Getting a new puppy is an exciting and happy time for any dog lover. However, it’s important to pay attention to nutrition at this crucial stage in a young dog’s development to ensure your pet can enjoy good health for years to come.
Just like human children, puppies need to get all the right nutrients to grow up fit and healthy, so it helps to buy a food specially formulated for this vital age. Then you can rest assured that your pooch is getting everything they need, without the need for additional supplements.
Puppies should be started on this food from the age of two months and continue until they are ready to switch to adult food at the one-year mark (or 18 months for larger breeds that take longer to mature).
Your puppy will need a food that contains about 30 per cent protein, as they grow very quickly in their first year. Protein is essential for muscle development, so it should not be neglected. However, vitamin E is also important for preventing muscle degeneration. There are plenty of foods available that contain these nutrients, such as Burns Puppy Original Chicken & Rice (Canine Extra).
Even if your puppy is very active, be careful not to overfeed. Excess weight while the skeletal structure is still developing can lead to hip dysplasia and osteochondrosis later in life, so sticking to the recommended portion sizes is crucial.
Since different breeds of dog end up so many different sizes, it makes sense that puppies need a wide range of nutritional options to suit their needs. Pooches can be broken up into a number of groups based on size, with special foods available to suit each one. There are giant breeds, such as St Bernards and Newfoundlands, minis (most toy dogs), mediums (which include border collies and bedlington terriers) and maxis (such as labradors and retrievers).
Royal Canin has a range of foods formulated for different sizes in this way, so it’s worth considering to give your puppy the best nutrition possible.
If you want an even more personalised option, there are even foods available that are made to suit the needs of individual breeds. Royal Canin also offers mixes for German Shepherds, Yorkshire Terriers, Shih-Tzus, Chihuahuas, Dachshunds, French Bulldogs, Golden Retrievers and Labradors.
This may seem unnecessary, but the foods have been designed to take the unique needs of each breed into account. For example, German Shepherds have very sensitive digestive systems, and Yorkshire Terriers need specific combinations of amino acids to keep their long coats in good condition. Consider doing a little research into the precise needs of your dog - you may be surprised!
When it comes to choosing what kind of food to feed your dog, you have a number of options. These are tinned wet foods, semi-moist formulas and dry kibbles. Dry food generally offers the best value for money, and is better for your pet’s teeth.
By contrast, semi-moist food is more crumbly, and has more potential to get stuck between a puppy’s teeth, which can cause decay and gum disease. What’s more, these foods often have high levels of salt, sugar and other unhealthy substances, so make sure to check the ingredients before purchasing.
Puppies need a consistent feeding schedule to help them cope with their busy and energetic days of growing up. Before six months, three daily meals is the best option. The rate of growth slows down after this point for smaller breeds. For larger breeds, the timescale is more variable, so consult your vet if you are unsure.
However, regardless of the routine you choose, you will need to apply it consistently. Put the food in the same place, at the same time, and leave it out for 20-30 minutes. Throw away anything that isn’t eaten within this time, to ensure that your puppy learns how meals work.
The same principle also applies to your choice of food. Stick to a single type, or a very narrow range, as this lowers the chances of your dog suffering from an upset stomach.
The half-hour rule does not apply to water, which should be clean, plentiful and always available, particularly during the summer. Dehydration and overheating can cause serious health problems and sometimes even death, and drinking water is the best way to keep your dog safe.
In short, a steady routine combined with a well-chosen food is a simple way to make sure that your puppy is happy and healthy, all the way into adulthood.
Written by: Hannah