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Nutrition Nuggets is the newest offshoot of petMD's Dog Nutrition Center. Each week Dr. Coates will use her expertise and wisdom to blog about the intricacies of dog nutrition.

MyBowl for Puppies?

August 26, 2011 / (0) comments

A question I received immediately after we launched the MyBowl tool for dogs was, "Does it work for puppies?" I thought I’d address that in this post, since I’d be willing to bet if it came up that quickly, more than one person is wondering the same thing.

The short answer is "yes, and no." Here’s what I mean.

The general information offered by MyBowl, and within the rest of the Nutrition Center, applies to dogs no matter what their age. For example, balanced nutrition is essential, and certain types of oils (e.g., those containing healthy ratios of omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids) help dogs of any age maintain healthy skin and a glossy coat.

But, if you look at the fine print underneath the MyBowl picture, you’ll see the following statement:

*IMPORTANT NOTE: Percentages for each bowl category are based on adult dogs and will vary for puppies.

This is included because the nutritional needs of puppies are not identical to those of adult dogs. So what puppy owners should ignore (at least until their dogs are fully grown) in the MyBowl tool are the percentages. I don’t have the artistic talent to draw up a MyBowl for pups, but I can use the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) nutrient requirements for dogs to give you an idea of what tweaks would be necessary to put together a MyBowl for puppies.

AAFCO’s recommendation for a minimum protein percentage for adult dogs is 18%, while for puppies it is 22%. So I can safely say that the protein piece of the pie (or bowl) should increase by about 4%. Similarly, the AAFCO minimums for fat are 3% higher for pups, so that portion of the bowl should be a little larger too. Puppies have slightly higher needs for calcium, phosphorous, sodium, and chloride, so the mineral section should also be slightly bigger, but the vitamin wedge can remain unchanged. The increases in protein, fat, and minerals are balanced by including lower levels of carbohydrates in puppy foods in comparison to adult or senior formulations.

I’ll leave the details to the veterinary nutritionists out there. For example, we might need to draw up a separate MyBowl for large breed puppies because they should receive slightly lower percentages of energy and calcium to reduce their risk of developmental orthopedic diseases. You can see how things could get a bit confusing (we’re already up to three bowls!), but I think I’ve given you a general idea of how a MyBowl for puppies would differ from the one that we developed for adult dogs.

The best way to pick out a food for your puppy is to make sure that it offers balanced nutrition for this particular life stage, as is indicated by an AAFCO statement reading something like, "Animal feeding tests using AAFCO procedures substantiate that (insert food name here) provides complete and balanced nutrition for growing puppies and gestating or lactating adult female dogs," and that it is made from wholesome ingredients. Feed it for a few weeks, and if your puppy is thriving, you found a good one for him.

MyBowl was developed for healthy, adult dogs. If your dog doesn’t fit into that category, say he suffers from obesity or kidney disease, talk to your veterinarian about what food would be best for him.

Dr. Jennifer Coates

Image: Kol Tregaskes / via Flickr