PDSA's Care Advice

The ideal diet for your puppy or dog

PDSA advises that feeding a complete, commercial dog food is preferable to a homemade diet. It is not easy to achieve the correct balance of nutrients if you make a dog’s diet yourself. Treats should only be given for training purposes or on a very occasional basis, and on days when a treat is fed, the amount of food given in the dog’s main meal should be reduced. Life stage (i.e. whether puppy, junior, adult or senior) and packet guidelines as well as weight and body shape should be taken into account when choosing what and how much to feed a dog.


When should a puppy start to eat solid food?

Puppies are usually ready to eat solid food when they are about five weeks old.

How often should I feed my puppy?

Owners often ask us 'How often should I feed my puppy?' well, initially, puppies need four meals a day but this can be reduced to three a day at about 12 weeks. At six months, they can have two meals a day, which can continue for the rest of their life.


What should I feed my dog?

Your dog needs a healthy, balanced diet that meets all their nutritional needs.

Feeding a complete, commercial dog food is normally preferable to a homemade diet. It’s not easy to achieve the correct balance of nutrients if you make your dog’s diet yourself.

Do dogs of different ages need different food?

One of the best ways of making sure you give your dog the necessary nutrients is to feed according to ‘life stage’. This means feeding a different diet depending on whether your dog is a puppy, adult or senior dog, because dogs of different ages have different nutrient requirements. For example, puppies need more calories in their food because they are so energetic.

Several leading brands of commercially available dog food offer different foods for different life stages.

How much food should I give my dog?

Follow the packet feeding guidelines so that you know how much to feed. Weigh the food out to check you’re getting it right. Feeding the right amount of food is important because obesity is the commonest nutritional problem seen by vets and causes health problems such as diabetes, heart disease and arthritis.

How often should I feed my dog?

It’s generally best to feed an adult dog twice a day. Avoid feeding your dog immediately before travelling, to avoid travel sickness, or within an hour before or after vigorous exercise as this can lead to a dangerous condition called ’bloat’.

What treats can I give my dog?

Most dog foods these days are complete, meaning they contain all the nutrients that a dog needs, in the right amounts. If extra food is given, as treats, your dog must do something with the extra calories. If your dog isn’t being exercised enough, the calories will be turned into fat.

The only time you should really give food treats is when you are training your dog using rewards (please visit our puppy and dog behaviour section for more information). If your reward is a food treat, try to use something healthy such as small slices of carrot. However, if your dog is only interested in less healthy food, such as small pieces of sausage, reduce the amount of food given in the main meal so that there  aren’t too many calories on training days. Dog obesity is a big problem and causes health problems.

At other times you can show your affection for your dog in ways other than food. Dogs enjoy games, walks and affection. You don’t need to use food to show dogs that you love them.

Your dog will need constant access to fresh, clean water from a clean bowl.

A stuitable drinking bowl for dogs

Food and water bowls

These should be easy to clean. Stainless steel bowls, or heavy pottery ones are fine. It is important to throw out any uneaten food after your dog has finished eating to make sure it doesn’t go stale or mouldy. Replace bowls if they become chipped or cracked.

PDSA's Findings

PDSA has produced the first ever comprehensive measure of animal wellbeing in the UK, revealing the state of our pet nation - The PDSA Animal Wellbeing (PAW) Report.

Over 11,000 pet owners were surveyed to find out how dogs, cats and rabbits are cared for - below are the findings for dogs and their diet.


Over the last four years, PDSA has assessed the weight and general health of nearly 30,000 canine companions across the UK. Over that time, the percentage of overweight dogs seen has risen from around one-in-five (21%) to more than one in- three (35%). Should the next four years follow the same trend, then by 2013 nearly 50% of UK dogs could be overweight. This means a reduced quality of life and the likelihood of an early grave due to obesity and its related health issues such as diabetes, heart disease and arthritis. Overweight pets are less mobile, less willing to play and more likely to develop a number of serious health conditions.

Most popular dog treats graph

Key findings

KILLING WITH KINDNESS – Obesity epidemic worsening as 2.4 million dogs are fed on scraps or leftovers as one of their main foods.

  • 29%, or the equivalent of 2.4 million dogs, are fed on scraps or leftovers as one of their main types of food when they should be getting a complete balanced diet.
  • 98% of dog owners give their dog a treat at some point, with 42% giving a daily treat.
  • Only 16% of dog owners decide how much to feed their dog based on its weight or body shape, and just 14% ask a vet or seek other veterinary professional advice. Knowing the correct body shape and weight for your pet is the first step to helping your pet stay a healthy weight.
  • Only 33% of owners actually feel their pet’s body to determine whether it is a healthy shape.
  • When asked 'How do you know how much you should feed your dog?' Worryingly, 26% of owners use ‘common sense’ and 19% ‘past experience with dogs’ when it comes to deciding how much to feed them. This is worrying as PDSA health checks show that 35% are overweight.
  • While owners do appear to consider the nutritional needs of their dogs, what they feed does not always match up to their dog’s requirements. For example, 25% of young dogs are eating a ‘normal adult’ diet when they should still be on a puppy r junior food formulated specially or growth.
  • 7% of owners give their dogs Human chocolate as a treat. This is extremely concerning as human chocolate contains theobromine which can cause severe illness or even death in dogs. Other human foods that can be poisonous to dogs include grapes, raisins, sultanas and onions.
  • Owners enjoy giving their pets treats with 49% saying it makes them feel happy and 36% saying it makes them feel caring. Only 3% mention a negative emotion such as guilt. 66% of owners say they think treats make their pet happy and whilst this may be true in the short term, the long term effect is that owners are killing with kindness.

“PDSA’s Report reveals some very worrying findings with regards mto the diets being fed to dogs. The use of inappropriate treats is particularly concerning, especially the frequency that these are being given. It is highly likely that these unsuitable foods are contributing to the obesity epidemic in pets.”
Dr Alex German, Leading animal obesity specialist, University of Liverpool Veterinary School


Get your free copy of the PAW Report today
Download our free Pet Health leaflets
Please donate today if you’ve found this page helpful

By making a donation today you can help us to continue our vital services

Get Acrobat Reader There are 3 links on this page which are in Adobe Acrobat (PDF) format.  In order to view them you will need the free Acrobat Reader software installed on your computer.

Your Right Pet

Choosing 'Your Right Pet' is the most important decision a new pet owner can make.

Use our online tool to find out which animal might be the right pet for you.

Sign up to PDSA

View an example monthly
email newsletter

Mobile bookmark

Share this page via your mobile phone:

Loading ...
Loading ...

We are processing your donation - please wait while we contact your bank. This process can take up to 60 seconds to complete.

Loading ...

please wait...