Kibble, wet food, home-made or ready-bought treats, fresh or processed meat, and all of those supplements...it can be confusing sometimes to know what to feed your dog to ensure they thrive. Can’t we just give the same food to all of our pooches?
Although this sounds tempting, there is a reason why food is labelled for adults or puppies only. In fact, since they grow up during such a short period of time (in the span of a year), a puppy’s nutritious needs change quickly during the important life stages, thus in order to thrive and grow strong, they require a specific balanced and high-quality diet - any maybe this new puppy starter kit!
What’s wrong with adult dog food and why can’t I give it to a growing puppy?
Technically speaking, your pup won’t seriously suffer if fed adult dog food. That said, there are important differences in the ingredients and nutritious value between adult dog food and specialized puppy formulas which we’ll discuss below. Furthermore, puppies often have more sensitive stomachs than adult dogs because their digestive system is still developing. That’s why it’s so important to provide high-quality, easily digestible foods to help your pup grow big and strong.
A simple but yet very important difference to think about is the size of food. Kibble for adult dogs is usually chunky and not always crunchy enough for the developing jaw and teeth of a baby pooch. Add the dramatic ravenous attack on the feeding bowl every growing puppy performs, and you’ll have to deal with occasional choking and gagging.
More energy - more calories
Moreover, puppy food is much higher in calorie value, as it’s essential for healthy growth and reproduction. So basically, if you think you are doing your pup a favour by feeding him with the serious stuff for grownups, you’re actually potentially depriving him of much-needed energy supplies.
Body development requires a rich diet
Finally, in order to turn into a healthy and strong dog, a puppy needs food packed in protein, minerals, and vitamins, like Calcium, Iron, beta-carotene and more. Adult dog food has more controlled nutrient value as when fully developed, they don’t require these energy bombs to remain healthy. So if you give your little pooch adult dog food on several occasions, there’s really nothing to worry about, but in the long run it may have a negative effect on proper body development.
Related: Why Does My Dog Poop So Much?
How to feed your puppy properly: The optimal nutrition during the growth period
Dog breeds develop differently and some fall under the category of “puppy” even over 24 months of age. Most breeds, however, fully grow up after 12 months of age, but that time span still covers various stages of a dog’s development.
The baby stage - first 8 weeks
Mother nature has covered the first crucial month of your pup’s life with pure mother’s milk. There’s nothing more appropriate for a puppy’s thriving and growth than milk rich in the right amount of protein, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals.
This is also the optimal period a puppy should be with her mother, however, if that isn’t the case, there is formula milk that can partially serve as a substitute. Unfortunately, the dog will probably need a variety of supplements later, since the commercially produced formula can in no way be as nourishing as the natural milk.
The first 3 months
At this stage, puppies are the most vulnerable. Their diet should consist of wet or moistened food packed in protein, therefore, rich in meat and meat-based products. A lot of energy goes on growing and playing, so make sure to feed your little rascal at least 4 times a day, in smaller portions.
Upon reaching 12-13 months, you can start introducing dry kibble into the feeding plan, but high-quality and rich in calories. Your puppy will likely start teething during this time, so check out these puppy essentials for doggie dental care. Doggie place mats under their bowls can also come in handy at this stage, as pups at this age are a little messy!
Larger breeds can start eating kibble even sooner but take great care to introduce it gradually. For example, start adding dry kibble into his regular meal and enlarge the portions over time. After 4 months of growth, feed your puppy 3 times a day.
This is when your puppy’s metabolism starts to slow down as he or she reaches maturity. The slowed-down growing means you should gradually switch from high-nutrient food to adult maintenance food. You should at this point cut down the portion sizes and reduce feedings to two a day. It all basically depends on the dog breed, but generally speaking, smaller dogs react better to diet changes and can be taken off puppy formulas as soon as at 7-9 months of age.
If all these recommended time limits seem confusing, you can always consult your vet and apply the right method for your puppy's breed. All in all, it’s better to be safe than sorry, so don’t be afraid to keep the puppy food a bit longer, than switch on adult food too abruptly and too soon. It’s just like with human babies, the proper care and nourishment in the development period are crucial for healthy and strong adulthood.
As well as feeding your puppy the right diet, exercise and mental stimulation are just as important. Make sure to take your pup for nice walks, spend time together in your yard or the local dog park, and give them some toys to play with that will keep them mentally stimulated. If your pup has felt cooped up as a result of lockdown, make sure to take time to engage them mentally and exercise and play as much as you can from the comfort of your own home.