Picking the Right Food for Your Puppy
Your puppy needs good food and plenty of it. At this stage of his life, he’s not likely to pig out, but he needs a balanced diet to nurture his growing bones, teeth and muscle, to maintain his hair coat and allow for developing organs. He also needs enough energy to see him through days of strenuous playing.
Just Weaned and Above
If your puppy is newly weaned, he needs about twice the maintenance energy requirement of adult dogs. As your puppy ages, his need for higher nutrient density decreases. When he reaches 40 percent of his adult weight, he’ll require roughly 1.6 times as much as an adult dog; at 80 percent of adult weight, he’ll require 1.2 times as much. These estimates may be off by up to 20 percent, depending on individual dog variation.
Before he is weaned (at about two-and-a-half weeks of age), your puppy may begin to eat solid food three or more times a day. Start him on dry puppy food mixed with warm water and stirred into a gruel.
When he reaches seven weeks of age or so, start slowly decreasing the moisture content of the gruel-like mixture. When he’s about three months old, you can switch the pup to twice-a-day feedings of puppy food. Between eight and nine months, gradually mix the puppy food into an adult formula over several weeks time.
How to Feed a Litter
Take the heaviest pup away when the food is first set out, to allow the smaller littermates a chance to eat. Put him back later, leaving him less eating time. Likewise, the mother dog should be removed for a short period or she’ll consume the entire portion before the puppies have had enough time to eat.
During his first few weeks, your puppy should be on the roly-poly side. If he continues to look chubby between 10 and 13 weeks old, restrict his diet slightly. Monitor his weight and, once he reaches three and a half to four months, restrict his diet – not to make him lean, just to make sure he doesn’t get too fat. If you’re not sure his weight is right, check with your veterinarian.
At the five- to six-month period, depending on his breed, your puppy may have a dramatic growth spurt. He may get long, lean and a little thin. By the time he’s about one-and-a-half to two years of age, his body will catch up.
Puppy Diet vs. All Stages
Commercial puppy food is best. This kind of a diet provides all the nutrient he needs, especially his energy and protein requirements. A diet labeled for “all life stages” will also provide sufficient nutrients, but because it is closer to a maintenance level, your puppy will have to eat more “All Stages” than puppy formula.
From three weeks of age up to 20 weeks, your puppy’s growth rate is astronomical, and his food intake must keep up. During this period, medium-sized dogs, such as pointers and setters, require approximately 3 1/2 lbs. of dry food to put on one pound of body weight. Large breeds require slightly less, smaller breeds a little more.
Note: For puppies of large or giant breeds, look for special foods of lower nutrient density. With these dogs, rapid growth can exacerbate degenerative hip problems or joint disease. Although hip dysplasia is a genetic problem, overfeeding at a young age can contribute to it.
Feeding Do’s and Don’ts
- There are plenty of puppy foods out there. Once you find one your dog likes, stick to it.
- According to Dr. Tony Buffington, Professor of Clinical Nutrition, Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine, your puppy can be fed a regimen of specific caloric intake compared to his body condition score (BCS), using a simple one to five scale, from overly thin to obese. Using manufacturer feeding recommendations as an initial starting point, feed your puppy to a score of two and maintain this weight until he’s fully grown.
Feed whatever amount is necessary to maintain a BCS of two during the growth period, realizing that dogs have varying growth rates and activity levels. Once his adult stature is achieved, you may allow him to reach a score of three.