Puppies grow up fast, but this doesn’t mean you can give them an endless amount of food just because they always seem to be begging for more.
Young pups have small tummies which makes it crucial for pet parents to avoid overfeeding them at all times. Puppies need to have enough energy for play and learning, but feeding them a lot doesn’t always guarantee good nutrition.
To ensure that you’re feeding your puppies the right food at suitable times throughout their growth and development, let the tips below serve as your guide:
1. Base feeding on age
It’s crucial that puppies nurse from their mother.
A mother’s milk gives the best nutrition and provides antibodies that protect against diseases. In situations where it’s not possible to keep a puppy with his mother, feed milk replacers using bottles designed especially for puppies.
Every puppy’s need for nutrition will change as he or she gets older. As your puppies grow, you should adjust food portion sizes accordingly.
Six to 12 Weeks
Once puppies are slowly being weaned off their mother, they will need to be fed several times all throughout the day. When feeding hyperactive puppies, do it inside a puppy playpen so that they won’t stray away from food and focus only on eating.
This is the age where puppies grow fast and it’s recommended that they eat four meals spread evenly each day. If you’re feeding your pups dry food, make sure to moisten it until it feels spongy so that the puppies won’t have a hard time eating as they are still developing their teeth.
Three to Six Months
At this age, you can adjust four feeding times down to three. Every day, feed your puppies at the same time during breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Observe the puppies’ growth and adjust the amount of food you are giving as needed.
If you leave the house for work, you can set your feeding schedule in this manner:
- 7:00 am – give their morning meal
- 12:00 noon – give their midday meal
- 5:00 pm – give their evening meal
If you believe that one or all of your puppies are becoming underweight or overweight, consult with your vet and adjust food amounts accordingly.
Six to 12 Months
This is the adolescent age where your puppies can already transition to two meals each day. The decision to switch from puppy food to adult food all depends on your dogs. Usually, smaller-breed canines can already switch to adult food between seven to nine months while larger breeds may continue to eat puppy food for up to a year.
Once a dog reaches age one, most pet owners settle for serving two meals a day of adult dog food.
2. Select high-quality food
During the first six months of puppies, their nutrient needs will change very quickly. To ensure that your puppies get the right nutrients, ask your vet on what puppy food he or she can recommend.
When checking pet food labels, search for one with complete and balanced nutrition along with a statement on what dog age the food is suitable for. Puppies should be eating food which is labeled for growth or for all life stages. After a month of eating, your pups should have shiny, thick coats with a playful and energetic attitude to show that they are getting the most nutrients from the food.
Foods to Avoid
Good quality meat should be among the main ingredients so make sure to avoid food that lists corn by-products as the first ingredient.
As much as possible, don’t feed your dogs puppy food longer than is needed. Feeding them puppy food for too long can cause nutritional deficiency, orthopedic and obesity problems.
The best indicator that it’s time to switch to adult dog food is when you notice your pooches starting to gain too much weight or eating less of the puppy food. Also, keep in mind that not all food that humans enjoy are good for dogs.
Make sure you keep your pups away from any of these foods:
- Macadamia nuts
- Raw bread dough made with yeast
- Onions, garlic, and chives
- Milk and any large amounts of dairy products
- Alcoholic drinks
- Food sweetened with xylitol
- Any types of salty food
3. Check if the food consumed is at the right amount
Most veterinarians will evaluate whether the dog is eating the right amount through a body conditioning score. This can range from one for being thin to five for being obese.
It’s quite normal for young puppies to be a bit fat, but after eight to ten weeks, the puppy should be at range two.
You can assess if your dogs are at a score of two by checking if they are relatively thin and if the ribs are visible. You should easily see the top of your pups’ backbones but you shouldn’t feel any fats on the ribs. When looking down at each of your dogs, you should see a waist and an abdominal tuck when observing from the side.
At five months, your pups should be looking leaner as they start to wrap up most of their growth period.
4. Limit giving treats
No matter how tempted you are to give treats, it’s best to limit giving them.
Puppies need nutrients to grow, and it’s important you give them food that has complete and balanced nutrition. Rather than getting calories from treats, puppies should get most of their caloric requirements from puppy food as it gives the most complete nutrition.
When it comes to treats, aim for not more than 5% calories. Also, make sure to only give treats that are at the right size for your pups. Most importantly, avoid giving table scraps as this teaches puppies to beg for treats at the table and cause pancreatitis or digestive upset.
Consider giving healthy types of treats like any of the following:
- Green beans
- Bell peppers
In a puppy’s mind, the best treat of all would be the times he gets to spend with you. Canines are a pack species, and they only want to be a member of a pack. Anything that your pups do with you who’s a member of their pack – is definitely a positive reinforcement.
Give your pups the care they need
With regard to feeding puppies, less is better. As much as possible, only feed them the right amount to combat obesity and other health complications.
Surrendering to your puppies’ every plea for food is not good for their health. At their young age, your pups need to know that you won’t comply with their every demand.
Developing the right behavior in your pups when it comes to food will also help them become disciplined, healthy adult dogs in the future.
Andrew Kevan has been the Account Manager at Sandleford Holdings since 2016. He studied at Monash University and completed his Bachelor of Science degree, majoring in Zoology. Andrew is the owner of a beautiful Rottweiler named Lady who is constantly spoiled and loves her Fido & Fletch Large Pet Home.