Puppy Food – Feeding Guide for 2020: What, When and How to Feed a Puppy
A puppy is a bundle of joy when it is brought home to its forever home to meet and bond with its human family. Because it is so very young, the matter of puppy food merits care and attention.
A puppy needs extra care especially when it comes to nutrition and feeding. It has slightly different needs from an adult dog.
These are a few things for new puppy mums and dads to consider -- when to start the pup on solid puppy food, what you can and cannot feed it according to the different stages of its first year of growth, and how to go about it.
Luckily for you, we have the latest puppy feeding guide to help you take care of your little pooch just right, so that it grows into a healthy, happy canine for years to come.
General stages of a puppy’s life
a) 0 to 2 months
In the eight-week period from the time the puppy is born to its second month, it is important that it be allowed to nurse directly from the mother, as the mother’s milk is full of antibodies that will protect the puppy from diseases.
The frequency of the puppy feeding on its mother’s milk should be as and when it needs to or wants to. If the mother is suffering from conditions such as eclampsia or mastitis, it may not be able to nurse the puppy.
In this situation, it is advisable to feed puppies in their first 8 weeks with puppy milk replacement formula that can be found in pet stores.
b) 3 to 6 months
Puppies’ tiny front incisors start showing around the second to third month. This is when weaning should begin and most mother dogs will start pushing their pups away when nursing.
It is best to feed them puppy food labelled for growth during this period. Find out the proper amount per serving size and frequency of feeding to avoid excess calorie intake.
Each dog breed has varying growth rates. Smaller breeds will begin to resemble their adult forms by the time they reach 6 months.
c) 7 months and above
While the preceding 3 to 6 month stage was the fast-growing juvenile stage akin to adolescence, after 6 months your puppy’s growth will slow down. Proper nutrition is still important after 6 months of age.
By this stage, most puppies will have all their adult teeth in place.
Generally, at the six-month stage, you can continue feeding it puppy food labelled for growth, as larger breeds mature a few months later. For other breeds that are close to maturity at this stage, it is important not to overfeed so as to avoid obesity.
You can speak to the vet about what the optimum weight is for your puppy’s breed. Make the transition from puppy food to adult dog food in slow, gradual stages.
When does a puppy mature? Different breed, different speed
Maturity is generally marked by the time in which a dog becomes sexually productive. Complete adulthood is achieved when it is fully grown. A dog can become sexually productive before it reaches its full growth.
Small and medium-sized breeds of puppies will typically mature to adulthood by the time they are 9 to 12 months of age. Some may be as early as 6 months. Large and giant breeds may take up to 18 to 24 months before reaching full adulthood.
Genetics, nutrition and the environment all play a part in determining the growth rate of your puppy. Regardless of breed, proper nutrition is paramount for the health and development of puppies as well as their immune system.
How fast your pup grows depends on the density of nutrients in the food as well as the amount of food given. The best type of growth is slow, i.e. optimal growth. Too fast a growth can cause joint and other health problems for some breeds.
When to start puppy food
You can make the transition to puppy food from week 8 (the end of the second month) onwards. Some larger breeds may still prefer mother’s milk or milk replacers beyond the second month or eighth week. It is ideal to check with the vet and to monitor your puppy’s behaviour and preferences.
Some vets recommend wetting solid store-bought puppy food with warm water to make a soupy gruel during the transition from milk to solids.
As the puppy becomes more accepting of the gruel, you can reduce the amount of milk replacer in the gruel so that the puppy becomes accustomed to more solid blends.
It is extremely important to remember that you must feed your puppy food that is specially marked as puppy food, and not adult dog food.
Nutritional needs of puppies
Your growing puppy needs a balanced diet not just to give him/her energy, but also for the development of its brain and body. Many store-bought solid puppy foods contain the necessary nutrients.
Generally, the best puppy diet should have:
- Protein: This should be from an animal source. Protein is essential for growth. The puppy food should have at least 20 to a maximum of 30% protein.
- Carbohydrate: Sources of carbs in puppy food vary and can be from certain grains, vegetables and fruits. Total carbohydrates should be about 20 percent of the food.
- Fat: A source of essential fatty acids, it is also a concentrated source of energy and carries fat-soluble vitamins. In addition, fat keeps your puppy’s skin and coat healthy, mobilizes digestion, and stabilizes temperature. Look for foods that have at least 10 to 25 percent fat.
- Water: Fresh water must be available at all times. To ensure a puppy is well hydrated, it is best to feed it wet food that has at least 60% moisture. Gently cooked or raw foods are the best.
You can find a detailed list of minimum nutrient requirements here.
What food can puppies eat?
As mentioned earlier, solid food for puppies sold at the store is fine for feeding puppies. There is a wide variety of options. However, among the brands of dog food in Singapore, there is only one that has fresh dog food catered specifically to puppies.
The other regular options available are in the form of ‘wet’ canned food or in the form of kibbles, which some call biscuits or nibbles.
Some experts say it is alright to add cooked or raw/chilled meat, vegetables or rice to your choice of puppy food from the store but you must check with your vet first in case certain foods cause allergies or obesity.
It is OK to feed your puppy treats that are made especially for puppies, but they should be occasional -- meaning treats should never be more than 10% of what you feed your puppy -- as overeating can lead to excessive weight gain and obesity.
Is it OK to give a puppy regular dog food?
Regular dog food here refers to adult dog food. The answer is a simple no, for several reasons.
As mentioned earlier, a puppy has different nutritional and growth needs. Puppy food tends to be higher in calories so as to cater for a puppy’s growth and metabolism.
Adult food formulas are often less rich. This is in recognition of the fact that adult dogs’ metabolism slows down in adulthood.
How much to feed a puppy
The quantity will vary depending on the pup’s size and breed, as well as type of food. The safest way to gauge the quantity is by following the feeding guidelines on the food label.
Nevertheless, you should get your veterinarian’s help to calculate the right amount. He or she will be better able to adjust the quantity to suit your puppy’s weight and age.
How often should you feed a puppy?
According to one expert, you can start your puppy off at three to four times a day. Smaller meals are easier for the puppy to digest. The frequency also depends on the age of the puppy.
- 2 to 3 months old: 4 to 3 meals a day
- 3 to 6 months: 3 to 2 meals a day
- 6 to 12 months (up to 24 months for the largest breeds): 2 to 1 meal a day
This would once again depend on the type of food you are giving. Read the instructions on the packaging.
There are some specialised puppy foods, crafted by pet nutritionists, which are very nutrient dense. These may prescribe a less frequent feeding as the puppy approaches it’s sixth month.
How long to feed puppy food
Knowing the best time to make the switch from feeding your canine friend puppy food to adult dog food depends on the age and the breed (remember, different breeds reach maturity at different rates.)
The main reason for switching your puppy to adult food is not just because it is reaching maturity but also because puppy food is higher in calories and nutritional percentage.
For smaller or medium breeds that weigh up to 15kg, you can begin to make the switch gradually after it reaches maturity. This can be anytime between the 9th to 12th month. Larger breeds mature later, some as late as 24 months, that would be the best time to slowly transition to adult dog food.
It is also best to remember that the transition from puppy food to adult dog food should be done gradually over a period of two to three weeks to minimise gastric upset. One way to do this is to mix puppy food with adult dog food, and slowly increase the amount of adult food while slowly decreasing the amount of puppy food over this period of transition.
Caring for your canine buddy is about love and the same amount of care we as humans take in watching what we eat. With regular assessments and check-ups at the vet’s, as well as careful monitoring of your puppy’s health and growth, your puppy should grow into a happy, healthy adult who will give you years of comfort, joy and love.
Remember, puppies need special care just as babies do, so we hope with this list you will feel more comfortable and assured in how to provide the best possible care during the puppy’s early years.