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The Critical Importance of Feeding Your Puppy Right

Learn the basics of feeding puppies.

When you get a new puppy, there's a lot to consider and be ready for. You need to get to a vet for check-ups, vaccines, fecal checks, and preventatives. You have to stock up on toys and puppy-proof the house. You need a crate to help with house-training and keep the little one safe when you're sleeping or not at home.

One of the most important considerations and things to have ready for your puppy is their diet.

There's a lot of noise out there about what's best to feed puppies. It can be confusing, and it's easy to get started down a path that may not work out so well.

The main thing to know is that puppies have specific dietary needs that differ from those of dogs in other life stages. Puppies need puppy food, and it needs to be specifically formulated with the nutrients they need in the amounts they require.

Information About Feeding Puppies

Puppies are usually weaned from their mother's milk around 6-8 weeks of age. At that point, a puppy's diet aims to do a few things:

  • Support a developing immune system
  • Contribute to proper growth for the breed
  • Decrease obesity risk
  • Avoid orthopedic problems

Puppies grow fast—small and medium breed dogs are usually done growing by a year of age. Large and giant breeds can take a year and a half or two years to finish growing.

The growth phase of a puppy's life is crucial to good health throughout adulthood and old age. Supporting proper growth by providing nutrient dense food in the proper amounts can go a long way toward setting your puppy up for a lifetime of good health.

Aim for Optimal Growth

When you are feeding your puppy, it's important to aim for an optimal growth rate over a maximal growth rate. This often becomes an issue in cases of giant breed dogs, where owners sometimes think they'd like a maximal growth rate to maximize they're dogs adult size. However, in this case, maximal growth rate means the fastest growth possible, and it's achieved my feeding a high fat diet and overfeeding the dog. It can result in joint and bone problems, obesity, and poor adult health.

Calcium is an important nutrient to consider in growing puppies, especially large and giant breeds. Too much calcium can lead to serious skeletal problems.

Overfeeding of any kind is detrimental to puppies because it can lead to obesity, which is hard on their growing skeleton and leads to many other health problems. Hip dysplasia in giant breed dogs is more common when a puppy has been overfed or fed a diet too high in fat. Feeding free-choice (as opposed to feeding measured meals) is discouraged because of this issue.

Work Closely with Your Veterinarian

Most puppies should be fed a high-quality formulated puppy food diet. Low-quality formulated diets may vary too much between batches for optimal health, while high-quality diets are much more uniform.

Small and medium breeds usually eat this until around the time they are spayed or neutered. Large and giant breed dogs may eat puppy food longer, until they are a year or older.

It's important to work closely with your veterinarian on choosing an appropriate food for your dog's breed and lifestyle, then tweaking the amounts fed as needed based on growth patterns and BMI. This means having your dog weighed and evaluated often during puppyhood.

Large and giant breed dogs should eat puppy food specially formulated for them, with nutrients balanced for optimal growth, not maximal growth.

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