Complete & Balanced Diet for Puppies

by Betty Lewis
    Good nutrition is especially important to help a puppy grow.

    Good nutrition is especially important to help a puppy grow.

    BananaStock/BananaStock/Getty Images

    If you have a puppy, you want him to grow into a healthy, happy dog. Feeding Rex just any food won't work; puppies have specific nutritional needs. The kind of food and the amount of food you give him is important. Here are a few tips about feeding your new friend.

    Why Not Feed Rex Regular Dog Food?

    Like human babies, puppies require special nutrition. They have a lot of growing to do, and they do it quickly. Food that is formulated for their fast growth will help add muscle, build strong bones and teeth, and ensure they have enough energy. As well, feeding proper food at regular intervals will keep them from overstretching their small stomachs. Finally, puppies can be quite sensitive to deficiencies in their diets. Feeding Rex puppy food will help set him on the path to being a healthy adult.

    What Kind of Special Needs Does Rex Have?

    Puppies need more calories than adult dogs, so their food has a higher level of calories per cup than adult dog food. Puppy food also contains increased amounts of proteins, minerals, fat and amino acids than other food. Diets that are higher in quality also have higher levels of things such as omega 3 fatty acids, which will help Rex's eye development and give him a glossy coat.
    The Association of American Feed Control Officials, or AAFCO, sets nutrition guidelines that many pet food makers follow. The label of your pet food should have a statement that the food is formulated to meet AAFCO guidelines, which can give you confidence you are on the right track to feeding Rex a balanced diet.

    Does It Make a Difference if Rex is a Chihuahua or a German Shepherd?

    The breed and size of a puppy can make a difference in the type and amount of puppy food he gets. Large breed dogs, such as Doberman pinschers and Great Danes, have a greater tendency to develop joint problems. If they grow too quickly, it can increase their risk of developing such issues later in life. Many pet food manufacturers address this by making puppy and pet food for large breeds. Small breeds can reach mature body weight in as little as nine months, so it is important to monitor their intake so they don't overeat.

    A Few Things To Watch Out For

    Sometimes we think more is better, but not in the case of feeding baby Rex. If puppies overeat, they can consume too many calories and grow too quickly; this can lead to bone growth problems. Large breeds in particular should have a slower growth rate. You should feed your puppy according to the label instructions on his puppy food. Generally, from weaning to 6 months old, puppies should eat three times a day. After six months, twice a day feedings are fine.
    It's a good idea to take a look at Rex after a month or so on his puppy food. He should have a thick, shiny coat and be playful and energetic. Solid, formed brown feces will indicate that he's digesting most of the food's nutrients -- a good sign! If he is lethargic, has loose stools or diarrhea, weight loss or skin problems, he may be sensitive to ingredients in his food. You should take him to the vet, however, to confirm it is just a food issue.

    Rex Looks All Grown Up. Can He Eat Dog Food Now?

    You will need to have a good idea of Rex's expected weight when he's all grown up; your vet can help you answer that question. When puppies are at 90 percent of their expected weight, it is time to switch from a puppy diet to one formulated for maintenance. This may take longer in large breeds (12 to 18 months) than small breeds (nine to 12 months).

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    About the Author

    Betty Lewis is a writer and editor specializing in pet care, animals, careers and emergency management. She previously ran an animal shelter, where she also served as a kennel attendant and dog trainer. Lewis holds a bachelor's degree in journalism, an M.B.A. and a master's degree in professional studies.

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