There’s plenty of information for feeding young puppies, but what about a growing young dog? Here are some key questions to help take the guesswork out of mealtimes.
Puppies have different nutritional requirements to adult dogs, so it’s important to ensure that your dog is on the right diet for their age. It can be important to make sure that your young dog is receiving the right food for his or her breed or size, and some puppy food brands will state whether their food is suitable for small, medium or large breeds. Since different breeds reach maturity at different times, the point at which you’ll need to transition from puppy to adult dog food will be different for every dog. For example, small breeds like the King Charles Spaniel will reach maturity at around 6 to 8 months, while giant breeds like the English Mastiff reach maturity at around 18 months.
Complete and balanced
All puppy or dog food should be complete and balanced, which means that it contains all 37 nutrients that a dog needs in the right amount. For example, your puppy needs calcium and vitamin D for healthy bone development, while protein is needed for overall growth. Puppy food contains extra protein and other nutrients, so a puppy should not be fed on adult dog food as it could affect their development. Feed a good puppy food and don’t add extra vitamin or mineral supplements as these can unbalance the diet.
When it comes to your dog’s diet, portion control is key, be careful not to overfeed. It’s better for dogs to grow slowly, because rapid growth can create bone and joint problems. A slower growing lean puppy will reach his or her genetically determined adult size more safely than a rapidly growing overweight puppy. It can also cause your pet to add on unnecessary fat, and an overweight puppy is more likely to grow into an overweight dog. Obesity can cause many health issues, such as joint and bone problems, and skin conditions. In flat-faced (brachycephalic) breeds, obesity can also make breathing more difficult. The calories that your dog needs can drop significantly after they’ve been neutered. Ask your veterinary surgeon for help in determining how much food your pet will need after the procedure.
The right weight
There is an easy way to estimate if your dog is a healthy weight, the ‘knuckle test’. If your puppy’s ribcage feels like your knuckles when you make a loose fist, they’re underweight. But if the ribcage feels like the fleshy part of the palm of your hands, they could be overweight. Ideally, a dog’s ribs should feel like the back of your hand: each bone can be felt with minimal ‘padding’. If you’re unsure if your puppy is the right weight, consult your vet for advice.
Growing puppies should be fed three to four times a day. Most adult dogs should be fed twice a day, but for breeds at different ends of the spectrum – the small breeds and the giant ones – at least three times a day is sometimes advised. Smaller breeds like the Chihuahua can suffer with low blood sugar if they aren’t fed often enough, while larger dogs need small, regular meals to decrease the risk of bloating which can happen if they eat too much at once.
Premium or generic?
Should you be buying premium food for the best diet possible? Premium generally means that the same recipe is used every time. It’s a fixed formula, unlike generic brands which may vary the recipe. Fixed formula may be necessary for puppies who are sensitive to certain ingredients, but for many, it may not matter. However, some premium brands do include ‘functional foods’ (the dog equivalent of our super foods), such as those with added prebiotics or nutritious vegetables.
Raw food diets and nutritional supplements
Raw food diets are becoming increasingly popular but you should think carefully before trying these. There is no scientifically proven benefit for feeding a raw diet and it can go badly wrong. Your puppy might not be getting the right amount of nutrients, and it can also pose health risks for humans, especially children. Commercial food from a reputable, trusted brand is the safer option and if you are feeding diet which is complete and balanced, there is no need to feed any nutritional supplements.
Treats are important for puppies because it’s how they’re trained. In fact, just the action of feeding by hand can be a treat for your pup, as long as you’re not giving him or her chocolate, raisins, garlic, or onions (these can all pose serious health risks for dogs). Treats should make up less than 10% of your dog’s total daily calories. For example, this could include a baby carrot or even air-dried, unsalted and unbuttered popcorn.