You just brought home a new bundle of joy: a furry, fluffy puppy. Naturally, you want to provide the best food possible for your new pup. But with so many kinds of dog food available, it can be overwhelming to choose a kibble or canned food for your four-legged friend. If you’re vacillating between a chicken or lamb and rice formula, the general rule of thumb is to select a grain-free, high-protein, puppy formulated kibble. So if allergies aren’t a concern, pass over the lamb and rice and select a chicken formula food for your new addition.
Protein is Key
Protein is an essential component of any dog’s diet. Described as the “building blocks” for cells and tissues, the ASPCA says the amino acids in animal-based proteins are essential for the healthy growth of your puppy. A balanced puppy diet must include plenty of protein, which is why meat is the most important ingredient in puppy food. In fact, Drs. Foster and Smith say a puppy diet should be at least 28 percent protein. When purchasing food for your pup, read the ingredient label carefully. Whether you’re selecting canned food or kibble, the first ingredient should be a specific meat, like lamb or chicken, instead of a meat by-product. The term “meat by-product” is code for leftover body parts, like eyes, hooves and feet, and should be avoided.
Grain-free is Best
Although carbohydrates should be included in every dog’s diet, most dog food – especially dry kibble – contains more carbohydrates than protein. Ingredients such as rice, wheat and corn commonly make up the bulk of dog food, which isn’t healthy for puppies. Dogs are carnivores and feeding them corn and grain isn’t in their best interest. Unlike protein- and animal-based fats, grains are difficult for dogs of all ages to digest. They’re also commonly the cause of dog allergies, including skin irritations, fur loss and breathing problems. If you can afford it, a low-grain or no-grain diet is best for puppies. Grain-free foods tend to be more expensive, but in addition to the health benefits for puppies, grain-free foods are often more filling and require smaller serving sizes.
Common Protein Allergies
Grains aren’t the only source of allergies in puppies and dogs – canines can develop allergies to meat, including chicken and beef. Food allergy symptoms frequently present on a dog’s body in the form of red and itchy skin, scabs and a flaky coat. Gastrointestinal problems, like vomiting and diarrhea, are also common symptoms of food allergies. If you’ve determined that your puppy is allergic to chicken, it’s vital that you eliminate that ingredient from your dog’s diet. Try an alternative protein source, such as lamb, duck or bison.
Choose Puppy Formula
Compared to adult dogs, puppies need more calories and nutrients to aid their growth and development. That’s why it’s important to feed your pup kibble and canned foods formulated specifically for puppies during the first six months of their lives. Because puppies tend to be more active and energetic, puppy formulas are more calorie-dense than adult formulas. A quality puppy formula will also have a higher protein percentage, compared to kibble and canned food for adult canines.
- ASPCA: Nutrients Your Dog Needs
- Doctors Fosters and Smith: Protein in Pet Food FAQs
- Dog Breed Info Center: Basic Feeding Guide
- Dog Breed Info Center: Dog Food Nutrition
- Dog Food Advisor: Best Grain Free Dog Foods
- PET MD: The Special Nutritional Needs of Puppies
- American Kennel Club: Nutrition and Feeding
Julianne Kroon spends her days caring for animals as the owner an in-home pet sitting business and a dedicated humane society volunteer. She also serves as a national news editor for Internet Broadcasting and previously served as a reporter at a news radio station in Minnesota. Her work has been broadcast on KTOE Information Radio, KMSU Public Radio and featured in the "Mankato Free Press."