WHAT’S THE BEST FOOD FOR MY PUPPY?
Just like with little humans, puppy food is essential for the proper development of your young pet to ensure their good health into adulthood. But what is the best food for your puppy?
Most of the time, new owners rely on advice from the breeder, individual, or organisation from whom they bought or adopted their young pet. The problem with this can be twofold: either this advice is not adapted to the specific animal... or there was no advice given at all, and it's left to the owner to fend for themselves with the little knowledge they have! And good puppy food does not equal guesswork.
How to Determine Unsuitable Puppy Food
What if your puppy already has diarrhoea or loose stool before you even bring them home and feed them yourself? Don't worry, the stress of the change of place and living environment can explain some problems with their bowel movements for the first 2/3 days. In any case, you can always visit your veterinary clinic for a stool analysis to rule out parasites or infection.
Puppies are very sensitive. If the problem persists, and all hygienic and biological causes have been eliminated, then we recommend that you review their puppy food as soon as possible. Persistent loose stools or diarrhoea can, in the medium term, cause inflammation of the digestive system or even the development of intolerances.
Is your puppy's food too rich in starch? A puppy's digestive system is still immature and does not have the same capacity as an adult dog to process starch.
Is your puppy's food poorly digestible? Watch out for this, as it can create digestive disorders in your puppy which can continue into adulthood!
Once you get them home, if your puppy's food is proving difficult to digest, or you believe the quality isn't good enough, don't hesitate to change their diet to contain more qualitative, digestible foods, which are low in fibre, rich in proteins and fats, and contain between 1 and 1.5% calcium, and few carbohydrates (<35%). The difficulty is finding sufficiently comprehensive puppy food that provides a good ratio of the 40 essential nutrients, because, as we know, this is not always detailed on the label!
So, how do you find the best food for your puppy? Buy it tailor-made!
Determining the best food for your puppy is complex, since it depends not only on the breed and sex of the dog, but also on their activity level, whether or not they have been sterilised, their weight, and the age at which you adopt them... Each individual will have different needs and we, therefore, always recommend that you refer to your vet's advice on the best food for your puppy according to their specific needs.
Nevertheless, all dogs have some characteristics in common. Puppies digest proteins and lipids very well, but starch much less so. At 2 months old, their capacity for digesting starch via the activity of their pancreatic amylase is only functional to between 40 and 50% on average. Therefore, to properly enhance your furry friend's diet, their puppy food needs to be very digestible, with minimum fibre, low in carbohydrates, and rich in proteins and fats.
Moreover, puppies have much greater protein needs than adults, to support their development during the growth phase. As such, comprehensive, high-quality wet food, which is rich in meat and fat and very low in fibre and carbohydrates, is a great choice for puppy food and is usually very well digested.
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A Practical Guide for Feeding Your Puppy
As a general rule, you won’t welcome your new little friend into your home until they’re 2 months old or over. We recommend that you then distribute their daily ration between at least 3 to 4 meals until the age of 5 to 8 months, and then split it into 2 meals until adulthood. Make sure your puppy has fresh water available at all times.
👉 How much puppy food?
It's difficult to define an exact amount of puppy food since it depends not only on the breed and sex of your dog, but also their activity level, weight, and age. This can be a real headache for both the owner and the vet because a puppy's energy needs change during their growth phase and depend largely on their optimal weight as an adult. Puppies can eat as much as double the amount of their adult counterparts until the age of 3 months old, but then only 10% more than adults once their growth period has peaked. It is generally estimated that one can of wet food or a home-made ration corresponds (in grams of food per day) to 4 times the amount of dry food, due to its high water content.
After 6 months, a puppy weighing less than 10kg in adulthood is well past its growth peak (and has practically reached adult size). They will therefore only need 10% more food than their adult size (around 8/10 months).
👉 Which puppy food?
If your puppy is digesting their food well and giving you nice, well-shaped poops, don't hesitate to start slowly acclimatising them to eating everything! Supplementary or comprehensive quality pâté, pieces of meat or fish, small pieces of vegetables or fruit, natural yoghurt: the sooner you start implementing these positive food trends, the better it will be for their health in adulthood.
👉 Which food supplements?
Over the past ten years or so, it has been increasingly suggested that the Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids found, in particular, in fish oil help improve the cognitive function of puppies.
However, be careful not to give supplements (e.g. minerals, especially calcium, and vitamins, especially vitamin D) to growing puppies fed with comprehensive feed, at the risk of causing a digestive imbalance or joint disorder. Puppies younger than 6 months old are unable to protect themselves against excess calcium; when weaning, at least 50% calcium is absorbed, regardless of the amount ingested. It's therefore very easy to reach excess. Too much calcium can slow down the restructuring of the skeleton and lead to the development of osteochondrosis.
👉 How many meals per day?
We recommend that you distribute your puppy’s food between at least 2 to 3 meals a day. Puppies have a lower digestive capacity than adults and consequently have to ingest larger amounts of food to ensure proper growth. After 6 to 8 months, you can reduce their meals to 1 or 2 per day depending on the dog (although 2 small meals will always be easier to digest than one big one).
👉 Avoid being overweight!
To best adapt your puppy's food, we recommend that you seek advice from a professional and weigh your pooch regularly to make sure you're adjusting their diet to meet their needs as well as possible while limiting excess weight gain. Because, contrary to popular belief, it is better for your puppy to be a little too thin than the other way around. Being overweight predisposes your puppy to many growth disorders and pathologies which are often underestimated while dogs are young.
The Special Case of Large Breed Puppies
Large breed puppies (> 25kg in adulthood) should ideally grow as gradually as possible because their growth period can last for up to 24 months for larger breeds. To avoid speeding up the growth phase and giving your puppy excess minerals (which could be detrimental to the optimal development of the animal), it is better to favour puppy foods with moderate levels of minerals and fat. Supplementing your puppy's food with a chondroprotector is good for promoting the proper development of their joints.
Make sure to look carefully at the composition of your puppy food and to seek advice from a health or animal nutrition professional such as your veterinarian. You might be considering giving adult kibble to your growing large breed puppy on the pretext that it's less rich. This is not necessarily the case. And even worse: the regulations which regulate the mineral content of puppy food to limit growth concerns are much more flexible for adult dog products!
Did you know?
For puppies of breeds with straight ears (like the German Shepherd), their ears will naturally straighten out. If they do not straighten out properly, this is in no way related to calcium deficiency or the growth of teeth (there is no bone in ears, only cartilage), but instead to the insufficient quality protein content of the puppy food. Switching to better quality food with a higher protein-calorie ratio often works wonders.
PUBLISHED 04.12.2020 - HECTOR KITCHEN, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
By the Hector Kitchen medical and scientific team
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