Puppies have a lot of growing to do before they reach adulthood, which is why young dogs have different dietary requirements than mature canines. A balanced diet is crucial for newborns and young pups, because their body needs the fuel and resources to develop bone, organ and muscle tissue.
General Puppy Nutrition
Puppies require roughly twice as much food per pound of weight as adult dogs and should consume double the number of calories, according to Animal Planet Pets 101. Puppies also need more protein and fat in their diet than older canines. Meals formulated for puppies should contain 25 to 30 percent protein, according to the ASPCA. Canine bodies only produce 13 of the 23 amino acids they need, so dogs of all ages need to eat food containing the remaining 10 essential acids. Puppy formula and balanced puppy food should supply all 10. Tiny pups also need a balanced ratio of various minerals and vitamins in their diet, including Vitamins A, D and E.
Tiny puppies need to eat every few hours throughout the day to stay healthy. For the first few weeks, the babies should should spend 90 percent of their time either nursing or sleeping, according to VCA Animal Hospitals. Milk from mom contains all the nutrients her pups need, so they shouldn't need any other food or supplement as they nurse. Balanced puppy formula emulates canine milk and is a suitable replacement when the mom isn't available. Milk from cows or other animals isn't designed for dogs and may give them indigestion.
Puppies can live on their mom's milk only for so long. Most dogs are ready to wean to solid food when they are about 4 weeks old. They are far from being adults at this point though, so they still have different dietary requirements than adults. Quality commercial wet or dry food specifically formulated for puppies should provide them with everything they need. Check the label to ensure the food's nutritious value is compared to accepted standards and look for brands that are marked as "complete" and "balanced," according to the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine.
Nutrition and Health
Watch your puppies carefully, especially during the first week or two. Check on them throughout the day to make sure they are all nursing regularly. Healthy puppies gain weight every day and should be about double their initial weight after the first week, according to VCA Animal Hospitals. Weigh your pups each day with a sensitive scale to make sure they are all growing. Nutritional deficiency early in life can cause all kinds of general symptoms, including lethargy and limb weakness. Consult your veterinarian if any of your pups show signs of sickness or don't eat as much as their siblings.
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