Having a new furry family member is exciting, but can also be very daunting. After all, your new puppy’s wellbeing is completely in your hands.
One of the first things you’ll need to decide on is your puppy's food.
The first year of your puppy’s life is equal to around 12-15 human years, and they have a LOT of growing to do, both physically and mentally. The building blocks of good nutrition will help your puppy grow into a strong and healthy adult.
TOP TIP! Don’t be afraid to ask for help from your vet if you have questions or concerns about your puppy’s diet.
From mother’s milk to first solid puppy foods
For the first six to ten weeks of their lives, newborn pups will receive all the nutrients they need from their mother’s milk. At around 5-6 weeks old, they will slowly be weaned onto puppy food by their breeder.
As the puppy’s new furmum or furdad it’s now your turn to ensure they get everything they need from a wholesome, species-appropriate diet!
Don’t panic though, as you’ll have a bit of breathing space. You should continue with the food the puppy has been given by their breeder, at least to begin with. Any sudden changes can cause digestive upsets.
But where should you start when deciding on the best diet? If you’ve had a look at any pet shop selection, you’ll know that the number of different foods available for puppies is overwhelming.
Balanced puppy food - what to look for on the packet
Here’s what a good quality puppy food will contain:
- Plenty of high quality fat and protein for energy.
- Vitamins and minerals to help develop healthy bones, joints and muscles.
Puppies need a LOT of energy as they grow. In fact, they need around two to four times more energy than adult dogs. Look for a diet that lists a single source of animal protein as the first ingredient, and avoid diets that list several types of grains or cereals to bulk out the recipe.
How much to feed puppy food
Dogs vary enormously in size but you can find growth charts available online for specific breeds. These will give you a good idea of the ideal weight for your puppy at every week or month of their puppyhood.
Puppy food needs to contain a carefully selected combination of over fifty vital nutrients, including minerals, trace elements and vitamins. Too little food can lead to deficiencies, whilst too much can cause uncontrolled growth spurts.
How do you weigh a wiggling, squirming puppy? It’s easy! Just weigh yourself first then jump on the scales with them in your arms and subtract your own weight.
If you find that your puppy is a little overweight for his or her age, adjust their daily ration down a little and vice versa if they are underweight.
How often to feed
As a rough guide, most puppies should be fed up to six times per day for the first four months of their life, to allow for the increased energy needs. From six months onwards, feeding can be reduced to around three times a day.
TOP TIP! Monitor your puppy’s weight closely and remember the old expression ‘feed the dog, not the bowl’.
Size makes a BIG difference
Small dog breeds (dogs weighing less than 10kg as adults) mature at between 6-9 months, but larger breeds can take between 18-24 months to fully mature. That’s nearly three times as long in some cases!
This means that puppies on the extreme ends of the size scale will require very different nutrition.
Smaller breed puppies will need more calories than their big cousins. Specialist small breed puppy food also comes in a smaller kibble size that will reduce the risk of choking.
Large breed puppies mature very slowly, and require reduced levels of calcium in order to keep bones growing at a steady rate. Look for puppy food specifically tailored to large breed or giant breed dogs.
Switching over to adult food
Once your puppy is fully-grown, they can be switched over to an adult dog food diet. You can also reduce meals to just once or twice a day.
Don’t forget, whenever you change your dog’s diet it should be done gradually. The digestive system needs time to adapt. Over the course of a week or more, add a little more of the new food and a little less of the old each day.
Ensuring your dog’s food is at room temperature can also help with these tricky changes, and you should avoid feeding food directly from the fridge. Adding a drop of warm water to food can help tempt fussy eaters.
What about treats?
We know how hard it is to resist the pleading eyes of an adorable pup... But it’s important not to give in!
As we mentioned earlier, puppy foods contain a precise balance of nutrients, all carefully worked out by expert canine nutritionists. Adding all sorts of table scraps and treats could lead to excess amounts of certain nutrients and even obesity.
But you still want to reward your pup when they’ve been a good boy or girl, right? The best tactic is to remove a few pieces of kibble from your pup’s weighed out daily ration, and use these for training and rewards throughout the day.
At zooplus you will find a large selection of specialised puppy foods. We offer a great range of well-known brands of dry and wet food in delicious, wholesome flavours.