If you have a new puppy, a new member of the family, you will naturally be more concerned about how you look after him or her and how you feed them. Unfortunately, commercial pet food manufacturers play on this concern and promote all sorts of specially formulated puppy diets. In the main, these are not necessary. A puppy is just a small dog and has the same digestive system and metabolism as an older dog. Puppies are perfect candidates for wanting to experience new things. They love to explore their new environment, such as sights, sounds and textures. As they have not had years of eating kibble (commercial processed foods), their digestive system has not been ruined by this species inappropriate diet. So basically puppies (no matter how young) should be fed the same as older dogs. They can digest the same as an older dog.
The first important decision to make for your young puppy is to feed them a natural raw diet. A puppy that is raw fed from the start will not have a chance to develop many of the problems that are inherent to those fed a commercial dried food diet. Its digestive system, metabolism and organs will benefit hugely from this natural diet and give the puppy the best start in life – a start that will benefit them greatly in the years ahead.
So – you have decided on a naturally raw diet. What next.
Just before we tell you – there is one important thing to bear in mind. Your puppy is already an individual – maybe a small one, but still an individual. It is unique and so will have a unique metabolism and activity level. This plays a big part in the amount of food it will need, so the guidelines are exactly what they say – guidelines. You will need to tailor these guidelines to your own puppy, by simply watching and observing how it eats and how it develops in body shape, weight and activity.
There are various theories about feeding puppies. Some say that they should be fed 3 – 4 times per day. However, it is more important to feed the right amount per day, rather than the number of feeds. We would recommend 2 feeds per day (morning, say 0800 and evening, say 1700). This gives the dog nourishment at the start of the day when it is most active, then more nourishment at a time when it will have burned off the first meal and will be feeling hungry, but also at an early enough time that it can burn off some of the food energy before it goes to sleep for the night.
So – how much do you feed? Well there are two popularly recommended methods:
- Feed a percentage of the expected adult weight at a rate of 2.5 -3% per day).
- Feed a percentage of the actual body weight – which is on a decreasing scale as they get older (10% – 3%).
Our chart below, gives you an indication of the amounts we recommend.
At Paws Naturally, we can help you choose the method and work out a plan for the particular needs for your puppy. We can weigh your puppy and then monitor its weight on a regular basis for you, so that the sliding scale can be easy to follow. If it is a well-defined breed then you may decide that the “expected adult weight” method is the easier one to take, as this remains unchanged and does not need regular adjusting. Both methods work fine, so it really is a case of which you prefer. Once you decide, we can send you away with a tailored chart for your puppy and then keep in regular contact with you – so it is simple.
The most important thing is to follow the body shape. A puppy should never be fat. “Puppy fat” is something puppies have only when they are being weaned by their mothers. When they arrive in their new home, your home, the puppy should start to lose this fat straight away and within a few weeks should be lean and healthy looking. Our job is to maintain this body shape, as excessive fat will only lead to muscle, bone and joint damage in your puppy, which can cause problems for life. Just as in overweight humans, and even mechanical things, when the loads exceed the design criteria, damage is caused and problems occur.
What happens in the unlikely event that “my puppy will not eat”. We say “unlikely” because most puppies will love to eat. They are growing fast and their bodies will be crying out for all the nourishment they can get, when meal times come around. However, sometimes they might not eat. Well – just like with children, you are the boss. You know what is best for them, so you must be firm. Go to our Fussy Eater feature for more info.
It will vary from breed to breed, but in general a dog is fully grown after 12 – 18 months and stops being a puppy. So – from around 12 months old (does not have to be exact) you should be thinking of switching to the adult percentage charts.