One of the most important decisions you need to make at this time is what you will feed your puppy, and you’ll want to choose carefully now to give them the very best start. So let’s take a look at your puppy’s very special nutritional needs and how the right diet can help keep them happy and healthy as they grow.
The demands of growth
It makes sense that puppies have very different nutritional needs to adult dogs. Depending on your puppy’s expected adult size they will need to multiply their birth weight anywhere from 20 to 100 times before they reach adulthood.
Puppies need more energy than adult dogs to support their growth and development. However, energy intake mustn’t be too high as this can cause excessive accumulation of fat stores early in life, predisposing towards obesity in adulthood. And in larger dogs, too much energy during growth can actually increase the rate of growth, causing the body to reach adult size too quickly. This places a strain on the immature skeleton and increases the risk of developmental joint problems.
Calcium and phosphorus are essential for healthy bone development as well, and requirements are very precise in growing dogs. Not only must there be the right amount – not too much or too little – but these two minerals must be carefully balanced with one another as well.
Puppies also require more good-quality protein in their diets than adult dogs, to provide the amino acid building blocks necessary to grow body tissues. This is particularly important during muscle development.
It is important to remember that your puppy’s body systems are still immature too. Their digestive tract is still developing so they are much more prone to little upsets and need a highly digestible diet. And as their natural defences are still fragile, extra support from antioxidants and prebiotics in their diet can really help.
So it’s no surprise that a puppy needs a precisely formulated diet. But the good news is that choosing a complete diet appropriate for your puppy’s particular needs and stage of growth ensures they receive the right nutrition to help them grow healthily.
When it comes to nutrition for dogs, size matters! Adult dogs can vary in size and weight from some Chihuahuas under 1kg in body weight to an English Mastiff at over 100kg. This diversity brings with it differences in growth rate, life expectancy, energy needs, digestive capacity and even health sensitivities, all influencing nutritional needs.
For example, a Mini puppy with an expected adult body weight under 10kg will have a rapid growth rate and should reach adulthood in just 8-10 months. But a Giant breed puppy could take up to 18 or even 24 months to get to adult size.
Top five tips on choosing the right diet for your puppy:
- Always opt for a complete diet designed for growing dogs to remove the guesswork and ensure your puppy gets the right nutritional balance
- Every puppy is different and the choice of diets can be confusing so speak to a specialist pet retailer or your vet for advice on the best diet for your puppy
- Choose a diet tailored to your puppy’s size or even breed
- Feed a tailored health nutrition product to not only provide for basic growth nutritional requirements but help support optimum health and condition from the beginning
- Look for the signs that your puppy is on the right diet – a healthy rate of growth, good energy levels, a glossy coat and good stool quality
Start as you mean to go on…
As well as choosing the right diet, you’ll also need to make sure you feed it correctly. Poor feeding habits can cause all sorts of trouble from behavioural issues to obesity and growth problems. So let’s have a look at some feeding ‘dos and don’ts’!
DO give your puppy a week or so to adjust to their new home before changing their diet. Always transition on to a new diet gradually, over 7-10 days, by mixing increasing amounts of the new diet with reducing amounts of the old diet.
DON’T suddenly change your puppy’s diet or be tempted to add any extras. Puppies and dogs are not able to tolerate variety in their diet and adding to a complete diet risks upsetting their nutritional balance.
DO follow the feeding guidelines for your puppy’s age and expected adult weight. Because every puppy is different, monitor your puppy’s weight, body condition and growth and adjust quantities accordingly. Ask your vet for help.
DON’T feed free access, or ad lib, as it is likely to cause your puppy to overeat, resulting in too rapid a growth rate or early obesity.
DO divide your puppy’s daily ration into set meals, fed at the same time and place each day. Put your puppy’s food down for fifteen minutes or so and allow them to eat undisturbed. When they finish pickup any uneaten food and offer nothing until the next meal time.
DON’T fuss over your puppy to try to encourage them to eat. Sometimes they are less hungry than others but rewarding them with attention when they don’t eat will lead to fussiness.
What is tailored health nutrition?
Nowadays, our understanding of canine nutrition leads us to recognise that not all dogs should be fed the same, and diet can now be tailored to age, size, lifestyle, health sensitivities and even breed. Of course, this can mean different energy contents and nutrient profiles but can also mean something as simple as designing kibble size, shape and texture to suit the individual.
Importantly, as we learn more about how nutrition can affect health, we know that certain nutrients can help support health in key areas, such as mobility, digestion and skin health.
ROYAL CANIN® offers a comprehensive range of tailored health nutrition to enable you to select the most precise, specialised diet adapted to your dog’s needs. Ask your vet or specialist pet retailer for advice on which ROYAL CANIN® diet is right for your puppy.