What do I feed my new puppy?
So you got a new puppy — Congratulations!
You’re about to have so much fun, some work, and years of love and companionship. Let’s get that little guy started off right with proper nutrition just right for growing puppies.
First, it is really important to feed your puppy food designed specifically for growth. It is more calorie dense than adult food and has the proper nutrition that rapidly growing puppies need.
Second, breed matters. For the most part, a puppy is a puppy, and they all have the same nutritional requirements. The exceptions to this rule are giant and large breeds, like Great Danes or even Labrador Retrievers. These big guys are prone to orthopedic problems throughout their lives, especially as they get to be “senior citizens.” Starting them off right is essential and may save them unnecessary pain and surgery down the road.
Large Breed puppy food is a little lower in calories than regular puppy food. This is because obesity can magnify orthopedic problems in these huge dogs. Their joints already are taking on more weight and strain than their wolf ancestors were designed for, and added weight exacerbates the problem.
The other big difference that large breed puppy food offers is a lower calcium level. The calcium/phosphorous ratio is maintained, but the calcium level is lower. This helps slow bone growth, with the aim to allow the dog to grow as large as he would have anyway, just at a slow rate to avoid orthopedic issues.
In general, you should feed a growth diet for about the first 12 months of the pup’s life. Small and medium breeds reach 80-90% of their adult weight in this time. Large breeds are considered to be puppies a bit longer — about 18 to 24 months.
When choosing a food, there is no shortage of choices. Start by asking your vet. They know what to look for and what to avoid. Fancy packaging and “Organic” labels are wasting your money and not helping your pup. Ask for guidance. It’s amazing what some companies will do to get your business. You want a food that has the AAFCO label that tells you the food has at least undergone minimal testing and is appropriate for either growth or “all life stages.” This “all life stages” label basically means it is puppy food. (So don’t feed it to your overweight adult dog!)
Puppies should start puppy food just before weaning. At about 4 weeks old, you can introduce the dry food after it has been softened in water. Most pups are weaned by 6 weeks old, and can switch over to puppy food exclusively.
Feed your new puppy at least 3 times a day until they are a few months old, then decrease to twice daily feedings. The amount can be found on the side of the bag. Use this as a starting point. If you overfeed a puppy, your first clue will be increased defecation (more than 2 per day) or soft stool. Any time you see soft stool from your puppy, call your vet and make sure it’s not a medical problem.
Deciding what to feed your new puppy can be a daunting task, but there are lots of great foods available. Ask for your vet’s advice to get your puppy off to the best start possible.
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