What Foods Puppies Can and Cannot Eat
Getting a new puppy can be very exciting. A puppy can bring a tremendous amount of happiness to a person
or to an entire family. And, it’s very important to new puppy owners to provide their newest family members
with a warm, happy, and safe home environment which includes providing a new puppy with healthy meals.
For those that are not familiar with how to feed puppies, this can be a bit of a challenge. Below are some
guidelines that can be followed to make feeding a new puppy less complicated.
Newborn to 6 weeks
If possible, puppies should remain with their mothers during infancy. The mother’s milk provides puppies
with the nutrition they need and nursing mothers deliver the milk in the proper amount for their pups.
However, if you find yourself caring for an orphaned newborn puppy, you will have to feed the puppy by
syringe or bottle with a canine milk replacement product for the first 4 weeks or so. Milk from cows or cow
milk products and substitutes can cause digestive problems such as diarrhea for puppies and dogs. This
makes the use of a canine milk replacement instead of cow’s milk or other types of milk replacement
products very important when feeding a puppy. If faced with feeding a puppy this young, consulting with a
veterinarian for guidance in how to feed a newborn puppy is recommended.
After a puppy is about 4 weeks old
After a puppy is about 4 weeks old, it can be transitioned from nursing (whether nursing with the mother or
by human hand with the syringe/bottle feeding methods) to some form of solid food that’s specifically
prepared for puppies. Commercial puppy foods are a great option as they are formulated to meet the needs of
a growing puppy. Puppies require more protein, fat, certain minerals, and calories in general than adult dogs
to support their rapid growth and development.
The food should be very soft.
You can purchase soft puppy food or dry puppy food which can be soaked with a little water or with a canine milk replacement product until it’s soft. The amount of water or milk replacement product can be gradually decreased over a couple of weeks until the puppy begins to eat completely dry food (usually by the time the puppy is 7 or 8 weeks old).
As mentioned previously, consulting a veterinarian is advisable throughout this process and they will be able
to help you monitor the puppy’s weight and provide recommendations on the exact amount of food the
puppy should be eating.
6 Weeks – 3 Months
This is the timeframe that most puppies leave their mother. It is much less complicated at this age to feed a
puppy. As mentioned previously, commercially produced puppy food is a great option to ensure a puppy’s
nutritional and developmental needs are being met. Feeding a puppy the food that has been produced for
adult dogs will not provide the puppy with all of the protein, nutrients, etc. that it needs for normal
Before bringing your new puppy home
Before bringing your new puppy home you should ask what type of food the puppy is accustomed to eating.
Offering this same type of food in your puppy’s new home may help reduce the amount of stress the puppy
will feel when moving to a new home. Sudden changes in a puppy’s diet can also cause digestive problems
such as diarrhea. If you feel strongly about changing to a new type of food, consider starting with a 50/50
combination of the food the puppy has been eating with your preferred type of puppy food to ease the
To encourage good routine eating habits, it’s recommended that you feed a puppy at regular intervals 3 to 4
times per day leaving the food out for 10 to 20 minutes each time. If you haven’t already consulted with a
veterinarian, this is a good time to begin to establish that relationship as, again, a veterinarian can be very
helpful in monitoring the ongoing health and weight of your puppy and recommend adjustments, if needed,
in your feeding routine.
3 to 6 Months
Puppy food is still recommended through this period of your puppy’s growth but the number of feedings per
a day can be reduced to 2 or 3, depending on the puppy’s size.
6 to 12 Months
This is usually the period of time that spaying or neutering procedures occur which lowers a puppy’s energy
needs. It’s recommended that during this period of time and after this procedure is performed that you
should switch from the commercially produced puppy food to an adult dog food formula. If you’re not sure
your puppy is ready for this switch in food types, again, consult with your veterinarian, but it’s better for the
puppy to remain on puppy food a little too long than not long enough. Feedings can be reduced to 2 feedings
After your dog is one year old, many owners begin reducing feedings to two half-portion feedings per day.
Once again, your veterinarian will help you monitor your dog’s ongoing weight and needs.
People Food that is Unsafe or Puppies and Adult Dogs
If you prefer to feed your puppy homemade food, it’s very important to know that there are many foods that
people eat that dogs cannot.
Raw Meat and Fish
Raw meat and fish may contain bacteria that can cause food poisoning. And, some fish (such as salmon,
trout, or sturgeon) can also contain parasites that can cause other diseases. Meat and fish should be fully
cooked to kill bacteria and parasites.
Although it seems like giving dogs bones is something that’s considered common, bones can splinter and
block or injure a dog’s digestive system. Instead of giving your puppy or dog bones, pick up one or more of
the many commercially produced chew toys that are available and safe for dogs.
The chemical contained in chocolate that is toxic to dogs is theobromine. People can easily digest and absorb
this chemical, however, a dog’s system cannot. This chemical breaks down much more slowly in dogs which
can result in a buildup in their system to a toxic level which can produce some relatively mild symptoms
such as vomiting and diarrhea or much more serious problems including muscle tremors, seizures, internal
bleeding, or even a heart attack which can be fatal. This chemical is in all kinds of chocolate but the most
dangerous types are dark chocolate and unsweetened baking chocolate.
Coffee, Tea, and Other Products Containing Caffeine
Consuming caffeine can be fatal to dogs and is contained in many products other than coffee and tea such as
cocoa, chocolate, caffeinated energy drinks, and even in some cold medicines. If you believe there is a
possibility that your dog has consumed caffeine, it’s important to take your dog to a veterinarian as soon as
Grapes and Raisins
If a dog consumes even a small amount of grapes or raisins this can make the dog sick and, consumed in
larger quantities or left unattended can cause kidney failure.
Although a few types of unsalted (note that dogs should not eat much salt) nuts may be ok for dogs to
consume (i.e., peanuts, chestnuts), most nuts can cause some problems for dogs. Macadamia nuts, however,
are actually poisonous for dogs and can make them seriously ill. Symptoms of poisoning from macadamia
nuts can include muscle tremors, vomiting, and fever.
Avocados contain a toxin called persin which although harmless to humans can cause a dog to become seriously ill. The toxin can cause vomiting and diarrhea in dogs and if the dog consumes the avocado seed, the seed can become stuck in the dog’s intestines or stomach causing a fatal obstruction. If you are growing avocados at home, you should keep your dog away from these plants.
Onions and Garlic
Although these are two of the most popular food seasonings for humans, these plants in any form (raw,
cooked, or powdered) can kill red blood cells in dogs resulting in anemia. It’s important to be aware that a lot
of popular recipes contain these items and remember not to share these with your dog.
Regardless of how careful you are in watching what your puppy eats, if your puppy eats something that you
know is toxic, call your veterinarian or the closest emergency clinic for help right away.
People Food that is Safe For Dogs:
Lean Cuts of Meat
The meat should be cooked well and trimmed of any excess fat, including the skin on poultry. And, all bones
in the meat should be removed.
Fresh fruit such as apples, oranges, and bananas are good treats for dogs however, make sure that all seeds,
stems and leaves are removed because these can cause serious digestive problems for a dog
Cut up carrots, green beans, cucumbers, and zucchini
Rice and Pasta
Cooked plain white rice or pasta
Fetch by WebMD; Caring for a Newborn Puppy
American Kennel Club; https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/health/puppy-feeding-fundamentals/
Fetch by WebMD: https://pets.webmd.com/dogs/ss/slideshow-foods-your-dog-should-never-eat