Dog Food and Life Stages

How often you feed your dog will depend on personal preference as far as scheduling, as well as the dog's needs depending on its life stage and activity level, which in many ways go hand in hand.

Free-choice or free feeding allows your dog to eat on its own schedule. Some dogs enjoy eating small amounts of dry food throughout the day, while others want to 'wolf down' one big helping of canned food at a scheduled mealtime.

Here's a chart to use as a guideline.

Life Stage Age Meals Per Day
Puppy 8-12 weeks
3-6 months
6 months to 1 year
Adult 12-15 months and up 1, or 2 smaller
Senior/Geriatric 6 years and up, depending on breed 1, or 2 smaller (reduced amounts if less active)


Puppies require a high-protein (energy) dog food, several times a day depending on their age and activity levels. Over-nutrition is a concern for certain large breeds due to skeletal problems that may develop as a result of rapid growth, so it is important for you and your veterinarian to check regularly that the dog is developing normally.


Adults should be fed once or twice a day, although twice in smaller portions is recommended for larger breeds. Dog food with an optimal nutritional balance will maintain your dog's weight and overall health.


Senior dogs may need less food as they become less active, again in order to maintain a healthy weight and overall well-being. Commercial products specifically for older dogs have been introduced to address the changes in nutritional requirements for dogs as they become less active and less able to metabolize what they eat.

These products contain different protein, fat and vitamin/mineral levels and increased fibre content. The verdict is still out with veterinarians on whether this altered diet is necessary for all older dogs, so the rule of thumb, once again, is to observe your individual pet's energy levels, body mass and overall health to determine whether to introduce a special geriatric diet.

Remember, when making changes to your dog food, mix the new foods in with the old gradually over a period of several days.

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