Frequently Asked Questions on Puppy Nutrition
For how long do puppies suckle their mother?
According to veterinary opinion, the puppies should be drinking milk directly from their mother for 3-4 weeks of their lives. Suckling their mother provides the puppy with the best quality milk for the puppies and empowers the puppy’s immune system with preformed antibodies. These antibodies protect the puppy from infectious diseases until the vaccination kicks in.
In the case of orphan puppies, the proffered milk should be from another female dog. Otherwise, you can feed cow milk with slight supplementation. Also, canine colostrum products are commercially available to provide antibodies. Orphan puppies should be on milk until 6-7 weeks.
What should be the frequency of the meals for my puppy?
Puppies should be eating 3-4 small meals daily till they reach the age of 06 months. During early life, their stomach is small and larger meals can cause digestive issues. If the temperatures in your area are high during the day, a slightly large meal can be offered at night. But, this is allowed after the age of 03 months. After 06 months, you can start at 02 meals/day in adequate quantity.
When should I start giving meat to my puppy?
You can introduce the raw meat at the weaning age, but the puppy should not depend upon the raw meat only as it doesn’t contain all essential vitamins. Raw meat of any common types, e.g. beef, mutton, veal, chicken etc., can be used to feed puppies, but it should be fresh, finely ground and free from bones. Bones at an early age are not recommended. Moreover, raw meat should be lean and should not contain more than 15% fat. Usually, the raw meat is digested quickly, but it is better to cook or steam the meat to avoid bacterial contamination. Always introduce meat slowly, don’t rush.
Is a meat-only diet balanced for puppies?
No, it is not. Although dogs originate from carnivores, they are omnivorous, and meat should not exceed 50-60% of their diet. They need a lot of protein, but proteins are not the only thing they need. Meat is deficient in essential vitamins, especially vitamins A and C, essential for the body’s normal functioning. Also, many other nutrients like pectin, flavonoids etc., can only be taken from plant sources. If you depend upon raw or cooked meat to feed your puppy, you should also add an adequate quantity of vitamin supplements. The dog’s digestive system is meant to scavenge on meat, not to depend upon it totally. Therefore, meat only diet is not balanced for puppies.
When should I start feeding bones to my puppy?
The crushed bone powder can be added to the puppy diet at 6-7 weeks, but sharp or raw bones should be avoided. Bones are a good calcium source, strengthen gums and help clean teeth. You can give your puppy a raw bone to crush or chew at the age of 12 weeks. Before 12 weeks, the puppies with growing teeth are aggressive at chewing things, and sharp bone edges can cause mouth injuries. Therefore a puppy younger than 12 weeks should be given other safer chewable items.
My puppy is not eating: what should I do?
Following things you can do at home
- Rule out any abrupt change in food and rectify that. There should be no sudden change or addition in the puppy’s diet.
- Rule of recent stress or travel. Sometimes puppies refrain from eating when the environment is changed. This situation will resolve automatically.
- Check the quality of food. It should be freshly prepared. Sometimes the puppies refuse to eat refrigerated meals. Sometimes, puppies are afraid of eating because the last meal was too hot or cold to hurt them.
- Carefully examine the puppy’s mouth and check for any injury. Clean the mouth and rinse with an antiseptic solution and wait. The mouth cuts usually heal faster. Meanwhile, offer the puppy a very soft or liquid diet until he starts eating the regular food.
- Carefully examine the puppy’s faeces and record any abnormality. If something is wrong with the puppy’s stomach, skip one or two meals. During that time, water should be freely accessible to the puppy.
- If the puppy is not eating and straining to defecate but cannot pass the stools, he is constipating. Give the puppy 100 ml of liquid paraffin to help him pass the stools. If there is repeated constipation, change the brand of the puppy’s food.
- Check the temperature of the puppy if he is not eating. A rise in temperature indicates the upcoming disease.
When to call your veterinarian
Call your veterinarian if there is
- Unresolved constipation
- Rise in temperature
- Any sign of another disease.
Should I feed raw meat to young puppies?
You can feed raw meat to your puppies older than 6 weeks, but it should not constitute more than 60% of a puppy’s diet. Also, avoid adding bones and too much fat to the raw meat. Carefully monitor your puppy for any digestive issues. If the puppy shows abnormal digestive function, remove the raw meat from the puppy’s meals.
Do puppies eat vegetables?
Dogs can eat vegetables as they are omnivores. But a puppy on federally approved commercial food doesn’t need an addition. Vegetables provide fibre, vitamins, minerals and some carbohydrates, but these nutrients are up to the mark in commercial food. Moreover, carbohydrates are optimally provided by cereal grains in puppy food.
Some vegetables like pumpkin help treat diarrhoea as it absorbs extra stool water. Vegetables also help prevent constipation and are an ingredient in some commercial puppy foods. Some veggies like green beans, carrots, broccoli (irritating stomach in some breeds), green beans, etc., are an excellent addition to overweight puppies and dogs. They act as fillers and make an excellent low-calorie diet. On the other hand, onions, raw garlic, unripe tomatoes, pips, mushrooms, nuts, nutmeg, rhubarb, avocado, raw potato etc., should always be avoided due to their toxicity and other harmful effects on puppies.
Fruits can also be given as treats to your puppy. Finally-ground, apple can also be added to a home-cooked diet as a good source of vitamin A, vitamin C and calcium.
Which foods are toxic for dogs?
Although dogs are omnivores, it doesn’t mean they can eat everything. Some common foods, fruits, veggies and beverages in home settings are toxic and can be very dangerous for your puppy. I recommend making a list and hanging it in the puppy food area.
Foods toxic for puppies
- Alcoholic beverages: Although unhealthy for humans, too, alcohol-containing beverages damage the liver and brain of your puppy. They can cause vomiting, diarrhoea, nervous incoordination and sometimes death.
- Coffee and tea: caffeine in coffee and tea can cause heart palpitations, irritability, fast and shallow breathing, muscular fits and tremors, and sometimes death.
- Chocolate: chocolate is poisonous to puppies and can cause vomiting, racing heart rate, restlessness, sweating, and panting. In severe cases, fits, seizures and heart failure are the outcomes.
- Milk and dairy products: Milk and dairy products do not always fit some dogs. They can cause diarrhoea and digestive problems but are not dangerous.
- Candies and gums: contain a sweetening agent called xylitol. This agent causes an l drop in sugar level, which can lead to liver failure.
- Raw eggs: Raw eggs are not directly toxic to the puppies. But they can provide the source of bacterial infections like salmonella, which cause severe enteritis (inflammation of the intestine).
- Yeast dough: Yeast dough causes gas and swelling of the abdomen. This leads to severe abdominal pain, sometimes intolerable for your puppy.
Toxic vegetables and fruits for puppy
- Grapes and resins: Grapes and resins are nephrotoxic and cause renal failure in dogs by damaging the renal tubules in kidney nephrons. The toxic effects of grapes depend upon the quantity ingested. Sometimes ingestion of 4-5 grapes can cause acute renal failure. Affected dogs are lazy, off-feed, vomiting and sometimes not urinating.
- Macadamia nuts: Macadamia nuts can cause paralysis of the hind legs in puppies. 4-5 macadamia nuts can cause obvious signs and symptoms. Although the poisoning can be managed at home, prolonged use can cause severe muscle tremors and body shaking, eventually leading to death if untreated.
- Table fat scrap and sharp bones: Table fat trimmed from meat can cause inflammation of the pancreas, and sharp bone pieces can traumatize the internal digestive structures.
- Fruit pits: The pits of peach, plum and apricot contain cyanide compounds that are toxic for you and your puppy.
- Pulses and grams
- Raw garlic
- Unripe tomatoes
- Rhubarb, and
- Raw potato
Why should I feed liver to my puppy?
In many societies, people feed only raw meat to their puppies. If your puppy is on raw meat, there is the possibility of nutritional deficiencies related to vitamins A, C, D, B, and K. other than these vitamins are present in the liver meat. In the wild, the liver of prey is available to eat; therefore, nutritional deficiencies are not obvious. But in domestic settings, the liver meat should be fed to puppies at least once a week. Liver meat can also be given in the form of semi-cooked treats. Liver meat also provides many essential minerals to the puppy, e.g. iron, essential fatty acids etc. liver is a good protein source too.
What are the daily requirements of a puppy?
The nutritional requirements of the puppy will vary with age and body weight. The provision of a balanced diet is necessary to develop strong and healthy adult dogs. It is necessary to check the body weight at the beginning of each month, and the diet can be modified accordingly. The calorie requirement of the puppy can be assessed by the following table.
|Weight in LBS||04||06||08||10||12||14||15|
|Weight in LBS||16||18||20||25||30||35||40|
During the growing period, your puppy needs good quality protein and twice the amount of minerals and slightly more vitamins compared to adult dogs.
|Weight in LBS||01||04||08||12||16||20||24|
|Protein required (cups)||½||½ to 01||1||1.5 to 2||2||2.5||3|
The growth rate of different breeds is different, so the puppy’s body weight should be compared with the standards of that breed.
How can I access that my puppy is growing well?
As I said earlier, measure the body weight of your puppy at the start of each month and check the body condition. You can compare the body weight of your puppy with the standards of that breed. At the age of 08 weeks, the small breed puppy should weigh about 31% of the adult weight, while a large breed puppy should weigh 21% of its adult weight. The ideal body condition has the following characteristics.
- The waist should be visible behind the ribs.
- The abdomen should be tucked-up above the level of ribs.
- Ribs can be felt with slight pressure under the thin layer of fat. So are the spine and hips.
- There should be a layer of fat over the ribs and body.
If your puppy is over or underweight, adjust the constituents of the diet accordingly.
How much meat should I feed to my puppy?
Meat should not exceed 60% and, in some cases, 50% of the total daily food intake by the puppy. 20% grains like boiled rice or corn etc., can be given. For the rest of the diet, the fillers such as vegetables and fruits should be given.
How should I care for an orphan puppy?
This will answer this question briefly; we will write a complete article later.
There are 03 most important aspects of caring for an orphan puppy.
- The 1st need for a puppy is colostrum from its mother. Colostrums are the milk of their mother’s first 4-5 days, which contains antibodies necessary to protect against infectious diseases. There are commercial productsavailable to feed the puppy for 4-6 days. If colostrum is not available, the serum of another healthy and vaccinated dog can be injected at 1 ml under the skin. This should be performed by or under the supervision of a veterinarian.
- 2nd need of an orphaned puppy is a source of food. Cow or buffalo milk is not the optimum option because dog milk is different in composition. Puppies should be on puppy milk replacer for 3-4 weeks before starting the solid or semi-solid diet. The puppy should be fed small meals 5-6 times a day. There are instructions on each commercial calf milk replacer for the quantity to be fed. A puppy can only accommodate 10-20 ml of milk or milk replacer at one time. Canine milk replacers are available commercially and can also be made at home. One example of homemade puppy milk replacer is
- Take 800 ml whole milk, 200 ml cream with 12% fat, one egg yolk (no egg white), 6-gram bone meal, and 04-gram citric acids. Also, add 2000 IU of vitamin A and 500 IU of vitamin D.
- 3rd important aspect is hygiene and defecation reflex. Puppies depend upon their mother to stimulate them to eliminate. You should rub the peri-anal area of the puppy for some time to help them defecate.
When should I shift from puppy to adult dog diet?
To be honest, that depends upon the breed of your puppy. Actually, commercial puppy foods are designed for the puppy’s growth needs. Puppies require more protein and minerals than an adult for proper growth. In my opinion, always search for your puppy’s age and weight of maturity. When your puppy has gained the mature weight of its breed in ideal body condition (not merely fat and fluff), you can switch from the puppy to adult food. As a general rule, puppies usually gain maturity between 6-12 months. You can switch after 12 months.
How can I change my dog’s diet?
As a general rule, it is not good to change the puppy’s diet very often. But if the previous diet is expensive or your dog is getting bloated, diarrheic or uncomfortable with the previous diet, you can change. But the best way to change the diet is to change gradually. Start by mixing the new diet with the old one and gradually increasing. You can switch at once if the dog is allergic to the previous diet or if your veterinarian is recommending it.
Are rawhide chews okay for my puppy?
Rawhide chews are usually considered unsafe for young puppies, but it is not always the case. All dogs are different when it comes to their chewing abilities. Young [puppies and old dogs are soft chewers compared to adults. Rawhide chews are considered safer for soft chewers. For dogs who are aggressive chewers, large rawhide chunks can cut off and choke their intestines.
Always give your puppy the rawhide chew after properly cleaning and soaking in water. Select the size of the chew according to the age and size of your puppy. As a general rule, I would not recommend rawhide chews younger than 6 months.
Can I offer cat food to my dog?
Cat food is more palatable and nutritious as it contains more proteins and fat content compared to dog food. This is because cats are carnivores, and their food contains more meat and high fat, while dogs are omnivores.
You can give cat food to your puppy as a healthy and balanced treat in a small amount. Also, cat food can be a good option for dogs in the treatment of chronic diseases except for digestive diseases. Keeping puppies on cat food for a long time will be expensive and can lead to problems related to high fat and high protein. Also, cat food contains more taurine (an amino acid), which dogs in their diet do not require. Cat-food treats are the best ones for your puppy, but long-term use of cat food for your puppy is not good. Moreover, if the puppy is allergic to cat food, it would lead to serious digestive issues.
What ingredients are present in commercial dog food?
Although the constituents of every commercial dog food are written on the packing, you should know the basic components of the dog food to decide between the commercial foods and to prepare a balanced diet. Good puppy food should have the following ingredients.
A protein source
A puppy needs 28% protein in its diet, while adult dogs need 18%. The source of protein may vary from eggs, fish, beef, and mutton to grains and a scrap from the meat industry. The source of protein should be selected according to the quality and bioavailability of the protein. Puppy foods with fish as protein sources are considered better than those with beef. Search for the amino acids present in the protein provided by your protein source and decide accordingly. The bioavailability of protein from eggs is 94%, while that of fish, beef and grains are 76%, 74% and 60%, respectively.
Carbohydrates in dog food are energy sources obtained from cereals like corn, wheat and rice etc. carbohydrates are not required in large quantities, and we are aware that some commercial puppy foods use a lot of carbohydrates.
The lipid source in most commercial dog foods is vegetable oils.
Minerals and vitamins
Vitamins and minerals from vegetables or chemical products are added to dog foods.
Other ingredients in dog foods include food additives, fibre sources and sometimes yeast.
Can I make puppy food at home?
Yes, of course. You can make puppy food at home. You can share your own food with your puppy but be aware of onion, nuts, and other prohibited ingredients for the dogs mentioned above. The dogs are omnivores, and so are we humans. You can share the following from your own diet with your fluffy friend
- fruits (except the prohibited ones)
- Vegetables like broccoli, carrots, green beans, bell pepper, parsley, yams, tomatoes, and potatoes
- Cheese and yoghurt from dairy items
- Bread, oats, rice, corn and peanut butter and most importantly
- The meat of any kind.
Here is a simple formula for the puppy food
|Food source||Percentage %|
|Fruits and vegetables||10-20%|
|Minerals and vitamins||As per recommended doses|
Add all the ingredients except minerals and vitamins and heat them gently by adding some water. Now add minerals and vitamins and give them to your puppy.
Should I feed table scrap to my puppy?
Table scrap can be given to the puppy, but not for long. Table scrap is good as a snack for your puppy. Sometimes the table scrap contains things which are toxic for your dog. Also, sometimes table scrap contains foods high in specific nutrients like fat. This could lead to obesity when used for a long. Moreover, be aware of sharp-edged bones, grapes, resins, and other prohibited materials.
Do puppies get bored of the same food?
I don’t think so. Dogs have a much smaller number of taste buds than we do. On average, a dog has 1700 taste buds compared to our 9000. Therefore, there is no or very less affinity for a specific taste. But dogs can identify the salty, sweet, bitter or sour tastes.
What are the tests for the safety of food for my dog?
Both dried and wet pet foods are tested for bacterial or fungal contamination. Different bacteria in the pet food are screened by microbiological or toxicological tests. Tests for the following bacteria have usually conducted the testing the safety of pet food.
- Enterbacteriacae fanily
- Clostridium botulinum and its toxin
- Listeria moncytogenes
- Fungal toxins (Aflatoxins)
Also, the confirmation of claimed nutrients and nutritional value can be performed by a proximate nutritional analysis of the food.
Should I feed expensive food to my puppy?
In this era, everyone aims to save money. There is no goodness in wasting money on expensive pet foods. But remember one thing; there are cheap commercial products in the market which are below the mark in terms of nutritional value.
Always look for the ingredients used by the company as protein, carbohydrates and fat. For example, eggs and fish are better than beef and beef is far better than plant-based protein sources for your puppy. So, always read the food ingredients and then decide between commercial products. Don’t waste money but don’t save money on account of the puppy’s health.
Which one is better among canned and dried food for my puppy?
Although the marketers of both types of food favour their own type, in my opinion, both dry and canned foods have their own benefits.
Canned foods are easy to chew, contain more water content, are tasty, and produce a filling effect on the puppy. On the other hand, dry kibble is economical, stimulates chewing ability, improves dental health, is consumed slowly and is convenient to use.
I would recommend wet food for very young puppies and dry food for puppies above 8 months of age. For older dogs, wet food is better due to dental issues.
What are prescription diets? Why they are important
Prescription diets are special diets with modified ingredients designed to help puppies or adult dogs with disease conditions. For example, if a dog is suffering from kidney problems, a veterinarian will design a diet that puts the least pressure on the kidney. Such diets are not commercially available but are specifically designed for your puppy.
Sticking to a prescription diet is important because it helps your puppy to improve health and sometimes prevents heavy medication. In cases other than allergies, the shift from the normal to prescription diet should be gradual. Critical monitoring and observation of the puppy are essential when he is on a prescription diet.
How should I store dog food?
Improper storage of puppy food can cause serious health problems, especially when it is contaminated. Bacteria and their toxins can make the food really hazardous for your puppy.
- Always store the food in the original container in a cool and dry place.
- Don’t keep the unused or prepared food uncovered, even in the refrigerator.
- Don’t store prepared or home-cooked food for more than 24 hours, even in the refrigerator.
- Carefully observe the stored kibble for any change in colour or consistency.
- Follow the instruction on the label for recommended storage conditions.
For how long should I store home-cooked dog food in the refrigerator?
I would recommend that homemade food should not be stored in a refrigerator for more than 24 hours.
My puppy is getting fat; what should I do?
I recommend following for the fat puppies.
- First of all, check the diet you are offering to your puppy. If it contains too much fat or too many carbohydrates, adjust it by consulting your veterinarian.
- Secondly, get your puppy checked for the underlying disease condition.
- Have a critical look at the treats you are offering to your puppy. If they are fatty, adjust them.
- Take your puppy on long walks regularly and increase the play time and physical activity until he returns to normal ideal body condition.
Here one thing to keep in mind is that the puppies of some breeds are normally heavy or look fatty during early life. So don’t judge the puppy by comparing it to an adult body shape.
My puppy is getting skinny; should I worry?
Yes, you should revise the puppy’s diet. Also, check for underlying disease conditions and take the internal parasites into account as well.
What are the healthy treats for my dog?
The best healthy treat I recommend is the liver if your puppy is on the raw meat diet. Here are some important ones
- Fruits like bananas, apples, strawberries, blueberries, pears, watermelon etc.
- Canned commercial treats of salmon.
- Veggies like broccoli, cantaloupe, pumpkin, cucumber, green beans, cooked potatoes, carrots etc.
What is the best diet for growing a puppy?
Any diet which provides the following is good for your puppy
- 28-35% protein
- 10-15% fats
- 20% carbohydrates
- 5% calcium
- The recommended dose of all minerals and vitamins.
Most of the commercial and approved diets fulfil these requirements. Even if you prepare puppy food at home with added vitamin and mineral sources, it will work.
Are grains bad for dogs?
You will find a lot of opinions regarding whether grains are bad or good for your puppy. In my opinion, small quantities of grains are not bad at all unless your puppy is allergic. Some dogs cannot digest the grains optimally and may suffer from abdominal pain, but it is not the case all the time. In fact, some dog foods contain grains as one of their ingredients.
What is the composition of dog milk?
The bitch’s milk has the following composition
Different breeds may slightly differ from the above composition.
Should the food always be accessible to the puppy?
No, Not at all; the puppy should not be provided free access to the food. This leads to overeating, poor eating habits, wastage of food, and greedy puppies. The total daily ration of the puppy should be divided into 3-4 meals. Moreover, each meal should be accessible for not more than 15 minutes. 15 minutes are enough to eat. On the other hand, free access to the water is recommended.
This content is provided for informational purposes only, and does not intend to substitute professional veterinary advice, diagnosis, or treatment.
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