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. Deciding what to feed your puppy is not always simple, you will need to look at their size, breed, and age, but also factors such as cost and availability as a stable diet is also important to a puppy, as dietary changes can often cause upset tummies. A decision will also need to be taken on whether you wish to feed dry, wet or both. Hopefully the diet your puppy was fed on during its first few weeks with it mum and the breeder will be the ideal food for it to stay on long term, but if that’s not the case it is important to change the food slowly over a 10 day period onto something which is suitable, once the puppy has settled into your home.
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
Puppies have very different nutritional needs to adult dogs starting with the amount of energy known as calories they need to eat to meet the needs of growth and development. 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 – that’s a lot of growing!
However, energy intake mustn’t be too high as this can cause excessive accumulation of fat stores early in life, and overweight puppies are more likely to obese adults which can lead to a lot of health concerns. Particularly in larger dogs, consuming too many calories 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, this is why it is important for larger breeds to be a fed a specifically formulated puppy food tailored for the slow and steady growth of large breeds. When it comes to canine nutrition size matters! 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.
Growing is not all about energy it is also about having the right nutritional building blocks available to develop a strong healthy skeleton, muscles, heart, skin and coat. One of the most important nutrients needed by puppies during growth is protein as this nutrient is involved in building almost every tissue in the body! Therefore it is no surprise that puppies need more of it than adults and it is also important that the type of protein supplied is of the very best quality and digestibility.
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. It is important to feed a good quality complete diet to your puppy, do not give a vitamin or mineral supplement unless specifically advised by your veterinary surgeon and make sure that treats and titbits make up no more that 10% of the daily calories intake to support the ideal nutritional needs of growth.
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.
Top three tips on choosing the right diet for your puppy:
- Always choose a good quality complete diet designed for growing dogs to remove the guesswork and ensure your puppy gets the right nutritional balance
- Choose a diet tailored to your puppy’s size or even breed if you can. This will not only provide for basic nutritional requirements of growth, but help support optimum health and condition of your individual puppy from the beginning
- Look for the signs that your puppy is on the right diet – a healthy rate of growth, ideal body weight, 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 lead to 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 can lead to fussiness.