There are fewer things that bring more smiles to the vet clinic than an owner bringing in their new wiggly happy puppy. It’s an exciting time for families to be adding a furry member, but it can also be overwhelming too! Having resources for owners to read/keep has become a must. So we’ve included our top tips on puppy diets:
There are so many different food options available in pet stores and online. So before you buy, let’s bust a few myths:
- Expensive does not equal better: A lot of pricy “boutique” or “organic” pet foods are unfortunately not balanced or tested according to veterinary standards, and may actually pose a risk to your pets health down the road. These are often 2-3 times more costly than standard diets from reputable companies, and in some cases more than even prescription diets.
- Vets recommend certain brands because they get rewards from the company: FALSE! Vets recommend a particular set of brands because there really are only a handful that have tested their diets according to veterinary standards and employ full time board certified veterinary nutritionists (among other specialists). More on this later…
- Home cooking is better to avoid preservatives: While home cooking can be done safely if this is your goal, they are tricky. It is essential home cooked diets be done under the direction of a nutrition specialised vet to avoid dietary imbalances. Imbalanced home cooked diets can be very detrimental to dogs of all ages, especially growing puppies. Commercially prepared diets are much more likely to be adequately balanced to provide the right nutrients, and any additives have been carefully selected to ensure no ill effects to your pet.
What should I feed my puppy?
First and foremost, a food labelled specifically for PUPPIES or ALL LIFE STAGES is essential. These are formulated to meet the unique needs of growing pups. Puppies need higher levels of protein and fat to keep up with growth. Nutrients such as calcium are also required in different quantities than adult dogs for bone maturation. Feeding puppies an adult or senior formulation runs the risk of interfering with healthy growth.
Three brands I reach for consistently are Purina, Hills Science Diet, and Royal Canin. These companies consistently prove reliable and have become major players in the veterinary field. All three companies provide both over the counter as well as prescription diets that have been heavily studied and proven to provide the right nutrients (if you are feeding the correct amount of the correct life stage). Iams, Eukanuba, and Blue Buffalo also have a few diets that have been appropriately tested and researched as well, but it is important to read the labels on any diet to ensure this is the case.
Dry vs. canned…is one better than the other?
Dry and canned are both perfectly fine options for puppies as long as you are making sure you are feeding the right amount of total calories recommended daily and using a puppy formulation. Some puppies will prefer one over the other, and may tell you quite quickly if that is the case. Both are safe and healthy, and using dry vs. canned vs. a combination of the two are all perfectly appropriate. Puppies are typically ready for dry food by around 6-8 weeks of age and have been weaned completely from their mother.
How much should I feed my puppy?
Typically, you should look at the food label for directions on the quantity to feed. These tend to overestimate a little bit for adult dogs, but for fast growing puppies I think that the feeding guide charts on the sides of the bag or can are a good place to start.
We recommend starting young puppies at 3-4 meals per day (i.e. dividing their total daily caloric intake into 3-4 feedings). As they approach 3-4 months of age, 3 meals is a good transition point. Once a puppy is 6-8 months I like to phase out that “puppy lunch” and start getting them used to two meals per day. Remember you aren’t decreasing the quantity fed, just the frequency. Meal feeding is encouraged to help keep track of how much you are setting out and how much they are eating (as opposed to free feeding where there is food out all the time).
TIP: For more information on deciding if your puppy is too thin or overweight, check out our blog on weight management!
When should I feed my puppy?
Puppies LOVE a solid routine. Having a fairly stable schedule in terms of feeding times/location is going to make things easiest. This also helps with potty training, as I like to encourage owners to associate meal times with going outside to potty before and/or after the meal. Starting with a morning meal, 1-2 mid day meals, and an evening meal is often the easiest schedule to stick with.
TIP: I recommend avoiding exercise immediately before or after a meal, to help prevent GI upset. Exercise close to meal time has also been discussed as a potential contributor to bloating or GDV (gastric dilatation and volvulus), though this is still under research and debate.
Where should I feed my puppy?
A calm place away from distractions and other pets is best. Having a designated “spot” is nice to again encourage routine. This allows your puppy to focus their very short attention span on eating, not playing, barking, or trying to swipe their housemates’ food.
TIP: If your puppy is a quick eater, activity feeders are a GREAT way to slow them down and prevent choking/bloating. There are many of these commercially available at pet stores and with online retailers such as Amazon.
Can I feed my puppy human food?
It is important for pet owners to understand there are many foods that are perfectly safe for humans but are extremely toxic to pets. Supplementing your puppies diet with a safe protein like plain boiled chicken is absolutely ok, however again we need to make sure the majority of their diet is primarily made up of commercially formulated food to avoid nutritional imbalances. Some things that are very toxic to dogs include garlic, onions, caffeine, chocolate, grapes, raisins, macadamia nuts, artificial sweeteners (xylitol), and alcohol. I recommend asking your vet before giving any human food to your creatures! As much as we are tempted to give it, they don’t actually need it.
Checking with your vet is always the best way to overcome the overwhelming amount of information on pet foods out there. They can help you decide what’s best for your pup based on their medical needs and what works for you!
Dr. Kirsten Ronngren, DVM MRCVS