Congratulations—you have a brand new puppy! If this is your first puppy, then know that it can be a handful. Growing puppies are incredibly active, stubborn, and highly dependent. The puppy stage usually lasts from 12 to 18 months of your dog’s life and is also the time of rapid growth. Handled carefully, the puppy months can set your dog up for healthy development into adulthood. Understanding puppy nutrition is one big step ahead.
Everything starts with providing your puppy with all the needed nutrients for growth. Your puppy’s nutritional needs are widely different from the essential nutrients of an adult diet. However, this doesn’t mean that any kind of “food for puppies” is good enough. Here’s what you need to know about a puppy’s diet.
Composition of Puppy Food
When it comes to proper puppy nutrition, AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials) is the golden standard. According to the association, the puppy food should contain:
- 22% of the puppy dog food should be protein for optimal growth and development
- the fat content of the food should be limited to just 8% to help control the puppy’s weight
- digestible carbohydrates should be around 20% of the puppy pet food to keep him supplied with energy
- other nutritional requirements include essential fatty acids, essential amino acids, fat soluble vitamins, and more
Note however that a balanced nutrition for puppies depends on their breed forecast. For example, large breeds typically have a higher metabolic speed than small breeds. Some breeds are also prone to health problems such as excessive weight gain in pugs. As early as possible, some breeds should be exposed to complete and balanced nutrition according to their health forecast. Fortunately, most puppy meals today comply with AAFCO standards but for owners who want to cover all bases, customizing meals through services like the Farmer’s dog meals helps prevent possible nutritional deficiencies.
Other fresh pet food delivery services, such as Nom Nom dog meals, are also great options for growing puppies as they personalize meals for all life stages.
Calorie Requirement for Puppy Foods
A puppy grows fast and with such an active lifestyle, their food intake needs to match their nutritional needs. Exactly how many calories do dogs need per day? As odd as it sounds, pet owners actually need to serve more calories to feed their puppies. It starts by weaning the puppies from the mother’s milk at around 4 weeks of age. From there, you gradually introduce solid food.
At 4 weeks of age, you need to weigh the puppy to figure out how much food to serve in terms of calories. A 10-pound puppy needs to eat around 600 calories per day. For every 10 pounds of added weight, you need to add 300 calories to the puppy food. This is the recommended pattern until the dog is 4 months old.
Once the puppy turns 5 months old, the calorie requirement changes. This is when your growing puppy is at his most active. The little one will be chewing everything, running around, and basically expending tons of energy throughout the day. Starting at 5 months, the calorie requirement increases to 400 for every 10 pounds.
Note though that this is simply a rule of thumb. If you can get access to a veterinary nutritionist who can formulate balanced puppy food, then this would be the better option. Opting for customized meals will also give you the best results for healthy growth. Raw food diet for puppies and homemade dog food for puppies are also options pet parents look into these days.
Note that table scraps and training treats form part of the total calorie count for the day. Ideally, you should feed your puppy small amounts of treats, comprising of just 10 percent of their total calorie consumption for the day.
How to Feed Puppies vs Adult Dogs
Adult dogs are fed twice a day with 12 hours of intervals between each meal . In contrast, your puppy feeding schedule would be busier. From 6 to 12 weeks, puppies should be fed 4 times a day. At 3 to 6 months, their balanced diet should be delivered through 3 meals per day. Starting at 6 months, you can gradually switch to two meals per day for normal growth. In the beginning, if situation calls for it, you can also try homemade puppy formula if the mother is not available.
The first 12 months should offer maximal growth and development for the puppy. By this time, proper nutrition should bring them pretty close to their adult size and weight. You want to monitor the puppy during this time to make sure they have a healthy body weight—all the time adjusting puppy diets to match the situation. Note that the growing period for large and giant breeds of puppies can extend beyond 1 year. For example, labrador retrievers usually take 2 years to mature.
When to Switch to Adult Dog Food
Knowing exactly when to switch to adult dog food is crucial. This switch is usually done at six months of age when the dog is nearing his ideal adult size and weight. The rapid growth of puppyhood slows down at this point – which means you’ll need to lower the calories and choose a different composition of the essential nutrient.
Transition is best done slowly by mixing the puppy foods with the adult food. Allow the puppy to get used to this mixture before gradually increasing the ratio of puppy and adult meals. Note that since large breed dogs have a longer growing process, you might not need to make the switch until they’re around 8 or 12 months of age.
Regular Vet Visits
With each vaccination, puppies are weighed to properly track their progress. Take this chance to talk with the veterinarian to gain some insight about the breed and if their overall physique indicates good health.
Frequently Asked Questions
What does a puppy need nutritionally?
Puppies need a complete and balanced meal packed with proteins, fish oil, carbs, fat, and essential vitamins and minerals. You can buy only puppy food that can deliver all of these requirements or you can formulate your own.
What food is best for my puppy?
Food fed to your puppy should be specifically created for their specific life stages. There are dry food options but if you have the option, fresh meals are usually the best way to go. It starts the puppy down the correct path by providing them with nutrient-dense meals that can help prevent excessive body fat.
How much should a puppy eat a day?
Right after being weaned, puppies should be served 4 meals a day. This is then gradually reduced as the puppy enters a more stable phase of its many life stages. Calorie-wise, the amount depends mainly on the dog’s weight. Giant breed dogs need more calories compared with large breed puppies.