There are many different approaches you can take to ensure your dog has a balanced, healthy diet. However, with many different feeding regimes to choose from, all of varying quality, it can be a little baffling to know which way to go.
Best puppy diet: get help from the breeder
Puppies grow 20 times faster than adult dogs and so they require a special diet to aid their physical development. A specially formulated growth food is recommended which needs to be fed at evenly spaced intervals to avoid overstretching a puppy's small stomach.
A responsible breeder will give you advice about your puppy's diet.
Feeding your puppy - frequently asked questions
How often should I feed my puppy?
Feed your puppy four meals a day up until the age of 4 months, and then reduce their feed to three meals a day until they are 6 months old. They can then move to two meals a day, and stay on this routine for the rest of their life.
What is the difference between dry and fresh meat ingredients?
The answer is simple - the difference is water content. Fresh meat can contain up to 80% water.
To make sure your dog gets what they need, choose a food specially designed for them and buy the best dog food you can afford. The 'premium' dry foods tend to have the highest quality ingredients. Many are based on chicken, rice or corn.
Some dogs are not accustomed to dry foods but will normally grow to like them with time. If your dog does not seem to like eating dry foods and this is what you wish to feed them, you can try soaking the food in a little warm water to soften or mix in a little tinned food.
Semi-moist and tinned food
Choose a good quality dog food with an easily digestible recipe (such as chicken and rice) and choose a specialist food which is nutritionally complete (which does not require additional foods to be added to it). It is best to avoid changes in your puppy's diet, so if you find a product that works for your puppy, stick to it.
Should I make their food myself?
As it is very difficult to get this balance right, you are probably better off choosing from one of the tried and tested commercial diets. Puppies need the best possible diet while they are growing up, as even a slight imbalance may harm their development and growth.
Any change in diet should be made very gradually over at least a week to avoid upset tummies. You should try a new diet for at least 10 days before making any further changes.
What about treats?
Some treats contain high amounts of sugar, colourings, milk products and fat. Even 'doggy chocs' or 'low fat yoghurt drops' can contain sugars or lactose (milk sugar) so always check the ingredients label.
Quality prepared treats have been developed with dogs' dietary needs in mind. However, all treats should be given sparingly, never more than 15% of the total calorie intake.
If used regularly, reduce the amount of main meal food your dog is receiving in order to avoid obesity. Some chew treats have been proven to help prevent dental diseases, but again, check the label to ensure you are getting a genuine product.
What are the signs that I am feeding my dog the wrong diet?
We recommend that you check:
- for signs of an intolerance
- if they are finishing their food
- what their poo looks like
When and how do I feed them?
Leave your dog in peace while they are eating from their bowl. Taking the bowl away while they are eating causes anxiety, which can lead to food aggression. If you want to be sure that your dog is comfortable with you approaching them during meal times, add a little food to the bowl while they are eating, so they see you as an asset, rather than a threat.
Never feed your dog from the table or off of your plate, as this encourages drooling and attention-seeking behaviours, such as begging and barking.
You should not feed your dog before travelling in the car as this might cause car-sickness. Also avoid feeding your dog an hour before or after exercise as this could contribute to stomach dilation and torsion (also known as bloat) which is a life-threatening condition requiring immediate veterinary intervention.
For further information on feeding your dog, visit the Pet Food Manufacturer's Association website.