Healthy puppy development starts with a balanced diet. But how do you know your puppy is getting the essential nutrients they need from their dog food? Use the guidelines below to know what to look for when you shop for your puppy’s dry or wet dog food formula.
Puppies grow the most during the first six months of their lives, so it’s important to plan a healthy diet from the start. Since growing puppies have more energy than adult dogs, they require more nutrients in each bite (and because they can’t eat adult-size quantities). Like mother’s milk, good puppy diets provide 100% complete and balanced nutrition, and all the essential vitamins and minerals that your puppy needs.
Keep in mind that not all puppy dog food formulas are the same. Carefully read the list of ingredients so you know exactly what you’re putting into your puppy’s system. As you start your search for a balanced puppy food, you might want to look for the following ingredients.
When selecting a food for your puppy, check the label. One of the first ingredients should be an animal-based protein such as chicken, lamb or beef. Your furry friend’s ancestors were designed to hunt, eat and digest meat. Generations of domestication means that your puppy doesn’t have to hunt for their supper, but their body still functions best on a diet that features meat.
DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) is a fatty acid that promotes healthy growth of your puppy’s neural pathways, their central nervous system and also helps promote good eyesight. Studies have shown that puppies that get an adequate amount of DHA in their diet demonstrate better problem-solving skills, and they are often more trainable. This can make all the difference when you’re training your new puppy.
Just like humans, your puppy’s nutrition nourishes their skin and coat health. If your dog is battling dry skin or has patchy fur, it could mean they are not getting the right types of fatty acids. Omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids are essential to helping your puppy develop soft skin, and a shiny coat. Help them look and feel their best by ensuring omega fatty acids are part of their puppy formula.
The name of your puppy’s food can tell you how much of a particular ingredient is in it. Recipe names that include the animal protein source (beef formula, for example) indicate that at least 25% of the product is comprised of that animal protein. Names that include with ("with chunky chicken") or flavor ("turkey flavor") might contain as little as 3% of the ingredient.
The back label of dry puppy food or canned puppy food can also give you a clue as to how much protein and important ingredients are actually in the formula. The ingredients listed on the back of the bag are always listed in order of weight: The higher up on the list, the higher the concentration of that ingredient in the formula.
Some pet owners prefer to exclusively feed their dog wet or canned food, while others are dedicated to dry dog food. However, both wet and dry dog food offer great nutritional benefits. In fact, mixing wet and dry food together could be the most beneficial for your puppy’s diet. Best of all, mixed feeding provides your puppy with a welcome variety of taste and texture.
Wet food encourages water intake, and high moisture content helps promote a healthy urinary tract, especially in small dogs. Additionally, wet food is closer in texture to the food that dogs would normally choose to eat, as well as delivering a wider variety of tastes. Plus, the soft texture of wet food can be easier for puppies to chew (especially for those with sore, teething gums).
Dry food, on the other hand, is a concentrated source of nutrition and energy, packed with essential nutrients, plus vitamins and minerals. Chewing crunchy kibble can also help gently scrub you pup’s teeth, meaning less time you have to wrestle them to brush their teeth. Additionally, dry puppy food can be left out for several hours without the risk of it spoiling.
If you’re interested in feeding both wet and dry dog food to your puppy, there are a couple of ways to go about it. You can alternate their meals, offering them wet food for breakfast and dry food for dinner (or vice versa). You could also alternate canned food days and dry food days to give your pup variety. The most popular form of mixed feeding is simply mixing kibble in with their wet food.
For the first four months you have your puppy, you should be feeding them three times a day. When puppies are small, they’re expending huge amounts of energy since they’re growing so rapidly, and they need to eat enough to maintain that growth. However, since puppies are so small, they can’t eat as large of quantities as full-grown dogs, so more frequent meals are important. Once your puppy is about six-months-old, your veterinarian might recommend scaling back to two meals a day.
Additionally, some owners choose to open feed their dogs, meaning they fill their dog’s food bowl in the morning with enough kibble to last the day. It’s important to note that this might not work for all dogs, especially in the beginning. If your puppy is eating too much too quickly and cannot regulate their diet alone, you should switch back to meal-feeding your pup. Timed feeding will also allow you to keep a close eye on your puppy’s food intake.
Tip: Never feed your puppy human food. Not only can some human foods, such as grapes and nuts, be toxic to your dog, but giving your puppy table scraps can also encourage bad manners.