How Often Should I Feed My Dog?

Can dogs eat it

The Can Dogs Eat It Team

How Often Should I Feed My Dog?
Reading Time: 6 minutes

joana garridoReviewed By Joana Garrido DVM

Every dog has unique dietary needs. Thus there are no stringent rules when it comes to how often they should eat.

However, it is still worth taking the time to tailor a feeding schedule for Fido since mealtimes are a fundamental part of his daily routine.

Keep reading to know simple yet important guidelines on the suitable feeding frequency of dogs based on their age, size, and activity levels.

How Often Should I Feed My Puppy?

The stomachs of young puppies can only hold a small volume of food because of their small size. As pups grow bigger, their digestive tracts’ capacity to hold food gradually increases.

Thus, the general guideline is to divide young puppies’ food into many small meals per day for easier digestibility and to avoid hypoglycemia. When they are nearing adulthood, their feeding frequency can be slightly decreased.

Let us go into more specifics on the breakdown of puppies’ mealtimes as they slowly develop into young dogs.

Puppies Ages 6 to 12 Weeks (1 to 3 Months)

A young puppy is eating

Around this age, puppies are in the process of weaning off from their mother’s milk and slowly transitioning to eating solid food.

When they are around 4 to 6 weeks old, they can be fed softened food made up of puppy food, milk, and water. Once they reach over 9 weeks old, they are more capable of digesting more solid food.

Keep in mind that miniature and small breed pups may quickly develop hypoglycemia if they do not get enough meals in a day, which can be life-threatening.

Hence, they should be fed more frequently than other pups. Aim to provide them with 4 to 5 portioned meals a day. On the other hand, feed medium- and large-breed puppies 3 to 4 times a day.

Regardless of your puppy’s size, divide his meals evenly for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Offer him food every 6 to 8 hours.

Puppies Ages 12 to 16 Weeks (3 to 4 Months)

A Puppy with Food Next to It

By this time, puppies have a larger stomach, allowing them to hold more food during their meals. So begin to decrease their feeding frequency gradually.

Miniature and small breed pups do well with 3 to 4 meals per day. Give medium and large breed pups 2 to 3 portions of food daily.

Puppies of this age are able to digest more food during morning meals. So we recommend feeding them larger food portions for breakfast and reducing the amount of food during lunchtime.

Dinner should provide the same food quantity as breakfast. This will make it easier for pawrents to reduce their pup’s feeding frequency to 2 times a day later on.

Puppies Ages 16 Weeks and Over (4 Months+)

A woman feeding a young puppy

When medium- and large-breed puppies reach 4 months old, they can slowly transition to eating only 2 meals a day.

Do this by gradually reducing the amount of lunch they eat until skipping lunchtime is successfully achieved. The food portions of their breakfast and dinner must be split evenly.

As for miniature and small-breed pups, feed them 3 times each day to ensure they are well-satiated and prevent hypoglycemia from occurring.

How Often Should I Feed an Adult Dog?

Two dogs getting fed

Adult dogs should generally eat 2 times a day, ideally around 8- or 12-hour intervals.

However, pooches with high activity levels tend to need more calories in their meals to fuel their bodies.

For this reason, they require frequent feedings so that their food provides them with balanced energy throughout the day. Thus, active dogs must be given up to 4 meals daily.

In comparison, sedentary canines do not need a reduction in feeding frequency. But they may need to eat less amount of food to keep them from gaining excessive weight and developing obesity.

How Often Should I Feed a Senior Dog?

A senior dog getting fed

Feed senior dogs as often as you would feed an adult dog. They should be provided at least 2 meals a day every 8 to 12 hours.

Old age causes the body processes of dogs to slow down, including their metabolism. As a result, elderly canines will eventually develop lower energy levels, which makes them susceptible to several ailments like obesity and muscle wasting.

Thus, rather than feeding frequency, dog owners need to focus more on choosing a high-quality dog food that checks off all of their nutritional needs.

Is It Okay to Free-Feed My Dog?

a spaniel is eating

No, we do not recommend free-feeding your dog. Free feeding means filling his food bowl with food and allowing him to eat at any time of the day.

It encourages your canine companion to learn undesirable behaviors such as food begging and also increases his risk of developing health conditions like obesity and dog bloat.

Dogs are creatures of habit. Thus, it is wise to create and adhere to a consistent feeding schedule. It provides structure to their life and helps them adapt whenever they encounter changes in their environment.

For instance, puppies tend to go potty around 10 to 15 minutes after mealtimes. By giving them meals at a consistent time, potty training becomes an easier task for pups as well as their owners.

Sticking to a regular feeding schedule helps pawrents notice early signs of illness in dogs. If Fido is eating less than he should, it could indicate that he has an underlying illness that requires medical attention.

Setting and following a strict feeding schedule might require more effort from you compared to free feeding. But it aids in improving different aspects of your furry pal’s life in the long run, which makes it worth it.

FAQs About Feeding Frequency of Dogs

1. Is It Okay to Feed a Dog Once a Day?

More research is needed to determine if feeding a dog once a day will not harm them.

A study shows that canines given only once-a-day feedings exhibited lower cognitive dysfunction and were less likely to develop various health problems.

However, this research is yet to be peer-reviewed and must be taken with a grain of salt. So we advise sticking to a feeding schedule fit for your dog’s age, size, and energy levels.

2. Should I Take My Dog’s Food Away If He Doesn’t Eat It?

Yes, take your dog’s food away if he doesn’t eat it, ideally within 10 to 15 minutes. While this might seem cruel, you are not doing it as some form of punishment.

This is done to prevent him from grazing on his food throughout the day, which will ruin his appetite for his next mealtime.

Make sure to store his uneaten food in an airtight container and place it in the fridge to keep it from going stale. It should be served during his next meal to avoid spoilage.

3. How Long Can a Dog Go Without Eating?

Dogs can go without eating for 3 to 5 days provided that they regularly drink water.

If your dog refuses to consume his meals, his lack of appetite might be brought on by an illness. Bring him to the veterinarian for a checkup if he has not eaten for over 24 hours.

4. How Do I Know If I’m Feeding My Dog Enough?

You will know if you are feeding your dog enough by checking his body condition score (BCS). This is a scale that helps identify if your dog’s weight is according to the ideal weight of his breed.

Generally, the ideal BCS for dogs is 4 to 5 on a 9-point scale or 3 on a 5-point scale. For accurate results, have a veterinarian assist you in doing this.


a dog is eating and drinking

The feeding frequency of dogs relies on several factors such as their age, size, and activity levels.

Once you are able to set a schedule that works for both you and your dog, it will make mealtimes a useful tool in helping build a reliable and comforting daily routine for your canine companion.

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