The best food for your puppy

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Dr. Katy Nelson discusses canine nutrition for a happy and well-balanced life. From portion size and ingredients, to feeding schedules and best shopping practices, Dr. Nelson makes sure your puppy or dog will be at his top physical and psychological health.

The best food for your puppy

Dr. Katy Nelson discusses canine nutrition to keep your puppy physically and physiologically healthy.

  • Only feed your puppy premium puppy food until he reaches his adult height and weight.
  • Most veterinarians and trainers recommend dry kibble food because of its fat content and the fact that moist food can spoil.
  • When shopping, check that the label says “Formulated to meet the nutritional levels established by the AAFCO Dog Food Nutrient Profiles for Growth.” Also read the ingredients list on the back of the package and look for: protein, calcium, DHA, probiotics and a high calorie count.
  • Teach your whole family that feeding your puppy or your dog table scraps is a big no-no and a major health hazard.
  • Puppies younger than four months need to be fed multiple times per day. Depending on your puppy’s breed size, at around six months you can start to limit feeding to twice a day.
  • Don’t fully rely on the portion size suggestions on the back on the packaging. Talk to your doctor and pay close attention to your dog’s body to determine appropriate portion sizes at each age.
  • Limit treating to less than 10% of your puppy's daily caloric intake.
  • Always give your puppy fresh, clean water.
Transcript Hi, I'm Dr. Katy Nelson for Iams with Howdini. Today we're going to talk about dog nutrition and what you should look for in your puppy's food. Just like infants, puppies require different levels of nutrients than older dogs.
 
Physically puppies grow fastest during the first six months. The right nutrition is critical to support this rapid growth. That said, your puppy should only receive premium puppy food until he reaches his adult height and weight. That's typically in the first year for small and medium breeds and can be up to two years for large and giant breeds. One more thing to consider is that a puppy's energy requirements can be nearly twice that of an adult dog. And since their stomachs are smaller they need more nutritionally dense food formulated just for puppies to help them meet their energy needs.
 
There are three types of food. Dry kibble. Semi-moist, which comes in sealed packages. And moist, or canned. Most veterinarians and trainers recommend dry kibble food because of its fat content and the fact that moist food can spoil. Dry kibble also helps with tartar control which is particularly important for his developing teeth.
 
When you're shopping for food, there a couple of things you want to look for and keep in mind. Number one, look on the label for a statement that says formulated to meet the nutritional levels established by the AAFCO dog food Nutrient Profiles for Growth. Number two, read the ingredients list on the back of the package and look for real meat as the first ingredient.
 
Puppies grow the fastest during the first six months of life. And because growth rates differ among breed sizes, you need to feed a formula designed to address the needs of your puppy's breed and size. Ideally, puppy food should also contain animal-based protein for strong muscles. The protein requirement for growing poppies is higher than that for adult dogs. High quality protein is critical for puppies to create new body tissue as they grow.
 
Calcium for strong bones and teeth. Iron for healthy blood. DHA for the brain, central nervous system, and vision. DHA is a key ingredient found naturally in mother's milk and is important for a baby's neural development. Just like a baby, your puppy's ability to learn depends on healthy brain development.
 
Probiotics for a healthy immune system, because 65% of your puppy's immune system is in its digestive tract. And high in calories for all the energy a puppy burns.
 
The nutritional needs for puppies differ for different breeds sizes. Large breed puppies grow more quickly. Because of that, they actually need less calcium so their bones don't grow too fast. Medium breed dogs need a careful balance of calories and nutrients to be sure that they don't gain excess weight. While small breed puppies need nutrient dense food in small bites because their metabolism tends to be faster. and they have different energy needs than larger dogs.
 
Another important thing to know is that what is good for humans is not necessarily good for animals. Because proper nutrition is critical for optimal development, and because human food doesn't offer the proper balance of nutrients puppies need, it is important teach your whole family that feeding your puppy or your dog table scraps is a big no-no and a major health hazard.
 
Now let's talk about feeding schedules. Just like babies, puppies do best on a regular schedule. Schedules teach them that there are times to eat, times to play, and times to potty. Obviously the feeding schedule will largely be dictated by your own personal schedule. But no matter what, it is critical that puppies younger than four months be feed multiple times per day. Depending on your puppy's breed size, at around six months you can start to limit feelings to twice a day. Also keep in mind that eating is soon followed by the urge to go to the bathroom. If you work away from your house and are unable to feed and walk your puppy as often as needed, think hiring a dog walker or ask a neighbor to help you keep your puppy on his schedule.
 
For more information on house training, watch "How to house train your puppy."
 
Another important nutritional determinant is how much you were supposed to feed your developing puppy. Even though the back of the puppy food bags usually have suggested portion sizes based on weight, they are not always right for your puppy. So it's best to pay attention to your puppy's body and talk to your veterinarian. Remember a fat puppy is not necessarily a healthy puppy. Just as childhood obesity can lead to adult health issues in humans, monitoring a puppy's weight is very important to ensure proper development.
 
Treats are another food source to consider when determining portion size. It is important to limit treating to less than 10% of your puppy's daily caloric intake. When selecting treats, hard chew treats are ideal because they improve dental health through gnawing. Also try to save treating for training sessions to reward good behavior, but be careful not to overdo it. For more information on training, watch our video "Puppy training basics."
 
The last part of puppy nutrition we are going to talk about is water. Puppies need fresh, clean water available at all times. Like us, water is their most important nutrient. You should change your puppy's water often, at least once a day. Providing fresh, clean water greatly reduces the risk of disease, and therefore keeps your pet happy and healthy. I'm Dr. Katy Nelson for Iams with Howdini. And I hope that you found this helpful as you welcome your new addition into your family.
 
For more information on puppy care and training, visit iams.com/puppy.
meet theexpert
  • Dr. Katy J. Nelson

    Dr. Katy J. Nelson Doctor of Veterinary Medicine Dr. Nelson is an associate emergency veterinarian at the Alexandria Animal Hospital in Alexandria, VA where she works with a wide variety of pets and pet problems. She is the co-creator of the hospital’s Pawsitively Fit program. more about this expert »

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