Feeding a Puppy: Nutritional Requirements, Supplements and Tips!

Written by: Sarah Seward-Langdon

Reviewed by: Amanda Nascimento, DVM, MSc, Ph.D

Published on: 09/10/2022

As the mindful, loving pet parents you are, you want to do the absolute best for your puppy—we can relate! That’s why you’ve done your research about food made for puppies, supplements, and even size-specific meals.

However, general pet nutrition is a complicated topic in itself, and getting into the details of puppy nutrition is even more difficult to navigate! We believe it’s very important that owners understand general rules in relation to puppy diets, and learn some basics about the more “advanced” ideas (supplements, anyone?) for new puppy owners.

The first thing to know is that a puppy’s nutritional needs are very different from their grown counterparts. Since puppies are growing at a significant rate, their bodies need different nutrients than adult dogs who have already done a majority of their development. In fact, according to the National Research Council of the National Academies, a growing puppy needs about twice as many calories per pound of body weight compared to an adult dog [1].

Here’s what we’ll cover in this blog:

  • What a puppy’s needs are, and how their diets differentiate from adult dog diets
  • When and what to supplement with (this is where we’ll talk more specifically on omega-3’s)
  • Tips for feeding your puppy

What Nutritional Requirements Does a Growing Puppy Have?

A puppy’s nutritional requirements vary depending on your four-legged baby’s age and breed. As mentioned before, it’s important you don’t feed your puppy as if they were an adult dog and this is mainly because they require more energy (and therefore more food) to grow and develop properly. Here is a simple guideline about how many times a day to feed your puppy based on their age [2]:

  • 2 to 3 months old: 4 meals a day
  • 3 to 6 months old: 3 meals a day
  • 6 months to 1 year old (could be up to 2 years for larger breeds): 2 meals a day

It’s incredibly important to feed your puppy a diet that provides key nutrients. Although it’s good to give puppy-focused commercial kibble diets, appropriate nutrition for young dogs can also be achieved with home-prepared food or raw meals—just make sure that you consult with a board-certified veterinary nutritionist [2].

Remember, feeding them a well balanced, healthy diet right from the beginning will help set them up for long term success! Here are some of the most important components of your puppy’s diet:


A puppy needs the largest amount of protein right after being weaned, but this amount continues to decrease as they age [4]. According to AAFCO, puppies require around 22% protein (based on dry matter basis) in their diet; however, it’s important not to overdo it since excess protein can lead to serious medical conditions like osteoarthritis or obesity [3]. There are some puppies who have special needs (ex. Renal issues) that are not able to have a high protein diet, so these general guidelines apply if your puppy is healthy.


This nutrient is very important as it is a concentrated source of energy and provides essential fatty acids, but it is important not to have it in excess. The proper fat content is between 10 - 25% (dry matter basis) and if there’s more than this your puppy could suffer from obesity, developmental orthopedic disease, and many other diseases [4].


Although carbohydrates’ number one job is to supply energy, they also help generate heat, form the base for other nutrients, and some can even be converted into fat [5]. Again, since growing puppies have high-energy needs, they should be eating a diet with at least 20% carbohydrates (dry matter basis) [4].

Vitamins and Minerals

In the proper proportions, vitamins and minerals help build bones and keep them strong. Some important ones for your dog include Vitamin A, D, E, K, B-complex, calcium, and phosphorus [5].


The proper levels of calcium is essential for great teeth and bone health; however, it’s very important that it is fed in the right balance—too little or too much can lead to an imbalance in phosphorus-calcium levels. Calcium deficiencies can cause decreased growth, loose teeth, limping; while excessive levels can cause limb lameness or joint swelling [5]!


Many owners forget that moisture is a nutrient, and it’s absolutely vital. Providing fresh, clean water around the house for your puppy (and dog) is essential [2]. Want to give them even more moisture? Try adding water or bone broth to your puppy’s kibble!


Now it’s great to know about all these essential nutrients, but how do you actually make sure that your puppy is getting all of these and in the right proportions? A good starting point is finding foods that follow the American Association of Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) standards. Foods receive certification based on whether they meet the needs for puppies or adults, so find one that is “Complete & Balanced” for puppies [3].

Supplements for Puppies

Now what if you’re looking to go above and beyond, and really want to optimize your puppy’s diet? AAFCO’s standards can kickstart you; however, there are lots of ways that you can do even better for your puppy! This is where supplements come in—but remember to always supplement with the help of a trusted vet or pet nutritionist. Here’s a quick list of some supplements you should consider and ask about at your next appointment:

Essential Fatty Acid Supplements

We’re all about the importance of essential fatty acids (EFAs), both omega 3s and omega-6s! EFAs are great for puppies and adult dogs alike; in puppies, omega supplements promote great heart health for your puppy. The addition of EFAs can also help promote healthy skin and coat. Using essential fatty acid supplements are very popular among dog owners of higher energy dogs, as their heart can be put under a lot of stress [6]! If you’re not convinced yet, some studies have even shown that omega 3s aided a puppy’s learning abilities [7].

Looking for a great omega supplement? Smart Earth Camelina is a great solution for both puppies and adult dogs that need supplements of essential fatty acids. Learn more now!

Camelina Oil for Equine

✅ Single ingredient, 100% pure Camelina Oil.
✅ Non-GMO
✅ Ideal balance of Omega-3 compared to other products, like soybean oil.
✅ Canadian produced and operated.

Camelina Oil for Canine


✅ Single ingredient, 100% pure Camelina Oil.
✅ Non-GMO
✅ Ideal balance of Omega-3 compared to other products, like soybean oil.
✅ Canadian produced and operated.


It’s a commonly known fact that a good gut leads to better overall health (humans and dogs alike)! So, how do you make sure their digestive and immune systems are working well? Add in probiotics to their diet. Probiotics encourage proper digestion, boost the immune system, and provide a wide variety of healthy vitamins and minerals. This supplement is often not needed more than once a week or month, especially if your puppy is healthy. It can greatly benefit dogs (of any age) with digestive system issues. However, since it can also be an allergen, please check with your vet before adding it to your pup’s diet [6].

Joint and Hip Supplements

Joint and hip supplements are a more specific supplement—they’re usually only recommended to parents of large breeds. Although all dogs can be prone to joint and hip issues, they arise more commonly among large breeds. Because of this, vets usually recommend waiting to give smaller breeds these types of supplements until they’re 1 year old (since their bones are still forming). If you are an owner of a large breed dog, you can start giving them joint and hip supplements as young as 8 weeks of age. Remember that supplements can be used as more than a solution to a probel; they can also be a preventative measure: lubricating the joints, repairing cartilage, and strengthening the joints. If you’re unsure whether or not your breed of dog may benefit from early doses of joint and hip supplement, consult your vet [8].

» Learn more about the hip and joint benefits of Camelina Oil.

Tips for Feeding Your Puppy

  • Choose a puppy-specific brand of food, whether it is dry, wet or raw
  • Work with a vet or pet nutritionist to make sure you’re feeding correctly
  • Watch out for the weight—your new puppy may love table scraps, but watch out for overfeeding them
  • If you’re adding fresh food to your puppy’s bowls, remember to make sure it’s safe for doggy consumption
  • Add in moisture to your puppy’s dry food whenever possible (ex. Warm water, bone broth etc.)

There are lots of ways to feed your puppy, and each dog is unique. Whether your dog needs extra omega-3 supplements to pair with a specific base meal, or you’ve come to the educated conclusion they need a raw bone instead—it’s important to remember that each puppy is different and there are lots of “right” ways to feed a dog! We can tell that you’re doing lots of research, so combine that with advice from a trusted vet and you’ll come up with a plan that suits your individual puppy!

Camelina Oil for Equine

✅ Single ingredient, 100% pure Camelina Oil.
✅ Non-GMO
✅ Ideal balance of Omega-3 compared to other products, like soybean oil.
✅ Canadian produced and operated.

Camelina Oil for Canine


✅ Single ingredient, 100% pure Camelina Oil.
✅ Non-GMO
✅ Ideal balance of Omega-3 compared to other products, like soybean oil.
✅ Canadian produced and operated.

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About Sarah

Sarah is a marketing specialist with a passion for anything creative! Her openness to working across industries and job opportunities has allowed her to gain enormous amounts of experience in graphic design, video production, and written content creation. Animals have a special place in her heart as she grew up with cats and now owns her own Alaskan Malamute. She has spent the last couple of years in Vancouver working with different companies within the pet industry and gained valuable knowledge about the ins and outs of the (alternative) pet food industry, supplementation, and various training methods. When she’s not digitally creating content for pet lovers to consume, she’s out eating great food, dancing at drop-in classes, or exploring the beautiful Canadian scenery with her fur-child Miso.