Pet parents who have adopted a new puppy know that along with the joy of welcoming a new member of the family comes a steep learning curve. Puppies, like kids, grow quickly and have a wide variety of ever-changing nutritional needs. The wide array of pet food options can be confusing to the novice pet parent. This guide aims to make things somewhat easier for you by giving you the “must knows”. It’s essential that your puppy have a nutritionally balanced diet to ensure he or she develops into a healthy adult.
How To Select A Food
Normally, by the time you adopt a puppy, they will be completely weaned onto solid food. Find out from the breeder or adoption center what food they have been feeding the pups, as in most cases, they will already be eating a suitable diet.
Puppies need a certain balance of protein, fat, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals in their food. The best course of action when determining what to give them is to ensure the product you are using is approved by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO).
Look on the product packaging for statements like:
“(Product Name) is formulated to meet the nutritional levels established by the AAFCO Dog Food Nutrient Profiles” or;
“Animal feeding tests using AAFCO procedures substantiate that (Product Name) provides complete and balanced nutrition”
It is also important to note that water should be considered when thinking about food. Water should always be available for your puppy.
Your Veterinarian Is Your First Port Of Call For Advice
In almost all situations, your veterinarian is the best source for advice if you are unsure. There are a lot of choices out there and it can be confusing. Take advantage of time during vaccination and puppy check visits to ask about recommended foods, feeding times and portion sizes for your dog.
What Breed Is Your Puppy?
The nutritional requirements for your puppy also depend greatly on what breed of dog you have. It’s pretty clear to see that a Great Dane puppy may need a different diet from a Pug, for example.
Of particular importance for giant breeds is to ensure slower-paced growth to reduce the potential for joint problems. This is achieved using a less energy-dense food. Smaller breeds have much faster metabolisms and so would need more energy-dense food and usually a smaller kibble size to aid chewing. As you can see from these quick examples, breed plays a big part in food selection and so we recommend speaking to your veterinarian if you have any doubts.
How Many Times A Day?
Getting the feeding schedule right for your puppy is important to ensure healthy weight is maintained and also to help with potty training.
If your puppy is under the age of 3 months (12 weeks), it’s likely they will need to eat as often as 3 or 4 times per day. It is important to follow the instructions for total dietary intake per day from the packaging or your veterinarian in conjunction with your puppy's weight. Food left in the bowl after a feed can be a good sign that too much food is being put down.
Remember, the packaging instructions are not unique to your dog and are there only as a guideline. It is recommended that your veterinarian evaluates your puppy's physical body condition every few months. Most veterinarians run free weight-check appointments these days, so take advantage of that if it is available.
Puppy Food vs. Adult Dog Food
It is important to feed your puppy a food that is specifically designed for puppies. This is key because puppies have vastly different nutritional needs than adult dogs and adult dog food will not provide them with everything they need to be healthy and lively. Additionally, since adult dog food is generally broken into larger chunks, it may be difficult for puppies to chew with their small, underdeveloped teeth.
Puppies love treats and they are a very helpful tool when training. Giving too many, though, can result in digestive issues, upset tummies and of course, can lead to obesity. Treats should be occasional, not the norm, and their calories should be counted into the daily food allowance to help reduce the risk of overfeeding.
We hope you find these tips helpful. Don’t forget to ask questions and add comments. The LovePets community is here to help.
Content reviewed by a veterinarian