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Feeding

Puppies should receive puppy food until at least 1 year of age. Premium nutrition is critical for growth and life-long health.

What brand should I feed?

We recommend that you pick a brand made by a reputable pet food company that makes research on their food a priority, adheres to strict quality control measures, has a veterinarian or veterinary nutritionist on staff, and has a deep interest in advancing the health and well being of pets. Many health and growth problems can be minimized or prevented simply by feeding your puppy high quality food that has been carefully formulated with appropriate concentrations of nutrients. Don’t be fooled by fad diet trends or marketing schemes. Our clinic carries and recommends Hill’s Science Diet. Other high quality food brands that meet the above criteria include Iams, Eukanuba, Purina, and Royal Canin.

What is the AAFCO Statement?

This statement is an important component that should be on every food label. It will help you evaluate the food quality. By reading the AAFCO statement, you will learn whether or not the food was tested in a food trial. Selecting a food that successfully passed a feeding trial means actual dogs ate the food and liked it. If a food is simply formulated on a computer but never tested on real dogs, it is hard to know whether dogs will actually eat and like the food. The AAFCO statement will also tell you which age ranges can eat the food. For puppies, the AAFCO statement should say it was formulated for puppies. If the food is labeled for ‘all life stages’, adults, or seniors, this is not the best food for a puppy. Growing puppies have very specific growing needs that will be addressed with puppy formulas.

Dry or canned?

Most owners seem to prefer the convenience of dry food. If a puppy is not eating well, perhaps because of a new change in environment after adoption, then canned puppy food can certainly be offered. The dry food can also be moistened with a little water to soften the dry food. Once the appetite has improved, the canned food or added water can slowly be withdrawn.

When should I feed my puppy?

Puppies do best when they are offered multiple small meals (as opposed to fewer, larger meals or food left out for 'free feeding'). When puppies have at least some food in their stomach, they are less likely to chew and ingest inappropriate items. Also, by offering multiple meals, the owner has some control over bowel movement schedules. Puppies will usually have a bowel movement within 30 minutes of eating.

Between six and 12 weeks of age, it is best to offer three meals per day. After that time period, puppies can be trained to take two meals per day. As adults, dogs do best with the daily allowance of food divided into two meals offered twice daily.

How much should I feed?

The volume to offer per meal depends on the size and age of the puppy. The recommendations on the dog food bag can be used as a guideline, but often the label suggests more than a puppy really needs. As a rough guideline for dogs six weeks of age, small breeds should be offered approximately ¼ cup; medium breeds ½ to ¾ cup, large breeds 1+ cup/meal. As a common sense approach, try to visualize the size of the puppy’s stomach and feed enough to comfortably fill that space.

Can I share table scraps with my puppy?

We encourage owners to avoid sharing table scraps with their puppy. This can set up some bad habits for the puppy, which may contribute to future obesity. Additionally, certain human foods can cause gastrointestinal upset, pancreatitis, or even become lodged as a foreign body in the gastrointestinal tract (e.g., bones). Some human foods are also toxic to dogs and can make them very sick.

How much water should I offer my puppy?

Always provide fresh, clean water for your puppy. When the puppy is attended, water should remain free choice. Water need not be left in the crate if you are away for short periods of time. As a puppy matures and house training becomes trustworthy, water may be allowed freely.

What can I do to minimize food aggression?

Puppies and adult dogs can have an instinctual drive to protect their food. One of the more common times a dog will bite is when he or she is approached while eating. This instinctive behavior can be overcome by being with the puppy while he or she eats. Owners can sit with, talk to, and touch the puppy during mealtime. Do not be distracting, but let the puppy know that a person near his or her food bowl is not a threat. It is also desirable to train a puppy to wait to eat until the owner gives the command. This teaches the puppy that the person, not the dog, is in charge of the food.

Author: Dr. C. Noureddine, DVM, MS