With so many different diets and food types being on offer, it can be confusing to decide which food to feed your puppy. Below, we will go through some common diets and how to choose which one will suit you best. Please remember that every puppy is different and what suits one dog may not be the best for another dog. There is lots of research done to provide the best, specific diets for different requirements. Booking a consult with a trained veterinary nurse can be a great way to become informed on these many diet choices.

Different dogs and breeds will need different food in different volumes

First of all you should bear in mind what size dog your dog is, for example, small, medium or large. Knowing their current weight is useful as sometimes the amount of food required is based on their current weight; it’s also important to consider their adult weight. Some diets have one set volume of food which should be given to every dog of that breed. However, this doesn’t apply to puppies who are still growing!

With large breed dogs, we need to be very careful that we do not give them too much food as they will grow too quickly. This can easily lead to growth plate issues and on to long term bone and joint problems (osteopathies and dysplasias). This issue can also be caused by an imbalance of calcium and phosphorous in the diet. So choosing a diet specific for large breed dogs and keeping them on the diet for the appropriate length of time is key.

When should I change my puppy onto adult food?

You can start your puppy on puppy food straight after weaning. They can stay on this for at least 12 months. You should check with the breeder what diet the puppy has currently been on and slowly wean them from one diet onto another if you do decide to change the brand, rather than suddenly moving to the new food. 

Large breed dogs will continue to grow past 12 months so can stay on the puppy food for 18 months. In many cases, though, there’s an “adolescent dog” diet as an intermediate for the large and giant breeds, to help protect growing skeletons into young adulthood.

Obesity is a huge issue

In the UK, obesity in pets is a huge issue and we must remember it is a disease. You should regularly weigh and body condition score your pets.

Weighing your puppy is important not only for knowing which worming tablet you need so should be done on a monthly basis. But also because knowing their body condition score will provide more of a guide as to how much fat and muscle your pet has. You can download reputable body condition score charts and, providing you use the same chart every time you score your pet, you can compare results. Equally, if you need extra guidance, book an appointment with your local veterinary practice. They can teach you how to body condition score your pet. 

If you worry your pet is obese, you probably need to reduce the amount of food your puppy is getting. Low calorie diets can work or simply reduce the volume of food given. If you are unsure on how much to reduce the food by, talk to your veterinary practice. 

How can I check my dog’s weight?

Checking your puppy’s weight can be a good way to make sure your puppy is gradually growing. Do not compare the growth of your dog to others, as many different things affect growth rate. Including genetics, sex, hormones, where they were located in the womb and stress. Many of which are out of your control.

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To weigh your puppy, you can weigh yourself on the scales and record the number. Next, hold the puppy in your arms and reweigh yourself with the puppy, record the number. Subtract the first number from the second and you will be left with the weight of your puppy.

Weighing your puppy will tell you if your puppy’s weight is changing. But it will not tell you how the body condition of your puppy is changing. We want to make sure your puppy is not getting overweight but is putting on muscle and increasing the length and density of its bones. To check the condition of your puppy, you should run your hands over your puppy’s ribs and make sure you can feel each individual rib. From the side, you should be able to see a tuck in your puppy’s waist just after the rib cage. 

Complete diets

Complete diets are ideal for puppies as all the micro and macronutrients that your dog needs are within one meal; meaning you do not need to add any extra supplements or treats to help your dog. If you use a complementary diet, make sure you purchase all the components from the same manufacturer, so that the diet is balanced.

Wet diet vs dry diets

Dry diets seem more common at the moment. However wet diets provide a good opportunity to hydrate your pet whilst they eat. This is ideal for pets that spend a lot of time outdoors without water or naturally do not drink as much as they should do. 

The raw feeding question

It is possible to feed a puppy a healthy raw diet. However, it is difficult to do so safely because of the risk of food-borne infections to your puppy but even more so to you. These pathogens may be shed in their faeces and saliva during puppy kisses, however careful you are dealing with the raw ingredients. It is also harder to make sure that they are nutritionally balanced.

In general, we don’t advise most owners to feed puppies on a raw diet, but if you want to, make sure you take great care with hygiene and infection control, and equal care over balancing the diet – talking to a veterinary nutritionist is a very good way to begin.

Can I change my dog’s diet?

You can change your puppy’s diet, however it does need to be done gradually. We recommend mixing the two different foods in different ratios starting with mixing a very small amount of the new one with the original food. Then, gradually increase the proportion of new food over a few days, whilst keeping the total overall amount of food the same. If you suddenly change the diet of your dog, side effects such as diarrhoea, sickness and lethargy can occur. 

Can I give my puppy treats?

Giving puppies treats can be a very easy way of enforcing positive reinforcement training although too many treats can lead to obesity. 

A great way to train your puppy is to give 2/3 of their food as a meal and save the other 1/3 of the portion as treats to give your puppy when they are behaving well. This means that throughout the day, they will receive the same amount of food and calories as they would having one big meal.

Dental sticks can be a brilliant treat once they have their adult teeth, but be sure to check the energy content as many of them can be very high in fat and calories.

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Could I give my puppy human food?

Some human foods are toxic and should therefore be avoided. Onions, grapes, chocolate, garlic, macadamia nuts – all these and many more have the potential to be harmful. We therefore, strongly recommend you avoid feeding human foods. 

Complete diets give all the nutrients they need so human food is not needed.

Feeding human foods can lead to begging during meal times and pets may begin to steal foods. It is easier to never allow your pets to have your food from the table than to attempt to train them to stop doing something you have already taught them to do from a young age. 

So, just how much do I give?

It depends on your puppy and the food you’re giving! However, in 90% of cases following the manufacturer’s guidelines will be appropriate. If they aren’t gaining enough weight – or conversely, are gaining too much fat – then a small adjustment is usually all that’s needed. If in doubt, always speak to your vet or veterinary nurse.

Choosing a specific diet for your pet is important and you should research the best option for your pet. Think about the age of your pet, how big they will grow and any predisposing diseases the breed has. A good and healthy diet can help prevent many different diseases so choosing the correct diet is very important.

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