You wouldn’t feed your baby adult food, would you?
In the same vein, puppies should not be fed food that is specially formulated for adult dogs. Quite simply, the nutritional needs of a growing pup are different from those of a grown dog.
But how exactly is a new puppy’s nutritional needs different from that of an adult dog?
Nutritional needs of puppies
A dog’s nutritional requirements will depend on a few factors, including its age, size, and breed. As such, you have to pay keen attention to these when choosing a suitable puppy food for the latest addition to your household.
Your new puppy’s body is working double time to sustain growth and development. As such, he needs the right nutrients to sustain both.
Before you go out to buy food and supplies for your pet in a brick-and-mortar or online pet store, you should also be aware that the newest member of your pack should be given food with high quality ingredients, free from harmful toxins.
Compared to food formulated for adult canines, your puppy’s food should have more calories. For example, a serving of quality puppy food will contain 445 kcal while a serving of adult dog food may contain only 375 kcal. Those extra calories are necessary because your puppy is still growing while the calories in adult dog food are going to be used for maintenance.
Apart from the difference in the amount of calories per serving, puppy food also contains more fats and proteins compared to adult dog food.
If there is one good reason why you should avoid feeding your puppy adult dog food, it is because feeding your young furry friend with adult food can deprive him of vital nutrients that support optimal growth and development.
Feeding your new puppy through different stages
From six to 12 weeks old, your new puppy can start eating specially formulated puppy food four times a day.
At around three to six months, you can begin to decrease the number of times you feed him. When your puppy reaches three months of age, you should begin to notice him outgrowing his pudginess. If he still has not outgrown this stage, you should continue feeding him in puppy-sized portions.
When your puppy has reached six months of age, you can begin feeding him twice a day.
Making the switch to adult dog food
If you own a small breed pup, you can begin the transition to adult dog food at around seven to nine months. On the other hand, if you own a medium to large breed puppy, you can make the switch at a later time, at around 12 months or a little longer.
Do not rush into making the switch to adult dog food. It will not hurt your young furry pal to continue eating puppy food for a little while longer.
When you do make the switch to adult dog food, make sure that your puppy transitions gradually for the first few days. Mix the old dog food with the new food, gradually increasing the new food as the days pass. Otherwise, his tummy can become upset.
Checking if your puppy is adequately fed
Your pup’s veterinarian is the best person to ask if your pet is adequately fed.
Veterinarians use a body conditioning score to evaluate dogs, with a score of one for thin and emaciated dogs and five for obese pets. Ideally, puppies aged between eight and ten weeks should have a score of two.
Puppies with a score of two in the body conditioning score system will have visible ribs and back bones. When you are looking at your new pup, you should be able to see its waist while looking down at him.
At around five months of age, your newest pack member should start getting leaner as his rapid development begins to taper off.
An opportunity for training
Your puppy’s first year is crucial for his training. This also applies to feeding.
During your pup’s initial months in your home, all family members should make a conscious effort to thwart its begging. Quite simply, you have to resist the temptation to give him table scraps and unhealthy treats. In fact, feeding your new pup table scraps is one of the biggest mistakes that you should avoid.
Teaching your new pup not to beg for food will not only help him avoid weight problems. More importantly, it can also prevent behavioral problems.
As a pet owner, it is one of your responsibilities to make sure that your new puppy meets its nutritional needs to support its growth, health, and wellness. For more information about feeding, consult your veterinarian.
Farah Al-Khojai is the Managing Partner of Pets Delight. A passionate entrepreneur, Farah holds a BSC in Government from the London School of Economics. She is always on the lookout for new opportunities to develop and grow the pet retail and wholesale market in the UAE and beyond, and is proud to be at the helm of the first and the largest pet care provider in the market representing world-class brand including P&G, Savic, Zolux, Flamingo, Ruffwear and Rogz.