July 01, 2021 | By David Jackson, AllAboutDogFood.co.uk
Search online for 'best puppy food' and you will get thousands of different sites each telling you something different. Finding the right diet for any dog is tricky but for a new puppy owner approaching the world of pet food for the first time, it can be extremely daunting.
Well don't worry, we're here to help! With a quick look at some of the fundamentals of feeding you'll soon have no trouble finding the very best food for your brand new best friend!
Puppy nutritional needs
After weaning, which usually occurs when the puppy is 4-6 weeks of age, puppies essentially require all of the same nutrients from their diet as adult dogs but because they are growing they need more of some of them per pound of bodyweight than their fully-grown counterparts.
It's particularly important that puppies receive plenty of good quality protein from their diet as well as the right level of fat and certain important minerals like calcium and phosphorus for healthy development.
Meat is the best source of protein for dogs as it tends to be easier for dogs to digest and utilise than other forms of protein like those from plants. A good diet for a puppy should therefore include meat as the first ingredient and meat should make up a good proportion of the food as a whole.
Puppy-specific vs all-lifestage foods
For puppies, store-bought pet foods come in two forms:
1. Puppy-Specific foods
These foods are made to cater specifically for the nutritional needs of puppies. For that reason they usually feature higher levels of protein, fat and the important minerals to allow for healthy growth and development.
2. All-lifestage foods
Another way to increase the amount of protein, fat and minerals going into your puppy is just to feed a 'regular' food, but more of it. This is essentially the idea behind 'all-lifestage' foods.
Although this approach is not as tailored as a puppy-specific food, it is arguably the more 'natural' way to feed puppies since dogs in the wild, along with all other mammals including us humans, tend to eat more or less the same foods throughout our lives after weaning, only varying the quantity of food rather than the type of food.
As long as the diet is of a high quality and agrees with the puppy, either approach can work equally well.
Like all pet foods, both puppy foods and all-lifestage foods can vary enormously in quality so be sure to take a look at the AADF ratings on the Dog Food Directory to get an idea of how the different options compare.
Making the change
Going to a new home for the first time is usually an extremely stressful period for puppies so the last thing you want to do is add to the stress by switching the diet. For this reason, it's always best to stick to whatever food the breeder has been feeding for at least the first 2 weeks before making any changes.
Once your puppy is properly settled in, it's still important to ensure that any dietary changes are made gradually, slowly introducing the new food over the course of a week or two to give the system plenty of time to adjust.
Feeding the right amount
Any complete food that is labelled as suitable for puppies should have suggested puppy feeding guidelines on the packaging. This is certainly the best place to start but as all puppies are different it's important to keep an eye on the individual's weight and adjust feeding amounts accordingly. You can find our brief guide on how much to feed here.
From puppyhood to adulthood
While 12 months is generally regarded as the point when dogs reach adulthood, some breeds mature at very different rates than others. Smaller breeds, for example, may reach full size as early as 9 months old while some giant breeds can continue growing until 18 months or even older.
As their growth slows, puppies naturally need less food and many have a reduced appetite. At this stage it is important to change on to an adult food (or reduce the feeding amounts if feeding an all-lifestage food) to avoid any excessive weight gain.