The benefits of good puppy food
The first two years of a dog’s life are critical to its longevity and lifelong health. The food a puppy eats during this crucial time frame will make a huge difference to not only its energy and happiness as an adult dog, but to the health of the coat, teeth, and vital organs. There are many choices available today for puppy foods, from meaty puppy chow to hard, crunchy kibbles. The following items should be considered when choosing the best food for a growing puppy:
How often to feed
Young puppies need to be fed many small meals per day. During weaning, supplement their milk with several small portions of food to get them used to the idea of eating solids. Gradually increase the amount of solid foods until the puppies are completely weaned, at 8-12 weeks of age. Once fully weaned, puppies need four feedings per day to satisfy their nutritional and energy requirements. At 12-14 weeks the feedings can be reduced to three per day, and then two per day when the puppy reaches approximately 6 months of age. At 9-10 months of age (or a bit later for large and giant breeds) feeding frequency can drop to once per day.
Wet or dry?
There are benefits to both types of puppy food, though many vets recommend starting puppies on solid food with a wet variety. A puppy food with a good mixture of protein, carbohydrates and fat provides all the nutrition a puppy needs to strengthen bones, build muscle, keep the coat shiny and sharpen brain activity and learning ability. Puppies respond more quickly to the scent of wet food and it is easier for them to chew. However, dry food is an excellent addition as the puppy gets a little older, because the crunchy texture helps keep tartar and plaque from building up on teeth. Dry food also helps when the puppy is teething, massaging the gums and helping the changeover from baby teeth to adult teeth. Owners often feed a mixture of wet and dry food to get the benefits of both.
The average adult size of your puppy will make a difference in what and how often a puppy should eat. Smaller breeds have much faster metabolisms, and as puppies will require at least four feedings a day. Careful portion control has been shown to reduce hip dysplasia and increase bone density in large and giant breeds. A good puppy food will provide the correct balance of vitamins, minerals and nutrients to ensure proper growth speed without overfeeding. The feeding guidelines printed on the puppy food label are well researched and should be followed unless a veterinarian says otherwise.
Look for a puppy food that not only has the appropriate nutrition for a puppy, but also comes in a variety of flavors. Examine the label of several foods and find the amount of protein, calcium, and vitamins in each serving, and note whether the levels are different between flavors. Just like humans, puppies like a little variety, but owners need to be aware of any dietary differences that will come into play with the different varieties.