(Welcome to the weekly pet column of Pet Connection Programs Inc. of Marilla, N.Y. A new article is posted each week, so be sure to check back on a regular basis!)
New puppy owners have plenty of questions when it comes to their new pet – about training their puppy, puppy-proofing their home and what behaviors are considered “normal” for a growing dog. Perhaps the most important question, which is commonly misunderstood, is how to feed your puppy to make sure he or she grows up to be a healthy and happy adult dog.
In fact, a recent survey by Purina found that many dog owners were unsure about how to correctly feed their growing pup. For example, the majority of puppy owners did not realize that breed size determines how long a dog is considered a puppy, and ultimately, how long their dog needs to be fed puppy food.
“Puppies have specific nutritional requirements to help support their rapid growth and development,” said veterinarian at Purina Dr. Callie Harris, DVM. “Similar to babies, puppies’ bodies are fast-growing, but unlike babies, puppies pack all their growth into one to two years.”
Here’s a guide to common questions about feeding your pup.
Why should you feed your growing dog only puppy food?
Puppies’ growing bodies need 25% more protein, 40% more fat and 140% more calcium than adult dogs. In addition, smaller kibble pieces are easier for a young dog with a smaller mouth to eat, especially smaller breeds.
Dr. Harris explains that high-quality puppy food is balanced with essential nutrients like:
• Protein to help support growing muscles
• Minerals like calcium and phosphorous to support growing bones and teeth
• Antioxidants to help support your puppy’s developing immune system
• DHA, an omega-3 fatty acid, to help support brain and vision development
Until what age is your puppy still considered a puppy?
Your dog’s breed size determines how long they’re considered a puppy. If you didn’t know this, you’re not alone. In the survey, 47% of small breed dog owners didn’t realize their dog needs to be fed puppy food for up to a year, and a whopping 92% of large breed dog owners didn’t realize their dog is actually considered a puppy for up to two years and needs to be fed puppy food for that period of time.
If you’re unclear exactly how long to feed puppy food, it’s best to speak to your veterinarian to ensure you’re meeting your puppy’s specific nutritional requirements.
How much food do they need?
The amount of food your puppy needs depends on how much they’ll weigh at maturity – not their current weight. For example, a Labrador retriever will weigh more at maturity than a Russell terrier, so the larger breed size dog will require more food as a puppy.
To avoid overfeeding, offer your pup three equal-sized meals each day, based on their daily caloric requirement recommendations split into three. Additionally, it’s important to establish a feeding routine at the same times each day to help keep a puppy’s digestive system regular, which can also make house training easier.
For a comprehensive feeding chart to help determine how much to feed your puppy, along with lots of other information about caring for puppies, visit Purina.com/Puppy. Review the feeding instructions on the back of your puppy’s food bag and consult your veterinarian for questions regarding your specific puppy’s diet.
What’s the best way to transition to adult dog food?
If you’re wondering why you can’t stick with puppy food for adult dogs, one reason is that puppy food is much higher in calories to help support your puppy’s growth, development and high energy levels. Continuing to feed puppy food past the point of maturity could result in weight gain, which can lead to other health problems, so transitioning to a balanced adult food once your puppy has grown into adulthood is important. When your dog becomes an adult, a gradual transition from puppy food to adult food helps avoid an upset stomach. Over 7-10 days, gradually introduce more and more of the new food mixed in with the old.
Adult dogs may only need two meals per day, depending on their breed, size and activity level. Follow the feeding instructions on the food package to know how much food to feed your dog each day and split that into two meals. To ensure your dog is eating the right amount, it’s best to monitor their body condition or consult with your veterinarian.
Following these guidelines will help you keep your young dog happy, healthy and growing strong. Visit Purina.com/puppy for more tips and to explore all of the wet, dry and treat options Purina has for your puppy.
(For more information on pets and animal adoption, please visit www.petconnectionprogramsinc.com. Or, visit their Facebook page at www.facebook.com/PetConnectionProgramsinc. Located in Marilla, N.Y., Pet Connection Programs Inc. is a nonprofit maternity and special care shelter founded in 1984.)