Puppy food plays a crucial role in the proper development of your dog. High in calories and dense in nutrients, this type of food gives your pup the boost she needs during her formative years, when she needs a lot of extra help to grow up big and strong. If you don't give her the right kind of puppy food, or if your portioning is off-balance, she could have some physical problems down the line.
Packing on Pounds
Puppy food is important because it helps your pup load up on the nutrients that she needs to grow. Your vet can recommend a brand that suits your specific breed, but in general, you want to opt for a high-quality brand -- not the discount stuff from the grocery store. When you're looking at the ingredients label, go for something with meat as the first ingredient, not corn or other filler. Puppy food should be high in calcium and protein to support healthy growth.
Controlling the Portions
Your puppy is going to grow -- and fast. She may need you to reevaluate her portions on a weekly basis, especially during the first five months, to make sure she's getting just the right amount of food. Defer to the instructions on your food package's label, which tell you how much to feed her daily based on her current age and weight. Ask your vet about the best method of feeding your pup, too. Some dogs, particularly smaller breeds, are reliably able to choose healthy portions for themselves when food is left out all day. Other breeds, particularly larger ones, should be fed on a consistent schedule.
Monitoring Her Progress
Since puppy food is so high in calories, you may want to monitor how your pooch is filling out, to make sure she isn't getting too much or too little food. You should be able to feel your puppy's ribs, but not see them. When your dog is standing and you're looking down at her, she should have a defined waist. If you can see her ribs or backbone, you may need to increase her food. If she looks like a big, furry slug, it's time to either cut back or work on getting more exercise.
The Old Switcheroo
Eventually, you're going to have to switch from puppy food to adult dog food -- continuing to feed puppy food after physical maturation can lead to obesity and joint problems. This depends entirely on how long it takes for your dog to physically mature, which is one of the reasons those regular veterinary checkups are so important. Small dogs may physically mature in just nine months, while bigger dogs may not be on adult food until they're 2 years old.
Tom Ryan is a freelance writer, editor and English tutor. He graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with a degree in English writing, and has also worked as an arts and entertainment reporter with "The Pitt News" and a public relations and advertising copywriter with the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh.