Feeding Your Puppy

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Image via Flickr: Alison Groves
Feeding Your Puppy
Image via Flickr: Alison Groves

For something that’s so small when they are born, a puppy sure knows how to eat! The reason is because that they need to eat two to four times as much as an adult dog to ensure they get the support they need during all that growing between birth to six months old.

Puppies should gain one to two grams per pound a day of their anticipated adult weight after their first week on earth. For example, a German Shepherd, which weighs 75lbs as an adult, should gain approximately three to five ounces a day as he is growing

What Food To Feed A Puppy?

Puppy food tends to be higher in protein and is enriched with various vitamins and minerals to help a puppy grow. Commercial puppy food must meet certain standards for growth in order to be sold in shops but the quality between brands varies greatly. Some companies go above and beyond basic requirements, vigorously testing and changing their products to ensure they support the development of puppies.  Others may use low quality ingredients and it is generally the case that you get what you pay for.

Keep an eye out for brands marked as ‘premium’ or ‘performance’, which tend to have higher quality ingredients. Always read the packaging to make sure that what you are feeding your puppy is exactly what she needs.

There are three main types of puppy food;

  • “Puppy Food” – Commercial puppy foods sold in shops and vets are more likely to contain the essential extra nutrients required by a puppy until she is fully grown. Standard dog food that is marked as being for ‘all life stages’ can also be an option.
  • Breed formulated food – Some food is developed specifically for the size of breed your puppy will grow in to. Large breed formulas help puppies grow at a gradual rate to ensure they develop good bone density and strong joints whilst small breed formula uses bite-sized kibble to give concentrated nutrients to a puppy with high metabolism. Medium breed formulas have a mix of the two.
  • Raw food – Making your puppy her food from scratch gives you ultimate control over what she is putting into her body. You can maximise nutrients through a high protein and vegetable diet and can buy supplements to add to food to make sure your puppy is getting all the vitamins and minerals she needs.

How Much Food Should A Puppy Have?

Puppies need to eat a lot, but not too much! An easy way to tell if your puppy is being fed the right amount is if you can feel but not see their ribs and they should have a visible waistline when looked at from above. As a rule of thumb, follow the guidelines on your puppy food or from raw food experts and adjust depending on your individual puppy’s needs.

When To Feed Your Puppy

By eight to 12 weeks of age, puppies are usually eating around three to four times a day, but this isn’t a ‘rule’ set in stone. If your schedule means it is easier to feed her twice a day, then feed her twice a day. Just make sure you remember to divide the food up properly between mealtimes.

At around the six month old point, you need to start reducing the number of meals to two a day, if not already done so. You also need to reduce the amount of food she gets as well. Follow guidelines provided by food manufacturers and adjust as required. Dogs will let you know if you are feeding them too much by leaving some behind at dinner time.

Things to Remember

  • Large breed puppies require a slow and sustained approach to growth to minimise potential health issues, such as hip dysplasia. Choose a diet especially developed for large breed dogs, or even use regular adult dog food with a good balance of protein, fat and calories
  • Small but robust breeds, such as Pugs or Bulldogs require a lower calorie diet than that found in most puppy foods as they are also prone to hip dysplasia
  • Set a fixed dinner time for your puppy each day to help her learn a schedule. If you have a tiny or toy breed, such as a Chihuahua, the opposite is recommended as they can suffer from low blood sugar and require food available to nibble on at all times
  • Never feed your puppy from the table – you are just creating future problems! Make sure everyone in the household sticks to this rule

The information above is designed to give an overview on feeding your puppy. These are guidelines and it’s always important to adjust and adapt in line with your puppy’s individual needs.