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Nutrition And Feeding Tips For Your Puppy

12th November 2021

Meet Sara, our Nutritionist 

Sara is a proud pet parent to Mae the Cocker Spaniel, 3 cats and a growing flock of hens, and she knows that nutrition is key to their happy and healthy lives. With a degree in Animal Science and over 12 years’ experience as a Pet Nutritionist, Sara shares useful information and resources on dog nutrition with pet parents like you.

Over to Sara…

Bringing home a new puppy is an exciting time for all the family. You’ll spend lots of time training and bonding with your new bundle of energy, ensuring that they settle into their ‘fur-ever’ home and become a much-loved part of the family. You’ll also need to make some important decisions as a pet parent, such as how you’ll feed your puppy.

Puppies have very specific nutritional needs which are influenced by many factors including their breed, size, age, sex, environment, and neuter status. They need a balanced diet to help support their growth, development and long-term health.

We know puppy feeding can feel a little overwhelming, so we’re sharing our top advice on puppy nutrition and feeding to help you raise a happy and healthy dog.

Early Puppy Nutrition

As soon as a puppy is born, they’ll feed solely on their mother’s milk for the first 3 weeks of life. Their mother’s milk provides them with all of the nutrition they need and with some immunity until their own immune system starts to develop. From around 3 weeks of age, puppies can start to be weaned onto good quality, complete and balanced puppy food. Once your puppy is fully weaned, at around 8 weeks of age, they can leave their mother to be with you in their ‘fur-ever’ home.

Keeping Your Puppy On The Same Food

On Gotcha Day, good breeders will often give you lots of valuable information, along with some things to help your puppy settle into their new home, such as, a blanket with their mother’s scent and a supply of food that your puppy has been weaned on to.

Not only is your puppy moving to a new home with new surroundings, but they’re also moving away from the safety of their mother and siblings. It’s important to try to transition them to their new environment as calmly as possible and that any other stresses are kept to a minimum, including any dietary changes. It’s best to keep feeding your puppy the same food that they were weaned on to until they are fully settled into their new home.

Changing Your Puppy’s Diet

If you want to start feeding your puppy new food, do this only once you’re confident that they’ve settled into their new home. Choose food that is complete and balanced and specifically formulated for puppies in order to meet all of their nutritional needs.

Slowly change their diet, starting by replacing 25% of their old food with new food and gradually increasing this until they are just eating their new food. Puppies’ digestive systems are not fully developed and they’re very sensitive to both environmental and dietary changes, so it’s not unusual if your pup shows signs of an upset tummy on what can seem like a fairly regular basis.

When changing to a new food, check feeding guides to know how much to feed your pup according to their age and weight. However, don’t forget that these are just guides and every puppy is different, so continually monitor your puppy’s weight and adjust feeding quantities accordingly. This is known as feeding to body condition.

It’s best to use digital scales to measure out food as they are much more accurate than using cups. Remember that if you’re feeding your puppy treats or a mixed diet, adjust the quantities accordingly so they don’t consume too many calories and put on too much weight. Treats should make up no more than 10% of your pup’s total daily calorie intake so when it comes to training, try a combination of methods to reinforce good behaviour, such as treats, toys and cuddles.

Avoid feeding your pup table scraps as this could also result in them having too many calories. Plus, some ‘hoo-man’ foods can be toxic to dogs. These include onions, garlic, cooked bones and avocados.

Nutritional Requirements Of A Puppy

For the best start in life, your pup needs a specially formulated puppy food that contains all the nutrients they need to grow and develop. There are six key nutrients that puppies need, which should form the foundation of their diet:

Water – The most important nutrient. Ensure clean, fresh water is available at all times. Water is involved in many body processes, including digestion, nutrient absorption and removal of waste products. Plus, water is a component of all body fluids and is involved in temperature regulation.

Protein – Puppies have a higher protein requirement as they need it to help build new tissue to grow. Protein has a number of functions including structural (e.g. muscle) and functional (e.g. hormones) and is used as a source of energy.

Carbohydrates – These are used as a source of energy.

Fats and Oils – These provide a source of energy and essential fatty acids. Fats and oils can help maintain a healthy skin and coat. Puppies need more fat to give them the energy to grow and develop. Too much fat can cause excessive growth, weight gain and obesity, though.

Fibre – This is important for puppies’ digestive health and function.

Vitamins and Minerals – These need to be provided in the right amounts and are vital for growth, health, maintenance and reproduction.

Puppy Growth And Feeding

Your puppy will start with 3 meals a day until they are 6 months of age. After 6 months, they can move to 2 meals per day. Once your puppy reaches around 90% of their expected adult weight, start to slowly transition them onto a complete and balanced adult diet.

The food and quantity you feed need to support your puppy’s growth rate. Smaller breeds have a higher energy demand and grow at a much quicker rate, whereas large and giant breeds grow at a much slower rate and don’t reach adulthood until later. As an indication, the table below gives a guideline as to when your puppy will reach adulthood:

When Will My Puppy Reach Adulthood?

Responsible feeding is key to your puppy leading a happy, healthy and fulfilled life. Puppies need to be fed to meet their average growth rate, not maximum growth rate as this can lead to skeletal abnormalities and obesity. Pet obesity is more prevalent than ever before and can lead to a whole host of other problems in later life, including joint health problems, respiratory conditions and skin issues. According to recent research, obese and overweight dogs are[1):

  • 9x more likely to be diagnosed with dermatological (skin) issues
  • 7x more likely to be diagnosed with endocrinological disorders (hormone imbalances)
  • 4x more likely to be diagnosed with respiratory conditions
  • 1x more likely to be diagnosed with orthopaedic conditions

Obesity in a puppy’s early years can predispose them to obesity in adulthood and can also significantly reduce their quality of life. Therefore, ensuring correct feeding practices from the outset is important. Your puppy’s weight should be monitored regularly to ensure they are growing at the correct rate for their breed, age and expected adult weight. Regular check-ups at the vets will also help you keep them healthy.

At Butcher’s, we pride ourselves on making naturally nourishing recipes. Our Puppy Perfect recipes are ‘paw-fect’ for giving your new arrival the best start in life; they’re formulated to meet their increased energy demands and with all of the nutrition they need. Plus, they contain a prebiotic to help support their sensitive little tummies and Omega-3 fatty acids to help aid their cognitive development.

For more information about our Puppy Perfect recipes, alongside more hints and tips for raising a happy and healthy dog, visit our puppy guide here.

[1] Please see source here.

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