How many cups of food should my puppy eat?

Determining the right amount of food to feed your puppy can be confusing. Every puppy is different and their calorie needs change as they grow. Things like age, breed, activity level and individual metabolism all factor into the ideal daily food intake. While there are general feeding guidelines to follow, observing your puppy’s body condition and energy levels is the best way to fine tune their diet. With some tips and tricks, you’ll be able to correctly portion your puppy’s meals for healthy growth and development.

The basics of puppy feeding

Puppies require more calories and nutrients than adult dogs because they are growing rapidly. The first 6 – 24 months of a puppy’s life are spent developing into an adult dog. During this time, it’s important to feed them a high quality puppy formula food designed to support muscle and bone growth. Dry kibble is the most convenient food for puppies. Canned wet food can be fed too but isn’t necessary. Homemade food may lack certain vitamins and minerals vital for puppies unless properly balanced.

Feeding guidelines on dog food bags give a starting point based on a puppy’s expected adult weight. This helps you choose an age appropriate food. For example, a bag for medium breed puppies would give different amounts for a puppy that will weigh 30 lbs as an adult vs 60 lbs. However, these are just general estimates. The actual ideal amount depends on the individual puppy and may be more or less.

Puppies under 3 months old should be fed 3 – 4 times per day. From 3 to 6 months old, they can switch to 2 daily meals. After 6 months, most puppies do well with just 1 feeding per day. For toy and small breeds under 20 lbs, consider staying with 2 meals per day even into adulthood. Divide the total daily food amount into the number of meals.

Factors that affect puppy food intake

Here are some of the key factors that determine how much food your puppy needs each day:


Younger puppies need more calories than older puppies because their growth rate is higher. As your puppy ages, their food consumption will gradually decrease.

Size and breed

Larger breeds and puppies that will be over 50 lbs as adults need more food than smaller puppies. Giant breed puppies have slightly different nutritional needs for proper bone growth.

Activity level

Puppies that get more vigorous exercise each day or are highly active will need more food than those with lower activity levels. Puppies confined to smaller areas with little activity usually require less.


Any health issues that increase metabolism like chronic parasite infections, diseases affecting nutrient absorption, or recovering from an illness can mean your puppy needs more calories. Always follow your vet’s feeding advice if your puppy has special needs.

Quality of diet

High quality puppy foods with optimum protein and fat levels will be more nutrient dense than lower quality options. This means you can feed less quantity while still meeting nutritional requirements. Check labels for quality ingredients.

Individual differences

Like people, puppies vary in their metabolisms meaning some are very efficient at utilizing calories while others need more food for the same results. You may find you need to adjust amounts up or down from guidelines to suit your puppy.

How to determine the right amount

Start by looking at the feeding table on your puppy food package. Choose the properamount based on your puppy’s age and expected adult weight. Weigh out this quantity for several days and pay attention to your puppy’s body condition.

You want your puppy to maintain a lean, fit figure without excessive weight gain. Being overweight can stress developing joints and organs. But insufficient calories will cause them to become too thin which also isn’t healthy. Use these guidelines:

Your puppy should have:

  • Ribs faintly felt with light pressure, but not visibly protruding
  • Tuck at waist behind ribs when viewed from above
  • Abdomen tucked up when viewed from side, not bulging or sagging
  • Good energy and bright, alert attitude

If your puppy becomes:

  • Overweight – Ribs difficult to feel, heavy fat deposits, lethargic
  • Underweight – Ribs clearly visible, little body fat, acting tired or weak

Then you’ll need to adjust food amounts up or down. Make changes in increments of 1/4 cup at a time. Continue assessing body condition for a week or more after each adjustment.

Typical puppy food intake guidelines

Use these general daily recommendations only as a starting point. Adjust as needed based on your individual puppy.

Puppy’s Weight at 14-16 Weeks Old Daily Feeding Amount
2 – 3 lbs 1/2 – 3/4 cup
4 – 6 lbs 3/4 – 1 cup
7 – 9 lbs 1 – 1 1/4 cups
10 – 12 lbs 1 1/4 – 1 1/2 cups
13 – 15 lbs 1 1/2 – 2 cups
16 – 22 lbs 1 3/4 – 2 1/4 cups
23 – 28 lbs 2 1/4 – 2 3/4 cups
29 – 40 lbs 2 3/4 – 3 1/2 cups

Source: The Merck Veterinary Manual

Puppies 5 months and older

Between 5 and 12 months old, most puppies can transition to eating adult dog food. Choose an all life stages formula without restricted calcium and phosphorus levels. Large and giant breed puppies may benefit from staying on puppy food longer, even up to 14-24 months to support a slower growth rate.

At this stage, continue weighing and assessing your puppy’s figure weekly. Their growth rate and calorie needs will be decreasing. Adjust food amounts down incrementally as needed to keep your puppy trim and fit.

Once your puppy reaches 80% of their adult weight, you can switch to maintaining their ideal condition. Weigh out the amount needed daily to keep them in proper body condition. Weigh your puppy weekly and make changes of 1/4 cup per day if they gain or lose weight.

Puppy feeding tips

Follow these tips to make feeding your puppy simpler:

  • Weigh puppy and food amounts for accuracy
  • Use proper puppy protein sources like chicken, lamb, fish
  • Purchase same brand and formula for consistency
  • Divide daily total into multiple meals as needed
  • Keep fresh water available at all times
  • Avoid overfeeding treats and people food
  • Exercise puppy daily as energy allows
  • Transition foods slowly if needing to change
  • Be patient – adjusting amounts takes trial and error

Common questions

How often should I adjust my puppy’s food intake?

Weigh and assess body condition at least weekly. Adjust amounts every 1-2 weeks if puppy becomes over or under weight. More frequent adjustments may be needed from 2-4 months as growth is very rapid.

Is it ok to free feed my puppy?

Free feeding allows your puppy to eat at will from a constantly available food bowl. This works best for some puppies but can lead to overeating in others. It also makes it harder to monitor how much your puppy eats. Meal feeding allows for better control of food intake.

Should I give puppy vitamins or supplements?

Healthy puppies fed a complete and balanced commercial diet typically don’t need additional supplements. Specific supplements may be recommended by your vet for certain medical conditions. Avoid giving supplements without your vet’s advice.

What is the best puppy food brand?

There are many reputable brands that produce quality puppy foods. Look for products labeled as complete nutrition with an AAFCO statement. Focus less on brand and more on the label’s listed ingredients. Prioritize quality protein sources like chicken, lamb and fish. Avoid fillers like corn, wheat and soy.


Determining the optimal food intake for your puppy takes some trial and error. Start with feeding guidelines then adjust up or down as needed based on your puppy’s age, breed, body condition and health. Weighing portions and monitoring their figure weekly can help make sure your puppy gets the perfect amount of calories to support their growth and development.

Leave a Comment