By Ashley Gallagher, DVM
Having a new puppy in the house is an exciting time but it can also be exhausting. Pet stores can be overwhelming given the endless aisles of dog toys, dog treats and dog foods to choose from. Start by discussing the diet you intend to select with your veterinarian to ensure it is balanced and specially formulated for your growing puppy. Here are some other tips to help you and your puppy start off on the right paw.
You want a puppy food from a pet food company that has undergone AAFCO feeding trials. This means that the specific formulation of the diet has been fed to dogs to make sure there are no deficiencies. Many pet food companies make up their food based on a recipe and never feed it to actual dogs before sending it to the pet stores. The better pet food companies invest in scientific research and consult with veterinary nutritionists to provide a food that is completely balanced without any imbalances in nutrients that may be harmful for your puppy’s development.
Puppy food should be higher in calories than adult food to compensate for how much energy puppies expend by growing, not to mention all that playing. About half of the calories they consume are spent on tissue growth and development. It is important that the amount of food they are eating provides an adequate amount of nutrients to help them develop properly.
Choose a food that is specifically formulated for the size of your puppy. The bone growth for a Chihuahua puppy and a Great Dane puppy is very different and they should not be fed the same food. Large breed puppy food has a specific ratio of calcium and phosphorus to ensure the bones develop properly to help prevent joint disease.
A diet designed for the size of your puppy is also important when it comes to the actual kibble size. A tiny Yorkie puppy may have difficulty with larger size pieces of food, so look for a toy or small breed puppy formula to help with this. If you decide to go with a wet food, be mindful of the food chunk sizes.
The ingredients in your puppy's food (and how they are balanced) are vital to the development of your puppy. For instance, a puppy’s nervous system is dependent on the essential fatty acid DHA. Puppy diets should have a higher amount of this than foods meant for adult dogs to aid in the eye, ear and brain development of a growing puppy. Studies have shown that puppies fed diets high in DHA have increased memory and trainability. This should result in smarter more trainable puppies.
Keeping your puppy at a healthy weight is crucial to lifelong health. Underweight puppies may not develop properly while puppies that are overweight are at increased risk of being overweight adult dogs. This can lead to diseases such as arthritis, high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes and heat exhaustion. Your veterinarian should evaluate your puppy’s body condition score at each visit to make sure you are on track with nutrition.