one-half to them at their first feeding and the rest in the evening. 

Remember to have an adequate amount of time after eating for digestion and bathroom breaks. 

How Much Should Puppies Eat Twice a Day?

The amount of food for your dog will depend on the brand and type of food you purchase. Each brand has a different ingredient make-up and will require specific amounts for your growing pet. 

Additionally, certain brand varieties cater to small breeds, giant breeds, puppies, and active dogs. In doing your research on the options available, you can find what food is best for them. Keep in mind that it is beneficial for puppies to have food specifically for them to avoid choking. This type can also aid digestion.

When Can I Switch From Puppy to Adult Food?

Taking this step will also depend on many the same circumstances as switching from three meals to two. Different breeds of dogs will be able to handle adult-sized kibble sooner than others. You will also need to take into consideration the maturity of your pet. If they are still eating their food rapidly, it is wise to continue with smaller-sized kibble until they grow out of that behavior. 

Moving to adult food too soon may cause your dog to choke or not entirely digest their food. However, puppy food is higher in calories than adult food, and remaining on it for too long can cause your pet to become overweight. Depending on the breed, some can move to adult food at nine months, whereas others need to wait until two years. 

Adult Dog Feeding Schedule

We generally recommend feeding an adult dog twice a day — morning and evening. While there are exceptions to the rule (for instance, some dogs do fine on one meal a day while others require three meals a day because their stomachs get empty quickly and cause stomach acid buildup and bilious vomiting), feeding a dog twice a day is the most common schedule.

One feeding habit we strongly urge you to avoid is “free feeding” — which is filling a dog’s bowl with food and letting them eat from it whenever they want throughout the day and night. This approach is troublesome for several reasons:

Why You Shouldn’t Free-Feed Your Dog

Feeding Schedule Dictates Bathroom Schedule

We want to establish bathroom routines with our dogs, and letting them eat freely throughout the day ruins our ability to do this. Dogs will usually eliminate at a consistent interval after eating and digesting. So, if you feed your dog at the same times each day, they will develop a regular schedule of bathroom breaks. If you free feed, you won’t be able to predict when they’ll need to do out to relieve themselves.

You Can’t Control Diet When There are Multiple Dogs in the Household

Putting bowls of food down and expecting more than one dog to only eat from “their” bowl throughout the day is, well, kind of crazy. Sure, it may be possible in isolated instances, but it’s not a realistic expectation for the vast majority of dogs. We want to be able to control what food and how much of it goes into each individual dog every day. This can’t be done with free feeding.

Hygiene

Leaving a meal out for up to 24 hours doesn’t sound too appetizing, does it? Exposure to air and pests like ants, etc. for that period of time does not bode well for the meal, as it may become stale, tainted, or infested.

Inability to Determine Dog’s Appetite

A common indication of illness in dogs is a loss of appetite. If you free feed your dog, you have no way of knowing if your dog has lost its appetite or is refusing to eat. By the time you do figure it out, you may have lost valuable time in diagnosis and treatment of your dog’s illness.

Convenience When Traveling or Boarding Your Dog

If your dog eats on their schedule and not on yours, it can become difficult to maintain that schedule while traveling. Say you are traveling with your dog in a car on a long distance road trip — when will you feed the dog? It will be very frustrating if you put out their food at a rest stop and they aren’t conditioned to eat it when presented. Dogs love routine and schedule, so give provide them with one!

Also, if you are boarding your dog or having a friend or family member take care of them while you are away, it’s much easier to have the dog fed a set amount of food at set times. It’s more convenient for the caregiver, and it helps you know that the dog is getting their correct diet while you are gone.

Which Is the Best Route?

There is a lot of conflicting advice out there regarding how many meals to feed a puppy or dog, when to switch a puppy to two meals a day, and when to switch from puppy food to adult dog food. With all of the different viewpoints, it can be challenging to choose the best route.

In the end, your dog and its specific needs and unique traits are what will dictate the correct path. There is no one ideal route for all dogs; each has different requirements. Therefore, talking with your vet and exploring all options will help you develop the best plan for your dog. 

Superb Dog Editor

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