Puppies need food formulated especially for their growing bodies. Whether dry or canned, puppy food provides your little one with higher amounts of protein, fats and other nutrients than foods made for adult pooches. These ingredients contain plenty of calories, fatty acids and amino acids to give your pup the extra energy boost he needs to grow up healthy and strong.
When choosing a food to feed your little pup, look for labels that state that the food meets the nutritional profiles established by the Association of American Feed Control Officials. These profiles list the necessary ingredients and the minimum amounts recommended for a pup to thrive. Both the ingredients and their ratios have been scientifically proven by AAFCO to provide the proper amounts of proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals a growing young dog needs to maintain his health. For puppies, purchase food that is labeled as "complete and balanced" and "for growth and reproduction." These foods meet the nutritional and growth requirements of your furry little friend.
To encourage growth, pups require more protein than adult pooches, 22 percent rather than 18 percent, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. That protein should come from high-quality animal-based sources like poultry, beef, lamb, eggs or venison. Animal-based meats provide your growing pup with all of the 10 amino acids he needs to grow, more so than vegetable-based ones, according to the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine. This makes whole meats a higher-quality protein than other potential sources like cereals or meat byproducts. Look for foods with a whole meat listed as the primary ingredient. Ingredients are listed by weight, so the first ingredient listed will make up the majority of the food, according to the FDA.
According to the AAFCO nutritional profiles, your pup needs 8 percent fat in his diet, as opposed to 5 percent needed by an adult. These fats provide your growing pup's body with the energy he needs to support proper tissue and muscle development. Healthy fats like sunflower, safflower, corn or soybean oils and chicken or pork fat provide your little one with this energy and help his body absorb important vitamins, according to PetMD. Carbohydrates also provide your puppy with the energy needed for growth. Corn, wheat, beet pulp and rice all provide your little one with moderately fermentable fibers that don't cause tummy upset. These fibers provide Fido with a source of healthy carbohydrates, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
Avoid high-fiber foods for puppies because they are more filling and lower in calories than other foods. Keep in mind that most growing puppies require at least twice as many calories as an adult dog of their same breed, according to the National Research Council of the National Academies. Don't over feed your pup, though, which can make him overweight. Follow the manufacturer's recommended feeding guidelines, serving your little one the daily recommended allowance of food in three to four smaller meals throughout the day.
Puppies need food designed for growth during their first six months to a year of life, depending on their size and breed. While most pups need the extra calories and protein contained in puppy food to support their growth, larger breeds may not. Some large dog breeds can develop skeletal and joint issues if they are fed a high-calorie puppy food that encourages rapid growth, according to "Nutrient Requirements of Dogs and Cats." Consult with your vet if you are unsure of what type of food is appropriate to feed your pup based on his larger size and breed to avoid any such issues from developing.
- Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine: Nutrition for the Growing Puppy
- WebMD: Puppy Food -- Types, Feeding Schedule, and Nutrition
- Dog Food Advisor: Best Puppy Foods
- Vetstreet: Feeding Your Puppy: What You Need to Know
- petMD: The Importance of Proper Nutrition for Puppies
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration: Selecting Nutritious Pet Foods
- Nutrient Requirements of Dogs and Cats; Subcommittee on Dog and Cat Nutrition, Committee on Animal Nutrition, National Research Council
- petMD: Fats and Oils: Good for Your Dog’s Health?
- American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals: Nutrients Your Dog Needs
- National Research Council of the National Academies: Your Dog's Nutritional Needs
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