Puppies: What, When, How
by Marty Smith, DVM and Race Foster,
Drs. Foster &
Puppyhood is a time of rapid growth and development. As such, puppies
require nearly double the amount of nutrients per pound of food than do
older dogs. Puppies need higher levels of nutrients that are not available
in regular dog food. Because of their special nutritional needs, your
puppy should only receive puppy food for the first year. Most dog food
manufacturers offer a special formula for puppies that is higher in protein
(28%-30%), and enriched with the fat soluble and water soluble vitamins,
minerals, fats and other essentials your growing puppy needs.
the first few days
For the first few days, it is a good idea to continue feeding the same
type and brand of puppy food and use the same feeding schedule the puppy
was on before he came to you. Then you can slowly start using the food
you have chosen based on information you received from the breeder and
veterinarian. A pet needs to be switched to a new food slowly to prevent
intestinal upset. By "slowly" we mean over the course of 7-10
days go from feeding 100% of the previous food to 100% of the new food.
For example, make a mixture that contains 25% of the new food and 75%
of the old food and feed that for several days. Then make it 50-50 for
several days, then 75% new food to 25% old food for several days. Then
you can start feeding 100% new food. If at any time you puppy starts vomiting,
or has loose stools or appears constipated, slow the rate at which you
are switching him over.
We never recommend canned food or the semi-moist fake meat burgers. Canned
foods are typically higher in calories and fat and are usually 80 to 83
per cent water. That makes them pretty expensive if you squeeze out the
top 4/5 of the can. The semi-moist foods are about 55% water and use high
salt or sugar levels for preservation. Again you are paying too much for
water and puppies don't need the salt and sugar. Dry foods are only 9
to 11 percent water and are made of the same quality ingredients as the
other types. They are more economical, easier to use and, in our opinion,
better for your dog.
Dogs on dry foods typically have fewer intestinal upsets, either diarrhea
or constipation. They have fewer problems with unwanted weight gain. We
see no advantage as far as hair coat or skin quality is concerned with
those on canned foods. Probably the most important advantage of using
dry foods and feeding them dry is that the abrasive action of eating them
is good for the dog's teeth and gums. Dog's that constantly eat any of
the softened foods always have more dental problems ranging from tarter
and plaque build up, abscesses, tooth loss and gum disease. Any or all
of these cause bad breath.
The only thing we dislike more than canned or pre-moistened foods for
dogs is table scraps. We strongly recommend never starting because once
you do, it never stops. Most nutritionists believe that dogs that are
on a good quality commercially prepared dry food are nutritionally better
off than their owners are. This has been shown in many studies. Table
scraps are usually higher in calories and certainly aren't balanced. Neither
are they fortified with the vitamins and minerals that dogs require.
There are three forms of commercially produced dog foods: dry kibble,
semi-moist (sealed packages) and moist (canned). Most trainers and veterinarians
recommend dry kibble food that has a meat protein source as one of its
first two ingredients. Dry food is the only food choice that helps control
plaque while it is being eaten. It's also the only food that helps satisfy
your puppy's need to chew. In addition, dry food is easy to store, less
expensive than alternatives, more conveniently served, palatable and has
With dog food, you pretty much get what you pay for. Economy brands are
cheap and are made of the cheapest ingredients available. As such, their
energy values are lower, they use poorer-grade proteins with lower digestibility
which means much of the food passes right through their system and is
not absorbed. Premium brands, which include those classified as Super
Premium and Performance, use higher quality ingredients from sources with
higher biological values. Because better quality ingredients mean better
digestibility, your puppy does not need to eat as much and less waste
is produced (which means less to pick up in the yard). Regular brands,
as you could guess, fall somewhere in between. The brands we recommend,
and which meet the requirements of our puppy contracts are listed here.
If you want to see a comparison chart of cost per feeding and ingredients
we did, click
Remember, the back of the dog food bag doesn't tell the entire story,
including important information like percent digestibility--how much of
the food your puppy's body will actually use. Talk to your veterinarian
or a professional breeder about the best food for your breed.
scraps are a No-No
Young puppies should not be given table scraps because their digestive
tracts are not fully developed and table scraps could cause diarrhea or
other gastrointestinal problems. Table scraps fill them up but do not
provide the nutrients their rapidly growing bodies need. Feeding them
from the table teaches them the bad habit of begging; this may make house
training more difficult for you.
Table scraps should never account for more than 10% of your mature dog's
diet. No chocolate, no bones that splinter easily, and keep your dog away
from high-fat, greasy foods.
milk can cause problems
By the way, when it comes to pets, we consider milk just another table
scrap. Cow's milk has the sugar lactose. Dogs do not have the enzyme lactase
that is necessary to digest it. That is why they often develop diarrhea
or softer stools when given it. Most humans produce this digestive enzyme.
Those that don't are said to suffer from milk intolerances or allergies.
When you see milk or milk by-products listed as ingredients in pet foods,
lactose bacteria have been used to break down the sugar into easier digestible
forms. Dogs do not need fresh milk!
The puppy's feeding schedule will be somewhat dictated by your own personal
schedule. We don't want to leave food out for the puppy so that it can
eat it whenever it wants. You need to be there for the feedings because
you want the puppy and its entire body on a set schedule. This is best
accomplished by feeding the pup what it will eat at specific times on
a specific schedule. Puppies under six months of age should be fed three
times daily; between six and twelve months old, two times daily; and once
per day after twelve months of age. Puppies maturing into adults will
naturally decrease the number of feedings per day on their own.
By feeding on a set schedule, the dog will then go to the bathroom on
a more set schedule and make housetraining easier and faster.
Make it a habit to give the puppy some quiet time after the meal. Don't
let the children romp and play with it for the first hour to an hour and
a half after eating. This can lead to some stomach upsets that can sometimes
be very serious. The puppy will probably need to go to the bathroom, however.
The amount of food given with each meal should never be dictated by what
is on the back of the dog food bag. From our experience, these people
obviously want to sell a lot of food. With our own pups, we place an ample
amount of food down for them and then after 10 to 15 minutes it is picked
up. You'll soon learn to judge how much they need and, depending on how
fast they clean it up, when they need more. Remember to have water available
with or immediately following the meal.
One of the biggest complaints that veterinarians hear from dog owners,
especially those with animals less than 18 months of age, is that they
never eat enough. The owners feel the dog isn't putting on weight or growing
as fast as they think it should. They are tempted to somehow encourage
their animals to eat more. Don't do it. The growth rates and appetites
of young animals on a good quality food are primarily dictated by their
genetics. Don't try to make your dog grow faster than it should or into
something it isn't. This will only cause problems. Artificially accelerated
growth leads to bone and joint disorders. Feed them the amounts they want
and let their bodies dictate their needs.
Treats should never account for more than 10% of your puppy's caloric
intake (which isn't much in Toy breeds). Your puppy's food is its sole
source for the nutrition it needs so don't "fill up" your puppy
on treats before meal time.
Liver products are great treats because they provide nutrients your puppy
is unlikely to obtain from any other food source.
Hard chew treats keep your puppy entertained and improve dental health
by exercising the gums and scraping the teeth. It also satisfies your
teething pup's need to chew.
Treats can be used during training to reward good behavior, but be careful
not to overdo it.
Pet owners have a lot of questions about rawhide. The first question commonly
asked is about quality. Better quality white rawhide bones generally come
from the United States or one of the beef producing South American countries.
However, country of origin is no guarantee of quality. There are some
bones made in the USA that we refuse to recommend. We have confidence
in the bones we recommend only because we have inspected the factories
that produced them. We have witnessed the manufacturing process, have
seen the methods used to treat the hides, and observed each step in their
production. This has given us the assurance to confidently stand behind
the bones we recommend.
The second question is whether or not chewing rawhide is healthy for puppies.
A few years ago, one of the major medical schools in this country conducted
a laboratory test to answer this question. The results showed that in
groups of test dogs, even in those fed an almost exclusive diet of rawhide,
there were no ill effects. On the other hand, the chewing of rawhide had
the beneficial effect of removing plaque from the animals' teeth and keeping
them cleaner. This is significant because periodontal disease is a real
problem in many adult dogs.
Therefore, buy quality rawhide from a source you can trust. It will not
only satisfy your pet's natural urge to chew, it will also help keep him
Puppies may seem to drink large quantities of water. They need it and
it cannot be deprived of it. A dog or cat can starve and lose almost all
of its body fat and half of its protein mass (muscle) and still survive.
However, if this same patient loses 15% of its body water, it will die.
Water is the most important nutrient of all.
For dogs of any age that eat dry food, water will be needed to rehydrate
it in their stomachs for digestion. Puppies also need more water per pound
than adults do because they are growing. Growth comes through very active
metabolism at the cellular level. These processes produce many wastes
and by-products that are excreted into the blood. It requires plenty of
water to carry these substances to and be flushed through the kidneys.
It is okay to schedule when your puppy drinks, but on a daily basis you
must allow them to consume what they want and need.
Providing fresh water is important. Infectious agents and diseases such
as leptospirosis, Giardia, E. coli, and Cryptosporidium can be transmitted
through contaminated water sources. Providing fresh water greatly reduces
the risk of disease and therefore keeps your pet happy and healthy.
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