Buddy has important nutritional needs during his first year. He has a lot of growing to do, but depending on his breed, he can grow too quickly. Ensuring he has the proper amount of protein, fat, vitamins and minerals during his first year will put him on the road to good health.
If Buddy's hasn't celebrated his first birthday yet, he should be dining on puppy food. Like yours, a dog's nutritional needs change throughout his life. During his first year, he's still a growing boy. His body is changing quickly, developing his bones, joints, muscles, organs and immune system, all requiring ample nutrition for proper development. Buddy begins getting his nutrition through his mother's milk, and in most cases, he'll need to eat puppy food through his first year. Puppy food provides Buddy with higher-calorie content as well as additional protein and fats than adult dog food does.
Buddy needs more calories as a puppy than he'll need as an adult, per pound of body weight. That doesn't mean he should eat all day or as much as he wants, however. Large-breed puppies have to be careful not to grow too quickly, as their joints, bones and organs can become stressed from rapid growth. If Buddy's going to naturally grow into an especially big guy, consult your vet to determine his proper food allowance, based on the food you're feeding and his breed. Large-breed puppies are well-served by a lower-calorie diet than small- or medium-size-breed puppies to ensure they grow at a proper pace for their big frames. As a rule, puppies need more of everything than an adult dog does, including more protein, fat, vitamins, minerals and fatty and amino acids. Your vet is an appropriate source for determining the best diet for your dog, at all stages of life.
An adult dog's diet should be a minimum of 18 percent protein; but at least 22 percent of a puppy's diet should be protein. Protein is a vital source for 10 essential amino acids Buddy requires for good health and proper growth. Amino acids are the foundation of a puppy's tissues, organs, hormones and antibodies. A protein's ability to supply amino acids -- especially the essential amino acids -- is referred to as its biological value. Generally, animal proteins have greater biological value than vegetable proteins. Animal proteins are also more digestible than plant-based proteins. If Buddy's diet provides him extra protein, don't worry; excess protein is used for energy. Too little protein can result in poor growth, weight loss, loss of appetite, depressed immunity and a dull coat.
Fat is also important to a puppy's development, providing energy and essential fatty acids, and transporting fat soluble vitamins. A healthy adult's diet should be 5 percent fat; Buddy's puppy diet should be 8 percent fat. Fat also helps Buddy's coat and skin to stay healthy and makes his food taste a bit better. Like you, your pup can get too much fat in his diet, resulting in too rapid growth, weight gain or obesity and developmental orthopedic diseases. That's why you should limit treats to veggie sticks and stick to a commercially prepared puppy diet, switching to adult food between 9 months and 18 months of age, depending on breed. A year's about average; larger dogs take longer to mature, so consult your vet for when to switch from puppy meal to adult dog food.
- Virginia Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine: Nutrition for the Growing Puppy
- The Dog Food Project: Is Too Much Protein Harmful?
- The Dog Food Project: Proteins (Includes Amino Acids)
- Animal Planet: How Do Dogs' Nutritional Needs Change as They Age?
- PetMD: The Special Nutritional Needs of Puppies
- PetMD: The Importance of Proper Nutrition for Puppies
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