Puppies have a lot of growing up to do in a relatively short space of time. They have to develop their muscles, bones, skin and fur, teeth and internal organs very rapidly, as well as learn the important skills of socialisation. Getting the diet right from this early stage will set them in great stead for this amazing growth period.
Puppy's Nutritional Needs
Weaning is the process of gradually moving on from a diet of just milk to solid food. Our nutrition experts highlight that in the first 6 months or so, puppies' nutritional needs are changing very quickly, leaving very little margin for error. This often happens at the same time as neutering, which means they’ll need fewer calories. It is important that the nutrients and calories he needs from his food are all present and correctly balanced for optimal development, as well as being both highly digestible and palatable.
By feeding specially designed puppy food, owners can have complete confidence they’re addressing all their puppy’s nutritional needs.
Do all puppies have the same nutritional requirements?
Depending on physical size and breed, puppies mature at different rates and have different nutritional needs.
Rapid growth occurs during the first few months in all breeds, but in larger breeds such as Great Danes, Labrador Retrievers, and Doberman Pinschers, this period is longer. Whilst most dog breeds mature at around 12 months, in large breeds it may take up to two years to reach their full adult dog size.
In addition to general puppy foods, there are diets tailored for small, medium or large breed dogs, along with a range of breed-specific foods.
Puppies have a lot of growing up to do in a relatively short amount of time. They have to develop their muscles, bones, skin and fur, teeth and internal organs very rapidly, as well as learn the important skills of socialisation. Getting the diet right from this early stage will set them in great stead for this amazing period of growth.
Puppy Diets for Large Breeds
Generally speaking, larger breed puppies need fewer calories per unit of body weight and mature slower than smaller breed puppies. Taking on too many calories can lead to an accelerated growth rate and excessive weight gain. Both accelerated growth rate and excessive puppy weight put increased stress on the skeletal system of growing large breed puppies.
Large-breed puppy foods are designed for gradual, healthy growth and are often lower in calcium and phosphorus than other puppy foods to help avoid skeletal problems developing in them. Some large-breed puppy foods may contain special ingredients to help control appetite, which can help reduce the risk of developmental skeletal problems occurring due to accelerated growth. Large breed puppies might be self-restricting but their food intake and weight need to be monitored.
Puppy Diets for Small Breeds
By comparison, small breed puppies have a very fast growth rate and need up to double the amount of energy per unit of body weight compared to an adult dog.
Specific small breed puppy foods usually include increased levels of protein, fat and vitamin B to help them with these elevated energy levels
Feeding Guidelines for Puppies
• Puppies need to be fed little and often, taking small portions from their daily food ration, which has been weighed out. This can be given at regular intervals throughout the day.
• Feed your puppy four meals a day up until the age of four months, and then reduce the feed to three meals a day until he is six months old. From six months, you can change to two meals a day, and keep to this regime for the rest of his life.
• Any uneaten wet food should be taken and thrown away after about half an hour. The dish should be washed before being used at another mealtime.
• Dry food can be left in the dish for longer but remember the food will become less palatable the longer it is left out.
• Make sure a constant supply of fresh, clean water is always available for your puppy.
Do puppies need supplements?
There is no need to supplement a complete and balanced commercial puppy diet. The term ‘Complete’, which you will see on the pet food packet, is a legal definition. This means that the product must, by law, contain all the nutrients a pet needs for healthy bodily function.
Supplementation of a ‘complete’ diet can be risky and lead to growth abnormalities, especially in large and giant breed dogs. Always follow the manufacturers’ guidelines.
There are many different types of puppy foods on the market. The most important factor in choosing a diet is that the product is clearly labelled as 'complete' for the 'puppy' or 'growth' stage of life.
When should you switch puppies to adult dog food?
Once puppies have reached 90% of their expected adult weight, they should switch from a growth diet to one that’s suitable for maintenance (an adult diet). Whilst most breeds mature around 12 months, small breeds may finish growing by nine to 12 months and for large/giant breeds it may take up to 2 years.
Avoid any sudden change of diet. A change from one food to another should be done gradually (over 7-10 days), with the new food increased day by day until that is the only food fed. The same goes for a switch from one brand to another – any sudden change may upset the dog’s digestive system.
Puppy Weight Management
Follow the feeding guidelines on the pet food packet when deciding how much to feed. Remember guidelines are a starting point. You may need to adjust the amount fed dependent on the needs of the individual dog. Factors such as age, weight and levels of activity will all affect how much you need to feed your puppy.
It’s a good idea to weigh out the food at the start of the day. This can then be apportioned throughout the day, dependent on your routine and the feeding recommendations.
Healthy treats should only be given occasionally to avoid excess calories. When treats are given regularly for training reasons, they should form no more than 10% of the total energy intake (meaning 90% energy from complete food and up to 10% from treats).
It’s useful to monitor your dog’s weight on an ongoing basis as their habits change frequently. You can keep an eye on your puppy's size by using our Dog Size-O-Meter.