Did you know that good nutrition isn’t just about the ingredients in the food; it is also about finding the right balance of nutrients? During the first year of life, nutrition plays a significant role in providing puppies with the right balance of nutrients to meet their high energy requirements and to promote optimal growth.
How do we determine which diet is best for a puppy?
A good starting point is the key nutritional factors for growth in puppy food. Key nutritional factors are the nutrients of concern for a particular life stage. For each key nutrient, getting the balance right reduces the risk of the health issues that too little or too much creates.
The Important Nutritional Factors
Energy - Puppies have a relatively small stomach size so we need to provide adequate energy in small meal sizes. This helps ensure they can consume enough energy to meet their high energy demands.
Digestibility -The more digestible the food the more nutritious it is, which means a smaller amount of food is needed.
Protein - Puppies need appropriate amounts of high quality protein for muscle development. A combination of animal and vegetable protein sources helps to ensure the puppy is receiving the protein building blocks to support lean muscle growth.
Calcium - The optimal amount of calcium is important to support bone development during growth. Large breed puppies (those over 25 kg adult body weight) can be prone to calcium excess through supplementation of the diet or by feeding foods such as cheese, milk and bones.
Fatty Acids – DHA, an Omega 3 fatty acid found in oily fish is important in healthy brain and vision development.
Antioxidants - Antioxidants help to protect the body against cellular damage. Puppies consuming antioxidant enhanced foods have been shown to have a better response to vaccination.1
The easiest way to ensure your puppy is getting everything he needs is to feed a high-quality commercially available puppy food. Hill’s biology-based nutrition is developed with the combined expertise of over 220 vets, scientists and pet nutritionists who understand what dogs need to live a long and healthy life. Hill’s Science Diet Puppy is complete and balanced, meaning that it contains all of the nutrients, such as protein, vitamins and minerals that a growing puppy requires, in the right amounts.
Frequency of feeding
Younger puppies will require more frequent feeding. Puppies under 3 months should be fed at least 4 times daily. From 3 - 6 months old we recommend 3 meals a day and then twice daily feeding up until 12 months of age. Dogs and puppies do well with routine, so remember to feed them at the same time each day.
How to tell if you are feeding enough
Although the back of the can or bag will give you a guideline for the feeding amount based on your puppy’s age and weight, it is only a guide. The best way to tell if you are feeding enough is to look at your puppy’s body condition. A healthy body condition is one where you can easily feel (but not see) the ribs if you run your hands along your puppy’s sides. Your puppy should have an obvious waistline when viewed from above and an abdominal tuck when viewed side on. Have a look at your puppy every couple of weeks and make adjustments to the feeding amount as necessary to maintain this ideal body condition.
Transitioning your puppy to an adult dog food
Small and medium breed puppies should be transitioned to an adult dog food when they are fully grown at 12 months of age. Large and giant breed dogs (those over 25 kg adult bodyweight) take longer to reach their adult size and should be kept on Hill’s Science Diet Puppy Large Breed food until 18 months of age.
To transition your dog to a new diet, simply start by mixing the old and new foods together. Gradually reduce the amount of the old food and increase the amount of the new food. The complete transition to the new food should take about a week and helps to get your puppy to accept the new food and reduces the risk of a tummy upset.
A complete and balanced diet is essential for the continuing good health of your new puppy. Your vet is the best source of nutritional advice throughout your dog’s life so make sure to check in with them if you have any nutritional questions.
1.Debraekeleer J, Gross KL and Zicker SC. Feeding growing puppies: postweaning to adulthood In: Hand MS, Thatcher CD, Remillard RL et al. Small Animal Clinical Nutrition 5 th Edition. Mark Morris Institute, Kansas, 2010: 311-319
By Dr Annabel Robertson BVSc (Hons) MANZCVSc MBA, Hills Veterinarian