Does it always seem that you are getting food for your puppy? Do they appear to have a ravenous appetite that you just cannot seem to satisfy? Here’s why you may feel like you’re constantly feeding your puppy, and how to best respond to keep both you and your puppy happy!
So, why does my puppy always seem hungry? Puppies appear hungry because they likely are; they are growing and require a lot of nutrition. Most of the time, puppies simply need more daily calories than older dogs, so they eat more. However, some puppies can develop an obsession with food, or they’ve picked up bad habits through eating human food.
Puppies have a lot of growing to do. And that growth requires nutrition.
That being said, what they eat is of equal importance to how much they eat. If not more important.
And it’s essential to distinguish between a physical need for food, or a behavioral one.
Some dogs develop a habit of eating, and that’s not generally good.
Certain breeds are even renowned for a tendency to get into bad habits.
My former Chocolate Labrador was a case in point; we just couldn’t keep her mind off of food. And this extended from puppyhood all the way into adulthood.
She just was always on the lookout for food!
So, do consider that. It may be a trait of your breed.
Nevertheless, let us now explore the common causes of hunger in puppies and what you can, and perhaps should, do about it!
Why Does My Puppy Constantly Want Food?
A puppy could appear to constantly want food for a multitude of reasons. It could be due to abrupt change, an instinctual desire, out of trauma, bad habits, or even a medical issue.
Let us now explore these reasons why puppies seem to constantly want food.
They’re Adapting To A New Environment
Your puppy is having to deal with a lot of changes when he first enters your home, including his feeding schedule. When he was with his mother, he was able to feed constantly.
Suddenly your puppy finds himself far away from everything he’s ever known, and he won’t know that he’ll still get regular meals.
He won’t be used to having to wait to be fed. Your puppy may think that each meal is his last one of the day, so he might inhale his food quickly and ask immediately for more.
They’re Following Their Instincts
Puppies have inbred instincts that they follow: one of these is to feed well while food is available.
Wild dogs follow a feast-or-famine principle – they don’t know when they’ll get food again, so they fill up as much as possible when food is available.
Your puppy will be excited before each meal because he won’t know when he’ll get more. You can help him become more relaxed around food through training (see below).
Try not to get angry with your puppy if you find him investigating the trash immediately after a meal. He’s just following his instincts to secure food while he can.
They’re Recovering From Past Experiences
Some puppies who have been strays or have spent time in animal shelters may not have had enough food. These puppies (as well as older dogs) will often stuff themselves when food is available.
Past experiences of partial starvation will teach a puppy that he needs to eat a lot in order to survive.
For these puppies, it might take longer to help them overcome overeating, but you can do it by sticking to your feeding schedule. Your puppy will eventually begin to feel safe, and he will no longer feel the need to overeat.
They’ve Picked Up Bad Habits
Some people can’t resist a puppy’s pleading stare, and so they give in and feed the puppy more than they should. If this is you, you’re not alone!
Your puppy will soon learn how to get you to do whatever he wants (much like small children).
If you give in to begging, your pup will know his method works, and he’ll employ it again and again.
They Have A Medical Issue
It could be that your puppy has a medical issue affecting his appetite.
You can resolve this in several ways, but you will need a visit to the vet (see below).
How Do I Know If I’m Feeding My Puppy Enough?
There are several ways to tell if you’re providing enough food for your puppy.
Get Veterinary Guidance
Your vet should tell you if your puppy is putting on enough weight – or too much – and the best food quantities for your pup.
Check Your Puppy’s Body Shape
An easy way to check that your puppy is on the right track with his weight is to look at his body shape.
You must be able to feel his ribs – but not see them. You should also be able to see his waist when you look down at him.
Bags of dog food should have good guidelines for the quantity, which you can adjust according to your dog’s body condition.
Follow Nutrition Labels
Most brands of puppy foods will actively display on the packaging how much you should be feeding.
This will differ depending on the age of your puppy, their size, activity levels, breed, etc.
But it can be a good starting guide that takes into account the nutrition of the food.
Know How Often To Feed Your Puppy
Puppies won’t always need multiple meals a day as they grow:
- From eight to twelve weeks of age, most puppies will be eating four times per day. If your puppy is a large breed pup, he can have dry food by nine to ten weeks. Small breed pups can have dry food at twelve to thirteen weeks.
- From three to six months of age, reduce feeding from four to three times a day.
- Once your puppy is six months old, it’s a good idea to reduce his number of meals to two per day. You’ll also want to feed him slightly less than before, so check the guidelines on the label of his food.
- When puppies are between six and twelve months of age, they will typically be spayed or neutered, which means they won’t have the same energy requirements.
Note: While the advice above is suitable for most dogs, tiny breeds such as Chihuahuas are prone to low blood sugar (hypoglycemia). These dogs need to always have food available to munch on.
Should I Let My Puppy Eat As Much As He Wants?
It’s best not to let your puppy eat as much as he wants, as he can easily develop a food obsession or even health problems.
Here’s what you can do instead.
Give Your Puppy A Feeding Schedule
All aspects of training are crucial during your puppy’s first days in your home. In addition to crate training, potty training, and socialization, you can help your puppy adjust by giving him a feeding schedule.
Just like any other routine activity, a feeding schedule will help your puppy build confidence. He will be able to anticipate when he’ll be fed, and he will usually be calmer as a result.
Remove Temptation At The Dinner Table
If you have a puppy who often tries begging as a way to get more food, you may have to move him to a separate room while you eat.
You may have to do this for a while, especially if you’ve given in to your pup’s begging in the past.
Over time, though, your puppy will learn that begging no longer works. You might then be able to let him stay in the room with you at mealtimes.
Rule Out Medical Issues
If your puppy is well-trained and you still feel he’s eating more than he should, he may have a medical problem. Here are some possible conditions that can cause extra-hungry puppies.
Cushing’s disease (or hyperadrenocorticism) can cause your puppy’s appetite to increase. His body will produce too much of the hormone that helps manage stress (glucocorticoid).
It’s crucial to know the signs of Cushing’s disease so that you can get early treatment for your pup. Contact your local vet immediately if you notice any of the following, in addition to your pup’s increased appetite:
- Hair loss
- Excessive drinking
- Frequent urination
- Swollen abdomen
- Weak muscles
- Thinner skin
Your vet will certainly be able to diagnose this disease and prescribe an appropriate treatment plan.
Parasites such as worms are common in puppies. Some pups are even born with worms because of an infection in their mother’s womb.
Parasites will feed off of your puppy’s body by clinging onto the walls of his intestines and siphoning off valuable nutrients. Your puppy’s appetite will increase in a desire to get the nutrition he needs.
Your vet can determine if worms are present by taking a stool test. Fortunately, worms are simple to treat, and there are no long-lasting side effects.
If your puppy has diabetes, his cells will think they aren’t getting enough nutrition since his blood is carrying too much glucose.
Diabetes is a serious condition that requires care, but your vet will be able to help you manage this for your puppy.
How Much Should You Feed Your Puppy?
Puppies will eat between two to four times as much food as an adult dog when they are this young!
A Simple Rule of Thumb
Growing puppies need lots of nutrition, and you can check if your puppy is getting the right amount of food using a simple rule of thumb:
In his first week of life, your puppy’s weight should double. After that, every day he should gain one to two grams per pound of his expected weight as an adult.
For example, if your puppy is expected to weigh 75 pounds as an adult dog, he should put on three to five ounces of weight a day.
Quantities of Food
In terms of quantities of food, this depends on the age and weight of your puppy. The best way to get the right amount for your puppy is to check the label on your puppy’s food bag or check with your vet.
You can find charts online with suggestions of how much to feed your puppy throughout his life, but bear in mind that each dog’s nutritional needs will be unique.
If your puppy has specific health needs, your vet is the best place to start for fine-tuning your puppy’s requirements.
Puppies like to eat. Even if it’s strange and outright disgusting things like cat poop!
Now assuming it’s the right kind of ‘foods’, it isn’t any real surprise when you consider how much growing they need to do.
That being said it’s essential to know how much your puppy should be eating, rather than making an educated guess.
Liaising with a vet, observing feedback directly from your puppy, or even checking food packaging labels for guidance are some of the best ways to get an accurate understanding.
Just consider that appetite and requirements can differ between puppies. Even of the same breed and litter.
What is right for your puppy may not be right for another.
Have other questions about your puppy’s eating? Well, my following guides may be of help:
- Why Does My Puppy Eat Mud?
- Why Does My Puppy Eat Sticks?
- Why Does My Puppy Eat Cat Poop?
- Why Does My Puppy Eat Stones?
- Why Does My Puppy Eat Leaves?
- Why Does My Puppy Not Eat In The Morning?
- How Long After a Puppy Eats Do They Poop
I am a practiced pet owner with decades of experience owning a number of different pets. I am also the main writer and chief editor here at Pet Educate; a site I created to share everything I’ve learned about pet ownership over the years and my extensive research along the way.