As a new paw parent, there can be plenty of things to learn. This can feel overwhelming. We are here to simplify things, help you walk through the fundamentals of a good puppy diet - choosing the best puppy food, how much, and how often to feed. Sit tight, read on and let’s take this puppy parenting journey together.
Choosing the best puppy food
Puppies should start on solid food at about 4 weeks. By 6 weeks, most puppies are weaned. Most new parents will start their pup on dry kibble as it’s the most convenient to feed. Just scoop and feed. If you are not a fan of dry kibble, but still want the convenience, you can consider dehydrated dog food – air-dried or freeze-dried.
Unlike traditional dry kibble, air-dried or freeze-dried dog food is not subjected to high heat treatment. These are essentially raw diets, but the gentle drying process removes all moisture from the food, eliminates pathogenic bacteria while still preserving most of the nutrients. Consider air-dried or freeze-dried dog food if you want the nutritional value of a raw diet but would like to minimize the risk of food contamination at home.
The variety of dog foods available in the market today is wide. Apart from the dry food discussed, there are also frozen raw diets, frozen cooked meals, and raw-coated kibble like the Stella & Chewy’s Freeze Dried Raw Coated Kibbles (Puppy Chicken) Dog Food. Raw-coated kibble is dry kibble that has been dusted with a layer of freeze-dried meat powder. This improved the flavour of the kibble without the need for artificial flavours.
Whichever type of food you decide on, at the very least, the best food for puppies must meet these 5 criteria.
- Nutritionally balanced for a growing pup. Choose formulas that are made for puppies. Dog foods formulated for adults may not have enough nutrition to sustain a growing pup. Large breed puppies are especially sensitive to nutritional imbalances. Too much or too little calcium can lead to hip and joint issues. Some puppy formulas are made for large breed dogs like the ORIJEN Puppy Large Breed Dog Food. There are products for small breed puppies as well like the Wellness Complete Health Small Breed Puppy (Deboned Turkey, Oatmeal & Salmon Meal) Dog Food, but unlike large breed puppies, smaller breed dogs will do fine with most high-quality puppy formula.
- Look for foods that minimize fillers such as corn, or gluten. Lower-quality kibble will use corn to create bulk, while gluten is added to increase the protein content of the kibble. Some dogs are intolerant to gluten and can show symptoms of stomach upset and skin issues.
- No added chemical food dyes. Chemical food dyes like Blue 2, Red 40, and Yellow 5 and 6 have been documented to contribute to allergic reactions, behaviour problems, and cancer in humans. More recently, caramel colour has been found to contain 4-methylimidazole (4-MIE), a known animal carcinogen. Food dyes are added to appeal to humans, not pets. Don’t be fooled by the bright colours. They provide no health benefits to our pups.
- No chemical preservatives like Butylated Hydroxyanisole (BHA), Butylated Hydroxytoluene (BHT), and Ethoxyquin. These chemicals are carcinogens and have been shown to cause kidney and liver damage in rats.
- Choose a product made with human-grade ingredients. Avoid products containing feed-grade ingredients. According to FDA, feed-grade ingredients used in the manufacturing of animal feed (including pet food), can include parts from animals that are dying, diseased, disabled, or deceased.
Gradually transition your pup’s diet
Your pup may have been fed a different diet before you took her home. To minimise the risk of stomach upset, you’ll need to gradually transition her current diet to the new diet over 7 to 10 days.
Here’s how to transition safely.
- Days 1 to 3: 75% old food mixed with 25% new food
- Days 4 to 6: 50% old food mixed with 50% new food
- Days 7 to 10: 25% old food mixed with 75% new food
- Day 11 onwards, 100% new food
How much to feed a puppy
Puppies grow the fastest in the first 5 months, and they need to take in a lot of calories to fuel their rapid growth. Use the feeding chart on the food packaging as a guide. They provide the recommended amounts based on a puppy’s age and weight.
Do not assume that all puppy foods have the same nutrient density and can be fed the same way. Always check the feeding guide. As a general rule, how often to feed a puppy depends on the size of the pup. Medium to large puppies will require 3 to 4 meals daily. Toy breed puppies may require up to 6 meals daily. Understand that each pup is an individual with different metabolism. So, use a Puppy Growth Chart to monitor your pup’s progress and adjust the feed accordingly. You can download the WALTHAM™ Puppy Growth Charts here.
Should you need to increase the nutritional value of your pup’s meal, mix some Top Life Goat’s Milk for Puppies into the kibble. It’s rich in protein, vitamins, and minerals to fuel your puppy’s growth.
If there is a concern with your pup’s growth rate, please consult your vet. Your vet can help to adjust your pup’s diet according to her progress.
Stick to a consistent feeding schedule
Free-feeding (leaving food available to dogs at all times), is not recommended. Free-feeding makes it difficult to track your pup’s intake but that’s not all. A regular feeding schedule helps with ‘potty’ training.
Puppies generally need to relieve themselves by 10 to 15 minutes after eating. By linking a 'potty stop' with a meal we can better predict when our pup needs to go, and the puppy will learn to associate the urges to urinate and defecate to certain timing and location.
Make clean water available
Fresh water must be available at all times. Consider setting up multiple water stations and washing the water bowl daily to avoid a build-up of bacteria.
If you have multiple pets at home, use the PETKIT Eversweet Gen 3 Drinking Fountain for Cats & Dogs to remove impurities like fur, foul taste, and odour from the drinking water, keeping the water fresh and clean. This equipment will also filter out the heavy metal ions in water.
When to stop feeding puppy food
Most puppies should transition to an adult dog food and feeding routine when they have reached their full size, which is between one and two years depending on the breed. The best feeding routine for an adult dog is 2 meals per day, 12 hours apart. Talk to your vet to find the best time to transition.
When your pup is ready to transition, make the switch gradually over 7 to 10 days. Follow the transition guideline provided earlier in this article. A sudden change in your dog’s diet may cause stomach upset.
Human foods that dogs should NEVER eat
Finally, as a new paw parent, you need to know what not to feed your pups. Some human foods are just not for dogs. They can cause severe tummy upset and some may even cause organ failures. To find out more, refer to this article - Human Food Dogs Can’t Eat.
Details of feeding a new puppy can be overwhelming but the reward is great. This general guide will help you get started on the right paw but remember that every puppy is an individual. You may have to adjust the feed according to your puppy's weight and growth rate. Get the rest of the family involved and be consistent with the feeding schedule. You will be rewarded with an awesome, healthy, and happy puppy.
This March is all about puppies at GDP, so if you have a little one at home don't forget to use code GDPPUPPY5 for 5% off everything in our puppy collection! Available 1-31 March 2022.
Katherine is a Pet Nutrition Specialist and GDP’s Pet Wellness Advisor. She is committed to helping pet owners make informed dietary and lifestyle choices in nurturing healthy pets. Katherine is also a practicing Nutritional Therapist (human nutrition) and has been helping hundreds of clients to heal naturally with nutrients.