Puppy Nutrition –Setting them up for a happy healthy life
The puppy stage is one of the most
important times in your dogs’ life. It’s when they learn all about the world, form strong bonds with humans and other animals, and grow and develop their bones, joints, muscles, organs and immune system. Its hard work being a puppy, so its very important for you to understand what your dog needs to get them started for a long and happy life.
What does my dog need in their diet?
The main elements of any diet are protein, carbohydrates, fat, vitamins/minerals and water.
1. Protein is for growth and repair of cells. It can be found in meat, pulses and fish. Dogs do best on a diet containing animal proteins and in the puppy years it should make up at least 22% of the diet!
2. Carbohydrates provide quick energy and are found in cereals and grains.
3. Fats provide slow energy and are required to aid the adsorption of fat soluble vitamins (e.g. vitamin K). They can also keep your dogs’ skin and coat healthy. Fat can come from oils, nuts and fish but foods high in saturated fats should be avoided.
4. Vitamins and minerals are very important in every diet and they all have multiple benefits and functions. Some examples include Vitamin A for vision, C for healthy skin, D for healthy teeth and bones, and vitamin K for building strong bones and preventing heart disease. Calcium and phosphorus are critical for in a puppy diet as they strengthen bones and teeth. Iron is for healthy blood and oxygen transportation and potassium supports heart health.
5. Water is required for most of the bodies vital functions. It distributes essential nutrients to all the cells, removes waste products and toxins from the body, assists in temperature regulation, and supports joints! Puppies will get some water from their food, but should always be provided with a bowl of fresh clean drinking water.
What you want to see in the diet:
1. Whole meat products
2. Animal protein as the first ingredient from a named source (e.g. chicken, not chicken by product)
3. Fats from a clearly labelled source e.g. vegetable oil
4. Vitamins and minerals
What you don’t want to see:
1. Pesticides, antibiotics or growth hormones
2. Artificial flavours or colours
3. Terms including: animal fat, by-products, (meat)meal, meat derivatives
4. Added salt, sugars, fat
5. Fillers – People know about grain fillers, but what about grain free foods? Well they get creative using feathers and blood and other nasty things that your dog does not need and cannot process. Another reason to watch out for derivatives!
For the first few days, you should continue to feed the same type of food the puppy is used to. Puppies have very sensitive stomachs and a sudden change in diet can make them sick. Then you can slowly introduce the new food over a few weeks using the following sample formula:
Day 1-5: 100% old food for every meal
Day 6-9: 75% old food, 25% new food for every meal
Day 10-13: 50% old food and 50% new food for every meal
Day 14-17: 25% old food and 75% new food for every meal
Day 18 on wards: 100% new food
This formula varies from puppy to puppy, so if your pet is unwell, or has loose stools or vomiting, slow the rate at which you are introducing the new food.
There are three forms of commercially available dog feeds, dry pellets/kibble, semi-moist (sealed sachets) and moist (tinned foods).
Dry food is usually recommended as the best choice as it is economical, contains higher levels of meat protein, and the texture promotes cleaner, healthier teeth.
Cheaper brands are generally full of salt, sugar, fats and low quality protein sources, so it is vital to understand what is in your pet’s food!
Puppies under six months of age should be fed three times a day. After six months, growth tends to slow down, so the feedings can be reduced to twice a day – unless your veterinarian recommends otherwise. Puppies should be fed at regular intervals in the morning, afternoon and evening. Puppies will often go to the bathroom after eating, so keep an eye on them, as this will help you with house training. Then will then, usually, need some quiet time and take a nap.
Puppies will usually stay on puppy food until twelve months of age, but larger breeds may need to remain on puppy food until 18 months of age. Your veterinarian will help you decide when it is best to start introducing adult food.
Amount to Feed:
The amount of food a puppy needs depends on their age, breed and they dog food. You can use the back of the bag as a guideline and increase or decrease the amount as needed to keep your puppy at an optimal weight. Your veterinarian can help you determine the correct amount. You should feed your puppy with the aim of slow growth, especially large and giant breed dogs, as accelerated growth often leads to bone and joint disorders.
Your puppy should always have access to fresh clean water! It is the most important nutrient of all. Dry food has a low moisture content, so always provide fresh water at meal times to aid digestion.
Treats are great to help train your dog when used as a reward for good behaviour. But they should never account for more than 10% of your puppies’ caloric intake.
Hard chews can keep your puppy occupied and entertained and can also help keep the teeth clean by scraping tartar and plaque. Hard chews can also save your furniture during the puppies teething phase as they will satisfy the urge to chew!
That’s why Soopa treats really are the best. They are low calorie, healthy and nutritious, encourage chewing and assist with dental health. On top of these health benefits, they are also super tasty and dogs love them!
1. Meals should be given at the same time every day, ideally in a quiet place. The exception this is tiny breeds such as teacup yorkies. They should always have something to nibble on as they can be prone to hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar)
2. When puppies are very young. dry food can be mixed with some warm water to make it softer and easier to eat. It will also provide additional water content.
3. If your puppy wants to skip a meal every so often, this is perfectly normal. Just ensure the food is offered for a long enough period and the puppy is free from distractions.
4. Always store food according to instructions on the packet to ensure it remains at its best.
5. Resist the puppy dog eyes! Do not feed your puppy from the table. It only encourages begging behaviour.
6. Home made diets are not recommended for puppies under 18 months old as the nutrient and calorie balance is so critical at this time. Always consult a veterinarian if you intend to feed a home made diet.
7. Always consult a veterinarian if you have any concerns regarding your puppy’s health or diet.