DOG HEALTH SECTION – FEEDING PUPPIES
Most people buy their new puppy from a breeder, a few from a rescue society, and some seem to just “acquire” them from friends, neighbours, or total strangers.
As well as selling the pup, it seems that just about everyone considers themselves to be an expert in canine nutrition. Much of the advice given is harmless enough, but some of it is downright dangerous.
We’re not going to bore you with statistics relating to exact protein or mineral levels. It’s just too dull, and unless you are a dog food manufacturing company, you really don’t need to know about it.
What to Feed
This is most important:
Pick a food designed specifically for growing dogs.
Puppies have very different nutritional requirements to adults, and serious problems can occur if you get this wrong, so basically, your new puppy needs puppy food. That’s all. Some companies refer to
this as “Growth,” but for the purposes of this article, we’ll just call it puppy food. Puppies over 6 weeks of age have no requirement for milk. In fact many puppies will develop diarrhoea if you give them milk, so it’s best avoided.
What Type of Puppy Food?
OK, so it is maybe a bit more complicated than that, but not a lot. One of the most commonly asked
question in veterinary practice is, “Which food do you recommend.” When considering which food to
feed your puppy on, it’s important to remember that, you get what you pay for, and that is especially
true of dog food. At Vetrica we recommend Hill’s Science Plan®, which is a high quality palatable
food, consistent from one pack to the next. It comes as three main varieties: for giant breeds, small
breeds and average breeds. These different categories of dog have different nutritional requirements.
How Long to Feed Puppy Food
Hill’s Science Plan® should be fed until 1 year old, regardless of breed. At this time, your puppy
should be switched to an adult formula diet.
What Not to Feed
- Vitamin and mineral supplements
The biggest mistake that dog breeders make is that they advise people to supplement their new
puppy’s diet with extra vitamins and minerals. This may take the form of a specially prepared powder
that you can buy from the pet shop, or as meat and bone meal, or good old-fashioned cod liver oil.
At best, (if you have followed my advice above and are feeding a good quality puppy food), these
products are a waste of money. At worse, they are harmful, and may actually cause many bone
development disorders, such as hip dysplasia and osteochondrosis.
- Raw meat
For some inexplicable reason, dog breeders frequently advise people to feed raw meat, usually
minced beef. Raw meat should not be given to dogs. Forget the nonsense that it’s “natural,” because
so is disease, and your dog is just as susceptible to Salmonella as you are! If you feed raw meat to
your dog, and it gets a Salmonella or Campylobacter diarrhoea, then you might catch it from the dog,
irrespective of how well you may have cooked the same piece of meat for yourself. Both of these
diseases are very unpleasant indeed. There are lots of other bugs that your dog could get from raw
meat as well, some of which are more dangerous even than Salmonella.
- Human Foods
People often ask if they can feed breakfast cereals, or table scraps and other titbits. Well, there’s no major reason why not, but they are best avoided, because:
- If fed in large enough quantities they will unbalance an otherwise balanced diet.
- Your puppy will quickly learn bad eating habits, refusing the puppy food in favour of the tastier
- Serious behavioural problems often start by elevating the puppy’s status in the household with the
feeding of human foods. By feeding less palatable dog food, you lower your dog’s status. Dog’s
have a pack instinct, with a dominant leader, and a strict hierarchy. The people in the household
must be superior to the dog. Dog’s don’t want to live as equals. Treat a dog like a dog, and you will
have fewer problems later in life with aggression and dominance.
How Much to Feed
This is not an easy question to answer, as it depends so much on breed, age and activity levels. In
general, pack recommendations are quite well researched, but do offer a wide range. Usually, pick a
value in the middle of the range and see how things go. If puppy is constantly hungry, try giving a bit
more. If he’s leaving food, give a bit less. If you are feeding dry food, then it is usually acceptable to fill a bowl with it 3 times a day, give puppy 10 minutes to eat it, then lift it up.
That way as the puppy grows he will automatically take more as he needs it. It is very important that you don’t leave food down all the time, because that will increase the risk of obesity later in life.