Pet Parent's Guide to Puppy Nutrition
Similar to human babies, puppies grow rapidly and require a special diet (puppy food) that meets their unique nutritional needs in order to develop properly. The puppy stage is traditionally defined as the first 12 months of a dog's life, however, this time-frame can differ depending on the breed. For smaller breeds, growth usually ends around 9 months, and in the largest breeds growth can last until 18-24 months. As your pup grows, his/her dietary needs will evolve. It's important to strike the right balance of nutrients to keep your puppy happy and healthy so he/she can build strong bones and teeth, and have the energy to learn and play.
There are countless types of puppy food on the market and differing recommendations about when to feed, how much to give your dog, and what the best puppy food is, but don't worry. We've got you covered.
So, what is puppy food?
Regardless of size, your new puppy is using most of its energy to grow, and in fact pound-for-pound, requires nearly two times as many nutrients as an adult dog. Puppy food contains extra protein and fat that supports muscular and skeletal development.
It is generally recommended that puppies start eating dry puppy food, like Blue Buffalo Wilderness Dry Puppy Food, at around four weeks, at which point their mother's milk is not providing them with the proper amount of calories. For puppies in between four and eight weeks, some pet parents choose to moisten their food with water or chicken broth so that it is easier for them to eat. Please keep in mind you should not give your puppy cow's milk as this causes diarrhea.
There are multiple brands which produce equally healthy puppy food options. No matter what brand you settle on, look for the AAFCO (American Association of Feed Control Officials) label on the bag. All foods that bear that label will give your puppy the proper blend of vitamins and minerals, as regulated by the organization. It is important to note, however, that many of the generic brands meet only the minimum requirements stipulated by the AAFCO, and you should consider a premium variety of food throughout the important developmental stages of your dog.
Once you've found the right food you need to understand how often and how much to feed your puppy. Keeping your new pup on a regular feeding routine will help prevent indoor accidents. Newly weaned puppies (four to six months) should be fed three times daily, with that number being reduced to twice daily after six months. Consult the food label or your veterinarian to understand how much to give your puppy during each feeding. Do not overfeed your puppy, as too much weight could lead to orthopedic issues as he/she grows. If you have a large breed puppy, be on the lookout for special large breed puppy food designed to reduce the risk of bone and joint diseases caused by weight gain in growing large breed puppies.
Water is an integral part of puppy nutrition, though your pup should not always have access to fresh, clean water, as it could lead to issues with house training. Give your puppy water at scheduled times and as he or she matures and gains better control of the bladder you will be able to leave water out all the time.
Admittedly less important than what goes inside, the dog food bowl also plays a role in pet nutrition. Ensure that it's the right size to hold the proper portions and made of a material that is suitable for your dog. Plastic bowls are durable but dangerous for puppies who chew on them. There's a risk of small plastic shards breaking off and possibly being ingested. Stainless steel and ceramic bowls are better options that don't encourage chewing and are easy to clean.
We don't recommend doing so, but it's okay to give your puppy small amounts of safe human foods. However, you should always place these scraps in your dog's food bowl, away from the dinner table or kitchen counter, so he/she doesn't learn to expect food from these places. Examples of safe human food to give your puppy are cooked chicken, pumpkin, apples, and carrots.
While it's traditional practice to reward good behavior with puppy treats, you should consider the ingredients, the same way you would for your puppy's food. Although treats can be given anytime, in between meals is ideal. Look for treats that include real meat or ingredients puppies love such as peanut butter or pumpkin. There are also treats that address other pet health concerns, such as C.E.T. Oral Hygiene Chews For Dogs to help remove plaque and tartar from your puppy's teeth.
It's no secret pets love food, so it's up to you to keep dangerous foods for dogs, such as onions, chocolate, grapes, and tomatoes, out of reach.
There's a lot to take into account when raising a new puppy, but the reward is a happy and healthy best friend for years to come!