Why is puppy food so important?

Written by Tanya Whipps RVN
July 26, 2022

Feeding your puppy correctly will mean you end up with a healthier adult dog. The growth phase of your puppy typically lasts from when they are weaned until they are an adult. This length of time will vary from breed to breed. Your puppy’s growth is complex, and nutrition pays a large role in ensuring your puppies future wellbeing. Nutrition has been shown to directly affect the immune system of your puppy. It also affects their build and body condition score, development of their joints and bones and their growth rates.

Puppy food has been researched and designed to ensure the best possible growth and development for your puppy. This will mean they have the optimum energy required for their growth and daily needs. Itb also ensures they have the correct vitamins and minerals required for growth. In the first few weeks after they are weaned the growth rate of your puppy is rapid and they use approximately half their daily food intake for growth.

It’s useful to discuss your puppy’s growth and nutritional needs with your veterinary team and to learn to monitor their weight and body condition score. This will arm you with the best information to guide your puppy through those important formative months of their development.

Weight, Energy and Body condition

Your puppy’s food must contain protein, carbohydrates, fat, vitamins, and minerals. If your puppy is fed a complete balanced commercial puppy food they will not require any supplementation.

Your puppy will require more nutrients and energy than an adult dog simply because they are growing. Energy requirements are needed for growth and daily maintenance. As your puppy grows the upwards curve for their weight will start to level off. More of their daily energy needs will become used for maintenance and the portion allocated for growth will decrease. While in this growth phase it’s a good idea to monitor your puppies body condition score every couple of weeks. This will allow you to track their growth rate and adjust their feeding amounts as needed. Getting this right now is vital to ensure a heathy weight for your puppy as they grow. If they develop an over ideal body score it can lead to the development of joint and bony abnormalities especially in larger breed puppies and contribute to health issues as adults.

Your Puppy is Unique

Puppies come in many different shapes and sizes. It’s becoming more understood how much these different sizes of puppy can be directly affected by nutritional differences. Large breeds like Labradors and giant breeds like Great Danes and the Newfoundland have different protein and nutrient requirements than a toy or small breed dog. For example, excess protein or calcium can have detrimental effects for giant breed puppy’s joints and skeletal growth. Energy needs in large and giant breeds also differ as they have a moderate growth phase rather than a fast one. Small breeds have a shorter faster growth phase.

Consider your Puppy’s Breed

We’ve already discussed size considerations for your puppy’s diet and how important this is. Additionally it’s also worth considering your puppy’s specific breed. It is well understood how much of an impact breed can have on your puppies nutritional needs. It is well known that certain breeds may be predisposed to certain health factors, or may have a characteristic in their behaviour that can be affected by nutrition. Likewise some breeds have hearty appetites and speedy eating habits. Food manufacturers might address this with shaped textured foods designed to slow eating and encourage chewing. It is now recognised that giant breeds like Great Danes are known to be at risk of skeletal abnormalities during growth. In summary, development and nutritional changes can directly affect this. The energy levels and digestibility of a food can affect growth. Manufacturers will often supplement foods with essential fatty acids to support joint health.

In summary it is important to understand how many areas nutrition can impact in your puppy’s development and how you can directly influence this. We have shown how important puppy food is for growth and your puppies future health. There is a varying array of choices and options, and a good understanding of your pets needs and collaboration with your veterinary team can help you to make informed choices in their diet.

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