The what's what of canine nutrition

A puppy’s nutritional requirements are much more demanding than those of an adult dog. Did you know that in the first four months of life a puppy does approximately 50% of its growing?! 

Puppies exert tremendous amounts of energy in growth and play yet their stomachs are still relatively small, therefore it is essential to give them the best nutrition available (the better the quality of ingredients used in the food, the less you will feed as the body is able to absorb it).  

Selecting a puppy food 

It’s important to provide your puppy with a highly digestible, nutrient dense, 100% complete and balanced formula designed for growth. As growth rates differ among breed sizes, it is vital to choose a puppy formula tailored to suit your puppy’s breed size.  

Choosing the right puppy food 

  • Small breed puppies (under 10 kg at adulthood)

Due to their small mouths and stomachs, and their rapid growth rate, it’s important to pack lots of energy and nutrition into a small amount of food to ensure healthy growth and development.  

  • Medium breed puppies (between 10-25 kg at adulthood)

Medium breed puppies require a complete and balanced puppy formula with moderately high levels of energy and nutrients. 

  • Large breed puppies (between 25-40 kg at adulthood) and giant breed puppies (greater than 40 kg at adulthood)

Because of their size, large and giant breeds have unique nutritional needs. Studies have shown that overfeeding, excessive weight gain and feeding too high an amount of calcium can contribute to developmental bone problems. These puppies require a complete and balanced formula that helps control their rate growth while still allowing them to reach their potential adult size.

When to feed

Although puppy’s feeding schedule will be dictated by your own personal schedule, ideally feed your puppy four meals a day up until the age of four months, and then reduce puppy’s feeding to three meals a day until it reaches six months old. At that stage you can change to two meals a day and keep it on this regime for the rest of its life. 

Always make sure that plenty of fresh water is always available to your puppy.

How much to feed

The amount of food given at each meal is generally dictated on the back of the food bag or label. This is a guide, taking into consideration the puppy’s age and weight. If your puppy is very enthusiastic for food after eating a meal or doesn’t seem to have the body condition that he/she should, contact our clinic for advice. Your puppy may need a little more food than what is recommended for good body condition.

When to make the change to adult food 

The transition to adult formula should begin approximately a couple of months after your dog stops growing in height and weight. The breed of dog you have will determine the time to make the change. Small breed dogs, for example, tend to mature physically much sooner than large breed dogs.   

  • Small breed: less than 10kg at adult weight.   

Your dog should be transitioned onto adult food at approximately 12 months of age.

  • Medium breed: between 10-25kg at adult weight.  

Your dog should be transitioned onto adult food approximately 12 months of age. 

  • Large breed: between 25-40kg at adult weight.  

Your dog should be transitioned onto adult food approximately 18 months of age. 

  • Giant breed: over 40kg at adult weight.  

Your dog should be transitioned onto adult food at 18 to 24 months of age.  

Important food facts 

When changing over to a new food, please do it gradually, over about seven to 10 days.  For example, ¾ of the old food and ¼ of the new for two to three days, then a 50:50 mix for two to three days, then ¾ of new food and ¼ of old food for two to three days before fully changing onto the new food. Puppies have very sensitive stomachs and a sudden change in diet can cause vomiting, diarrhoea and food aversion. 

When you feed a complete and balanced food you DO NOT need to feed any other food sources.  In fact, doing so can cause health problems as you will be interfering with the very specific balance of ingredients. 

If you feel the need to feed other varieties of food with a complete and balanced diet, make sure the added food makes up no more than 10% of their daily requirements. That way only the calories will increase. 

Many new puppy owners will assume they should give their puppy a bowl of milk. However, milk contains a sugar called lactose that requires an enzyme called lactase for digestion. Puppies generally have the enzyme in abundance as it is used to breakdown their mother's milk while nursing. Once puppies have been weaned they’ll produce less lactase, and this is when some dogs can become lactose intolerant. As well as possibly causing diarrhoea and vomiting, dogs may also develop a disease called pancreatitis if they eat dairy products – particularly high fat dairy products – that are unfamiliar to them. 

Remember feeding “people food” and leaving food down all day for ad-lib feeding can cause finicky eaters and begging behaviour. 

Feed only large cannon bones and definitely no cooked bones. Throw away bones once all the meat and bone marrow has been eaten as bone cannot be digested so, what goes in must come out! Bone can also be gnawed off and swallowed, which can compact in the bowel and cause constipation or an obstruction. Sharp small pieces that are swallowed can also perforate the lining along the digestive tract. These problems can have serious and very costly consequences. Corn cobs are another food item that can also cause an obstruction of the digestive tract.  

Nailing your puppy’s nutrition early on means you are setting them up for a healthy, happy life. Now your only struggle will be choosing a brand of food – pop into the clinic and we can help you make the decision!

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