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Feeding

Food plays a vital role in our health and in that of our pets. To have a happy, healthy dog, the correct foods need to be provided from an early age. Canine nutritional science has made great advances in recent years. Commercial foods are now available to supply balanced diets for puppies through to older dogs.

A puppy’s energy requirement will vary with size. As with many things, both excess and deficiency can be harmful. A puppy that is too fat is liable to be obese later on. Being overweight also predisposes to bone and joint disorders in larger framed and rapidly growing animals. Hence it is important to weigh your puppy regularly, to check that growth is proceeding smoothly.

Dogs require a diet made up of proteins, carbohydrates (sugar), lipids (fats), vitamins and minerals. Proteins help build the framework of body tissues; carbohydrates and lipids provide energy. Puppies have higher protein and fat requirements than adult dogs, for growth of body tissues and to provide their extra requirements for energy.

As your puppy develops into an adult, its nutritional requirements will alter from ‘puppy/growth’ to ‘adult/maintenance’ varieties. Sedentary or desexed dogs may become obese on maintenance diets (if overfed or under-exercised), so specific ‘light’ or low-fat diets have been developed. Your veterinarian can help you with advice on the appropriate nutrition and weight monitoring needs of your dog based on its age, breed and exercise routine.

Commercial or home-made food?

It is true that we have the choice between two ways of feeding our dogs: home-made or commercial diets. Reputable dog food manufacturers base their products on scientifically proven standards for the composition of their diets.

Home-cooking

There are those who remain unconvinced of the advantages of commercially prepared food, and prefer to make their animal’s meals themselves. The essential proteins, carbohydrates, lipids, vitamins and minerals must all be included in the correct quantities and proportions; please consult your veterinarian who can provide you with the best advice concerning the pros and cons of home-cooked food for your pet.

Commercial diets

Dog food manufacturers provide puppies with product ranges specifically designed to suit their needs. These are complete and balanced diets, which means that nothing extra needs to be added. It is essential to ensure that your puppy always has fresh cool water available.

The choice of commercial food revolves around quality: Most veterinarians will offer a range of ‘premium’ dog foods. These high-quality products may sometimes be more expensive than other ranges, but the benefits will be seen in terms of your dog’s general health, and skin and coat condition. The price difference is mainly due to the quality of the raw materials used, especially the proteins and fats. Generally you also feed a smaller quantity as they tend to be higher in quality therefore another advantage is that there is a smaller amount of faeces to pick up.

Be aware of changes in your puppy’s diet as any sudden alterations may cause digestive upsets. You should check with your veterinarian for weight range details and other information regarding nutrition, especially recommendations about the ideal food for your puppy.

Meal-time routine

Most adult dogs are ideally fed 2 meals a day as that is more natural for them. Puppies generally start with 4 meals a day, these are gradually reduced over time.

Try not to suddenly change your puppy’s diet as this can cause digestive upsets. The recommended feeding guide for your puppy is generally provided on the packaging, but it’s best to regularly monitor your puppy’s weight and adjust the amount of food if needed. You should check with your veterinarian for frequency of feeding, ideal bodyweight and nutritional information.

Beware of too many treats

Ideally, your puppy should only ever get his or her own meals. But it is sometimes hard not to give additional ‘treats’. If you give treats, then definitely do not give human lollies or sweets. Suitable dog treats are an important component in training and sometimes novel food sources can be given in appropriate situations. Treats should be small in size (no larger than 1/4 of a 5-cent piece regardless of the size of your dog) when training so your dog does not become overweight.