We use cookies to optimize site functionality and give you the best possible experience. You consent to our cookies if you continue to use our website. Learn more.                                                       
The Papillon Information Center       
Your Subtitle text
Proper Feeding for the Papillon

Out of all of the different care needs of this adorable toy breed dog, the element of food and feeding is one of the top concerns for owners.
One reason for this is because some sources make this to be much more complicated than it needs to be. 

In this section, we are going to discuss all of the important food elements in regard to the Papillon breed.

Feeding New Puppies

It is up to owners to carefully weigh their options when it comes to choosing the best food for their Papillon, however when first bringing a puppy home, the diet should not be immediately changed. 

This breed is sensitive to radical food changes, and therefore the changeover to the chosen food, whether this is home cooked or commercial, should be gradual.

Many breeders send puppies home with small samples of the food that they have been eating. Whether this has been done or not, new owners should know the exact brand before bringing the pup home so that a month’s supply can be on hand.

Switching to a new food should be done in the following way:

  • Week 1 :  ¾ old to ¼ new
  • Week 2 : ½ old to ½ new
  • Week 3:  ¼ old to ¾ new
  • Week 4:  You can now have your Papillon eating only the new, chosen food.

When you mix the foods, be sure to mix well, blending them into one mixture. What you will not want to do is feed one brand in the morning and one for dinner. It will be important to have them blended well so that the introduction to a new diet does not shock the digestive system.  The result of such a quick change can be: Upset stomach, diarrhea, aversion to the new diet.  The slow, gradual changeover will allow a puppy to become accustomed to the new flavors and, in some cases, the new texture of what is being offered.

How Much and How Often to Feed a Papillon Puppy or Dog

Toy breeds need to eat different than their medium and large sized counterparts.  Toys have very high metabolic rates.  This means that despite their small size, the body burns calories very quickly.

Since a Papillon’s stomach is relatively small, only so much can be ingested in one sitting.  With those calories being burned up within just hours,  it will be important to feed your Papillon more than once a day until your Pap is an adult.

Puppies burn calories very quickly, this is due to a combination of a high metabolic rate and a high activity level.  

If a puppy is not fed often enough, the sugar levels can quickly drop. This can lead to hypoglycemia, which is a dangerous, rapid drop and can actually be fatal. Symptoms come on quickly and include: Weakness, difficulty walking, dizziness, and/or difficulty breathing.

Each serving should be ¼ to 1/2 cup of food, per serving. This varies because ½ cup of dry kibble does not equal ½ cup portion of home cooked food.  In addition, ½ cup of filler dense inexpensive dog food greatly differs from ½ cup of wholesome meats and vegetables that can be prepared at home.

If a puppy is having a rapid growth spurt, he can eat more than his adult counterpart.  
Servings do vary quite a bit depending on what type of food you are feeding your Papillon, however below is a general guideline for puppies:

Weight of Growing Puppy              Amount per Day
3 lbs. (1.36 kg)                              1 cup
5 lbs. (2.26 kg)                              1 and ¼ cup

This amount will slightly decrease and the steady out as the pup reaches maturity.

The average adult Papillon will require 350 calories per day, however activity level and the rate at which the dog’s body expends energy is unique to each dog. Therefore, owners need to be more concerned about offering nutritionally dense, vitamin rich food as opposed to counting calories.


For Puppies Age 2 months to 6 months –
It is recommended to feed 3 scheduled meal times plus healthy snacks. Treats should be reserved for training (both command and housebreaking), since offering a reward is not so rewarding if the pup is not hungry.

For Papillon dogs age 6 months to 1 year old – At this age, owners can pare down to 2 meals per day, one in the morning and one in the early evening.

Snacks should be given in addition to this. With most Paps trained by this age, treats can be given for reinforcing good behavior.

From age 1 year and on – One meal per day is best and there is good reason for this.  Humans, in general, eat 3 meals per day for a reason. It takes our digestive system approximately 4 hours to digest a meal. Canines are much different. Our stomachs resemble bags that expand as food is being ingested… the stomach of a dog looks more like an accordion, it expands and unfolds as food enters and for adult dogs, it takes close to 24 hours for a meal to be completely digested and absorbed by the body.  Feeding an adult Papillon 2 or 3 meals per day can cause the intestines to become overworked and this, in turn, can lead to intestinal distress.

During special times -
Dogs with health issues, pregnant Papillons, those with stomach issues and so on will need to have the diet adjusted.  This should be done under the guidance of an experienced veterinarian.

Not Eating Enough?

Many owners are concerned that their Papillon is not eating enough; however one must take into consideration the size of a Papillon’s stomach. 1/3 cup of food is barely considered a snack to us humans, however with nutritionally dense food, it is quite a bit for a Papillon.  While one should always be aware of weight loss and/or lack of appetite, in most cases of an owner worried that their dog is not eating enough, it is only a matter of understanding that toy breeds do not need large quantities.
While the goal for adult dogs is to maintain weight, puppies are in a continual growth phase. Papillons will grow both in weight and height until just about the 1 year mark. However, this growth process can involve intermittent slow and fast phases. There may be a noticeable gain one week and barely a gain the next. Any decrease should be looked into immediately.

Wet or Dry & What to Feed Your Papillon

There are pros and cons for dry food.  The biggest pro of dry food is the benefits to the dog’s teeth and gums. Dental care is such an important aspect of keeping a Papillon healthy, so this must not be overlooked. With this said, the biggest con is that dry food simply cannot offer the qualities wet.  (More on chews and snack for good dental health is ahead).

We are huge advocates of home cooking. No matter what ingredients are put into the mix of kibble, the very nature of the food being kibble means that it will contain preservatives and additives. The preservatives BHA and BHT are chemicals that are often the triggers for allergies in dogs, especially in toy and small breeds, the Papillon included.

The majority of brands found in supermarkets and local, neighborhood pet supplies stores contain fillers. What can confuse owner is that when reading the ingredients, the word ‘filler’ will not appear.  Fillers are empty calorie, zero nutritional ‘ingredients’ that are added to dog food to beef it up, making a dog feel full yet they pass right through a dog’s body, since there are no nutrients for the body to absorb.

A Pappy can lick his bowl clean yet be hungry an hour later, since the fillers only temporarily filled the stomach but had no benefits to the Papillon in regard to digestion and absorption of vitamins, minerals and caloric energy.  In addition, owners who switch their Papillon from an inexpensive brand to a high end brand or to homemade recipes will notice that bowel movements are much smaller and less frequent, and this is because the bulk of the food is actually used by the body as opposed to a good amount of junk passing right through and out at bathroom time.

Some of the foods that are fillers are: beet pulp, powdered cellulose, corn meal, corn gluten and wheat gluten.  Some work to bind and hold food together, some work to bulk it up and all are useless with no or very little nutritional value.

Additives are not harmless. Some of the most common ones found in dog food are:

•    Glyceryl Monostearate – Also found in cosmetics and plastics. This thickens substances.
•    Phosphoric Acid – Also used in fertilizers and cleansers. This adds artificial flavor and works to keep food from discoloring.
•    Propylene Glycol - Also found in antifreeze. Used to keep food from becoming too dry.

One trick that manufacturers use to make it seem as if a brand has very few fillers is how the ingredients are listed. By law, the elements with the most weight must be listed first. However, meats are allowed to be listed by their pre-cooked weight. Therefore, the chicken that many show first, once cooked down are actually the 4th or 5th component.

Wet food looks healthier and appears fresher, however the same problems exist since it is manufactured in high volume and must, by law, contain those nasty preservatives. Additives are present as well.

If you do choose to go the route of a commercial brand, it is highly recommended to read the ingredients. Some additives will be beneficial ones, such as probiotics, which aids in digestion and helps to boost the immune system.  If elements have been chelated, this means that via chemical processing, proteins are better absorbed.  Some of the better brands are Orijen and Blue Buffalo.

For the above reasons, the only method to ensure that you are feeding your Papillon the best food possible is to be responsible for what he or she is eating.  Preparing meals at home is not only the best option; it is financially beneficial as well.  Companies have overhead – they have machinery to run, electricity bills and employees.  At home, the kitchen, an owner can spend very little to offer very fresh, wholesome foods. And this does not need to be complicated.

Some sources will tout that dogs should eat what his ancestors ate. Well, we do not eat what cavemen ate, and your Papillon does not need to eat as if he is living wild in the forest or prairie.  Domesticated over generations, the Papillon simply needs simple, healthy foods.

Meals can be prepared a week in advance, so cooking every day is not necessary. Most meals keep very well in Tupperware containers (or the generic equivalent) and take very little time to prepare. The ingredients will be those that are normally bought at the supermarket.

In general, food should contain:

40% protein.  Meats - White, de-boned chicken breast, lamb, fish, lean hamburg.  Organs- Liver, kidney.  Studies show that senior dogs, over the age of 8-years-old, should have a slightly lower protein diet (30 to 35%)

Vegetables should be approximately 40%, this includes starchy veggies such as potatoes and greens spinach, broccoli, zucchini and sweet peas.  Carrots are an excellent ingredient for Papillon dogs.

Healthy starch is an important element to feeding a Papillon.  Eating a high protein, extremely low carbohydrate diet is a human goal, it is not for canines. Starchy foods are a good source of energy and the main source of a range of nutrients in our diet. While meat should be the main source and vegetables (and some fruits) take second place, white rice, pasta and even some wholesome breads is a good source of energy and offers fiber, calcium, iron and B vitamins.  Gram for gram, these foods contains less than ½ the calories of fat.  These are easy to incorporate into meals and help keep food blended together in a natural way as opposed to those awful binding elements found in many manufactured kibbles.

Snacks & Treats

Snacks are necessary and should not be considered to be an extra element that may or may not be given…and there are several reason why. For puppies in particular, they offer energy in between meals. They are the most useful reward in regard to training. Lastly, the right snack aids in keeping the teeth healthy.  Raw baby carrots are fantastic for offering a hard chewing surface and have many dietetic health benefits.  If you start feeding these to a puppy, he or she will develop a taste for them that last a lifetime.

As most know, they contain Vitamin A, but what does this offer?  It assists the liver in ridding the body of toxins, as it reduces the bile and fat in the liver.

In addition, carrots contain falcarinol and falcarindiol, which are thought to have anticancer properties. Furthermore, a Papillon will be receiving carotenoids, which keep the heart healthy.

Please do not offer rawhides to your Papillon.  The risks are contamination (toxic chemicals and the risk of E.coli and salmonella), irritation to the digestive system (diarrhea), allergic reactions and/or blockage (chucks of rawhide can block parts of the digestive tract).  Aside from the recommended raw carrots, offer safe treats such as SmartChews, which offer good chewing textures and have the benefits of loosening plaque and keeping breath fresh.


Offering a full and complete vitamin and mineral supplement can ensure that your Papillon is receiving the needed elements for strength and well-being. Be sure to obtain age specific formulas (puppy, adult, senior).  Puppies or dogs recovering from illness or injury should be given a reduced fat diet and additional Omega 3.

Finicky Eaters

A quick change to a new food is the main cause of picky eating, and as discussed above, any switch should be done on an incremental basis.  Aside from this, some Papillon dogs simply have an aversion to certain flavors. With kibble, if beef flavor does not seem to bring about enthusiasm, try chicken and vice versa. Most Papillon simply love fish and offering this is a good method of rotation proteins.

This can be incorporated into homemade recipes via salmon, mackerel, trout, Pollock, and cod. All are good for keeping the skin and coat healthy. In addition, cod is good for seniors as it does not over burden the digestive system, as it is not as protein rich.


Dogs do tend to gobble up food quickly and this is one thing that can cause an owner to worry if their Papillon is eating enough. “She ate her meal in 45 seconds, surely it wasn’t enough food!” is a common comment.  This is most often due to quick ingestion and not an issue of quantity.  Obtaining a ‘slow eating’ bowl can help with this, as safe protrusions disperse food, with results in a Pap taking his or her time eating a meal.

The Right Bowl

Please steer clear of colorful plastic bowls for both food and water. The dyes that are used for creating those colors can slowly leak out, which then results in staining the hairs around a Papillon’s mouth, discoloring the coat.  Best are ceramic or stainless steel bowls that are shallow as deep bowls can lead to bumping the head on the rim and/or having to reach down further, resulting in food particles clinging to facial hairs.

Be sure to clean dishes thoroughly once per day with hot water and a good dish detergent.  Please keep water fresh and cool.  Before you add some water into the bowl, rinse out any food particles first and refill it with cold, fresh water.

Your Food

Refrain from giving your Papillon bits of your own dinner is important for 2 different reasons:

1.    It encourages begging behavior, which can take weeks (if not months) to reverse. If a dog is given food from his owner’s plate just one time, this can create continuous begging behavior.

2.    Onions, avocado, fruit seeds, grapes, certain nuts, foods high in salt and those high in sugar are toxic at worst and can cause stomach distress at best.  These can be hidden in many human food products and therefore, it is best to keep your food and your Papillon’s food separate.