Puppy Food Guide: What to feed your puppy

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Puppy Feed Guidelines3rd September 2016 written by Dr Samantha Ware BSc (Hons), MSc, PhD, Lead Nutritionist & Sean McCormack BSc (Hons), MVB, MRCVS, Head Vet

Puppy Feeding Guidelines:

When your puppy comes home, he will be used to eating around a communal food bowl with his brothers and sisters. However, with you feeding time will be quite different. It’s important to find a quiet spot to place his food bowl, away from children, other dogs or disturbances. Equally important is a quiet place to rest afterwards, as puppies need plenty of time to nap. Unlike an adult dog he’s not likely to finish his food each meal, so just pick it up when he’s finished and remove it. If he’s not interested, simply take food away and try again an hour later.

Start feeding the same food as the breeder as too many changes at this time are unwise. Your puppy will have just been weaned, moved to a new home, his immune system will still be developing. All these changes can mean his digestive system may be sensitive to changes in food initially. Make sure you give him time adjusting to his new environment before you alter his diet. After a few days of settling in, you can start weaning him over on to new food.

Start by mixing a small amount of the new food with old, gradually increasing it over 5-7 days. If your puppy is very tiny, or seems to be finding the dry kibbles difficult, try feeding the kibbles softened with water at first. Some people feed several brands of food, home cooked meals and wet food to encourage their puppy to eat, but the key to balanced digestion now is to keep too much variety to a minimum.

It’s important that puppies are fed a life stage appropriate diet during their rapid growth phase. Energy intake as well as carefully balanced calcium and phosphorus levels are critical and vary by breed size quite markedly. With a large or giant breed puppy, finding a puppy food specifically formulated for these is crucial. A lower energy density to encourage slow, steady growth reduces pressure on his developing joints and skeleton. Similarly, calcium and phosphorus levels will be carefully balanced to avoid unhealthy growth that can lead to developmental problems later on.

These breeds will need to be on a puppy growth diet longer than a small or toy breed. For example, a Chihuahua may reach maturity at about 12 months of age and be ready to move on to an adult formulation whereas it may take over 2 years for a Great Dane or Newfoundland to complete its growth and skeletal maturation.

Puppies need to have more frequent meals than adults and very young pups of tiny breeds are quite prone to low blood sugar if not fed on a regular basis. A good guideline would be four meals a day until four months of age, then three meals a day until they are six months of age. After six months it’s generally advised to feed twice daily. How much to feed your puppy can be quite confusing as different foods carry different guidelines. Adding to this problem is the fact all puppies grow slightly differently so working out the right amount will need to be adjusted on an individual basis.

Start with the printed feeding guidelines and weigh out the amount he needs or use a measuring scoop. If he is finishing each meal and looking for more food, then increase the suggested amount slightly (remaining within the feeding guidelines) until his appetite is satisfied. Signs of diarrhoea or vomiting should be taken up with your vet quickly though; puppies can often pick up and eat things they shouldn’t so check with your vet if he seems unwell. They can also suffer from worms which need to be treated on a regular basis until at least six months old and routinely after. Your vet can advise on the best regime for effective worming.

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