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Whether you’ve lived with a dog your entire life or just dipping your toes into being a pet parent, choosing the right food for your new puppy can be confusing and overwhelming.
Scouring the dog food aisle may leave you feeling lost with what is best for your new furry friend as you encounter food for different breeds, ages, and even hair types. You’ve likely invested a lot of emotion and money into your new puppy adventure when you read this blog, so we want to give you the peace of mind that you’re choosing the best food for your new addition.
Why puppy food is important
Like human babies, puppies have specific nutritional needs to support their growth, particularly in the early months. Additionally, their little tummies can’t handle some formulations of dog food.
The food you feed your puppy in the early stages will directly influence their skeletal, muscular, and immune systems with the perfect mix of fats, protein, energy, calcium, and other essential nutrients.
Puppies grow incredibly quickly during the first year of their lives, and their food must be equipped to support this growth. A puppy’s diet will impact their health and well-being for the rest of their life.
Overfeeding can lead to just as many issues, such as malnourishment, and feeding your puppy the right amount of perfectly formulated food will set them up for optimal growth.
Large or giant breed puppy food is carefully created with the right amount of energy and calcium-to-phosphorous ratio to support their growing skeletons and weight gain needs while not overfeeding. It is no longer advisable to feed your giant breed puppy an adult diet, as this puts them at risk of overfeeding and not getting the right nutrients.
Your puppy should be on an appropriately formulated diet made solely of puppy food until it reaches 80%-100% of its adult body weight. Typically, puppies will reach full growth by 12 months for small and medium dogs, 18 months for large dogs, and 24 months for giant breed dogs. Click here for Hill’s Pet guide on setting up a healthy feeding schedule for your puppy.
What to feed your puppy (and what to avoid)
Feeding your new furry family member can feel daunting, especially if you’ve never had a dog. There are many different food brands and even suggested amounts, feeding methods, and guidelines.
Some important rules of thumb to follow when it comes to feeding your puppy include:
- Only use a specified puppy food or food developed for all stages of life.
- Avoid cheap puppy food brands or anything with cereal or wheat ingredients. Look for brands that are known for making high-quality food, such as Hills Science Diet.
- Change the diet of your puppy gradually. Many puppies have been fed a specific food with their breeder or shelter, and drastically changing straight away may cause tummy upsets.
- Don’t feed your puppy certain foods. A non-exhaustive list includes avocado skins or pits, cooked bones, caffeine, chocolate, citrus, coconut oil, fruit pits, garlic, macadamia, peanuts or other nuts, dairy, onion, chives, persimmons, raisins, sultanas, grapes, rhubarb, salt, xylitol, yeast and of course, alcohol.
Many new puppy owners are tempted to fit their puppy into their eating lifestyle – vegan, grain-free, raw meat – however, discussing these plans with your vet before committing is essential.
Feeding your dog the best diet for their growth and dental health is essential. Your vet may discuss how your canine’s diet may lead to dental problems for your dog.
Give your puppy the best start to life
During the first 6-8 weeks of life, puppies get all the nutrients they need from their mother’s milk. If your puppy has been separated from its mother in tragic circumstances, a milk replacer can deliver essential nutrients. The first few months of a puppy’s life are like a newborn baby – they eat, sleep and enjoy many cuddles with their mum and siblings.
It’s best to gradually transition to puppy food around 3-4 weeks, with small amounts of water to make it easier to chew. It may take around 6-8 weeks for the puppy to develop a taste and preference for solid food, and this is generally when the puppy will be handed over to their new family.
8-week-old puppies often look tiny and underdeveloped, but rest assured, they will soon start growing rapidly, especially with a proper feeding schedule of high-quality puppy food.
Guidelines for the Puppy Food Industry
The puppy food industry in Australia is primarily unregulated, without strict guidelines for manufacturers to abide by. This means that many conscious puppy feeders look out for the American seal of approval, quality marked with AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials).
Wet or dry food is generally a personal choice, but ensuring they are of good quality and wholesome ingredients is essential. A good rule of thumb is that if you can understand and identify each ingredient in the food as wholesome and not chemical-based, the food should be a good choice for your puppy.
A protein, not a generic meal or by-product, should be listed as one of the main ingredients. You may start to feel like you’re feeding your puppy constantly, but four times a day is perfect for their tiny tummies and nutritional needs.
Every Puppy is Different
A long and healthy life for your dog begins when they enter your care. Even puppies with a rough start can gain a chance at a healthy life through a good diet. Each puppy has specific needs based on breed type, upbringing, temperament, and underlying conditions.
The best thing you can do is consult with a trusted vet during the early stages of your puppy’s life when they are most vulnerable.