Feeding a puppy can be an overwhelming and challenging task. Made worse by the overflow of information available online, dietary trends, and the endless colours and shapes of nutritional supplements in today’s market. Like for a lot of other subjects, there is no “one size fits all” when it comes to diet. But after reading this article you will have some basic knowledge that will help you make your own, informed decision.

Let’s start with newborns!

It is important that newborn puppies ingest colostrum within 24 to 72 hours after birth. As older animals cannot absorb some of the nutrients provided by it. Colostrum is a richer type of milk produced by the mother’s mammary glands during the first days after birth. It contains antibodies (that provide immunity and provide additional protection to puppies against infectious agents), growth hormones, and other important substances. If it isn’t possible to feed the puppies with natural colostrum, there are puppy colostrum formulas in the market too.

Maternal milk is enough as the sole source of nutrition until 3 to 4 weeks of age. Solid food should be introduced afterwards. Puppies should be gradually transitioned to a complete high-quality puppy diet, ideally, that has passed feeding trials, and no nutritional supplements should be part of the regimen. 

Weaning should take place at weeks 7 to 9, and never before 6 weeks of age. As this can result in behavioural problems. We all know how exciting it is to bring a new puppy home. However, you should never accept a puppy younger than 8 weeks of age. As the initial social phase with the litter and mother is crucial for the development of healthy social skills and an overall calmer and more confident character.

I have a new puppy, what and how do I feed them?

Studies show that puppies kept at a lean body weight from weaning into adulthood and maturity developed chronic diseases later in life when compared to overweight puppies. For this reason, portion-controlled feeding is recommended during growth and at all stages of life. This is especially important in large-breed dogs, dogs that have been neutered, and obesity-prone breeds. Such as Labrador, Pug, Cocker Spaniel, Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, etc. Furthermore, dogs thrive on routines and knowing what to expect, and having a portion-controlled, feeding routine is key.

There is one exception to this rule: lean or underweight puppies may benefit from free-feeding. But always discuss this with your vet as they will be able to help you build a tailored feeding plan for your puppy and rule out medical causes of weight loss or failure to grow.

Large breed puppies need special nutritional care, overfeeding can predispose them to the development of orthopaedic conditions and osteoarthritis in adulthood. These dogs should always be fed portion-controlled. Aiming for a lean body weight, using a diet specifically formulated for large-breed puppies. These diets are lower in energy density and have controlled calcium levels.

Puppy diets should be fed until the animal has reached adult body weight, which is 12 months for small and medium breeds and 18-24 months for large and giant breeds.

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What about adulthood?

Similar to growing stages, adults have different nutrition requirements. And should be fed according to their breed and size, activity levels, workload (working dogs versus companion dogs), and health requirements. For instance, some dogs will benefit from being fed a veterinary diet. Specifically formulated for specific conditions such as kidney or liver disease, skin sensitivity and/or allergies, obesity, diabetes, etc). Ask your vet for advice on which brands are recommended. Or contact a certified veterinary nutritionist to help you formulate the best diet for your dog.

Adequate nutrition optimizes health, prevents disease, increases performance, and enhances longevity. Ensuring your dog is fed appropriately from a young age is a major step towards guaranteeing your companion keeps happy, healthy, and enjoys their life to the fullest.

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