A healthy white and brown puppy runs through grass on a sunny day.

If you are the proud owner of a new puppy, or you are thinking about getting one in the near future, recognize that one of your major responsibilities is managing your puppy’s early nutrition. Providing puppies with good nutrition acts as a major catalyst for a lifetime of healthy living. With a solid foundation of a balanced diet with the proper nutrition, your puppy can go on to live a long and happy life. 

Below, we’ve highlighted some of the most important aspects of giving your puppy quality nutrition. Your own practices should vary based on the puppy’s breed, development, level of activity, and your veterinarian’s recommendations. Nevertheless, the tips below should provide a solid foundation for your puppy’s future health and wellness.

What Are Some Primary Puppy Nutrition Requirements?

There are six primary nutrition requirements for puppies — things that are absolutely essential for optimum growth in your new puppy. These nutrients work in concert with each other to build the healthiest dogs, and each of them is important in its own right.

  • Fats — Fats are the most concentrated form of food energy; they supply puppies with more than twice the energy of carbs or proteins. Fats also help puppies absorb vitamins and protect their internal organs. Without enough fats in their diet, puppies could be prone to stunted growth or skin problems.
  • Carbohydrates — An important form of energy, carbohydrates contain concentrated stores of glucose, which is critical to a puppy’s major organs. Fiber is another type of carbohydrate that is important, as it helps dogs manage digestive health and avoid intestinal issues.  
  • Proteins — Proteins are the major movers and structural components of the cell, building block for tissues, organs, cells and enzymes. A puppy’s growth, maintenance, and repair of cells is all possible because of proteins. Complete proteins include chicken, turkey, beef, lamb, and fish, while incomplete proteins include vegetables, soy, and cereals. 
  • Vitamins — Vitamins are essential for a puppy’s normal development. If your puppy’s diet is balanced, they will get all they need in their regular dog food. If you give your puppy supplemental vitamins, they are not only less likely to fully absorb and use the nutrients, but they also run the risk of hypervitaminosis, or poisoning from too many vitamins. 
  • Minerals — Minerals are important for a puppy’s growth and must be provided by a balanced diet. They are an important part of many of a dog’s metabolic reactions, creating strong bones and teeth, and regulating fluids. 
  • Calcium — Just like in humans, calcium builds strong bones and teeth in dogs. It is of even more importance for large-breed dogs, because too much or too little can cause skeletal problems.  

How Often Should I Be Feeding My Puppy?

Puppies grow quite quickly. No matter what breed they are, proper nutrition is paramount to their growth and development. Because they are growing so rapidly but have tiny stomachs, they will need to eat frequently, usually four to six meals a day. 

Around the age of six months their needs change, and they can be fed two to three times a day. By the time they are ten to twelve months old, small and medium sized breeds are considered adults. Large and giant breeds are considered adults between eighteen to twenty-four months old. 

Although the growth rate for each breed varies, and involves a complex process among a dog’s environment, genetics, and nutrition, the type and amount of food fed to your puppy can be the deciding factor in optimal growth. 

What Is Meant by “Life-Stage Nutrition”?

Just like with humans, dogs have different nutritional needs depending on their stage of life, meaning where they are currently at in terms of progression towards full maturity and their full adult size. 

If you feed your puppy according to the stage of life it is in, you will be giving the puppy the nutrients it needs for optimal development. Puppies grow so quickly and in such a short amount of time that they need to have a wide combination of nutrients to improve both the quantity and quality of their life. 

For example, puppies need a lot more “energy storage” macronutrients compared to an adult dog. In line with the nutritional requirements listed above, your puppy needs to ingest digestible carbohydrates. Many experts recommend 20% on a dry matter basis to maximize their health. 

How Does Caloric Density Impact My Puppy’s Health?

As a new puppy owner, you need to be careful to match the density of the puppy’s food to the energy level of the puppy. According to Purina Veterinary Communications Manager Laura Eirmann, DVM, DACVN, “If a puppy eats everything offered and then seems excessively hungry after or between meals, a diet with a lower energy density that has fewer kilocalories per cup may help with satiety since the puppy can be offered a large volume of the lower calorie food.” 

On the other hand, she notes that puppies that do not receive the proper level of nutrition, they may appear underweight or bloated immediately after eating. In these cases, the puppy may need a type of food that is more calorically dense “because a smaller volume can be fed to meet energy and nutrient needs.” Puppies need a complete and balanced diet which matches their size and energy level in order to thrive.

How Do I Choose the Right Food for My Puppy?

A puppy is a member of your family, and choosing the best food that you can afford is a wise idea. However, just like you read labels for your human family members to get them the ultimate in nutrition, it is important to understand exactly what is in the dog food. If you do not readily recognize the ingredients in the food, including the vet-recommended nutritional profile, find another diet. Additionally, veterinarians recommend that you find a food that has few calories per cup, ideally less than 350, unless your puppy is having over or under-nourishment issues, as highlighted by the quote from Dr. Eirmann above.

What Schedule Should I Get on to Feed My Puppy?

Helping your puppy get a good start as a healthy eater is paramount. Portion feeding allows you to feed your puppy measured amounts of food at regular intervals, usually 2-3 times a day, depending on their age and specific breed. 

Do everything you can to prevent obesity early on. Puppies that start out obese can end up with hypertension, osteoarthritis, lower immune function, and heart disease. 

How Do I Know if My Puppy Food Will Meet My Dog’s Needs?

Although there is definitely room for personal preference, both dry and canned dog food will offer your dog proper nutrition. Experts give a slight nod to dry food since many believe it helps dogs to keep teeth and gums healthy. The American Association of Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) often gives their seal approval to dog foods, so look for a sign that says the food “Meets the nutritional requirements of dogs established by the AAFCO.”

What About Treats?

Certainly for humans and canines alike, one of life’s simple pleasures is the enjoyment of treats. Webmd explains that experts advise not to allow treats to account for more than 10% of your dog’s daily calories. If dogs overeat, they can become overweight, and this can open them to a wide variety of problems down the road, including issues with joints, heart health, or even metabolic conditions like diabetes. 

Is Water Important for Pets?

All creatures need water to live, and puppies are no exception. Although they do get some of their daily intake of water from their food, they definitely need fresh clean water to be as healthy as possible. 

Water is extremely important for pets, and with all the running around your puppy is probably doing, you need to make sure it stays hydrated. Look for sunken eyes, lethargy, panting, fatigue, and dry nose or gums as signs of dehydration. If you see these signs, ensure that they get more water into their diet. 

Get Your Puppy the Right Nutrition and Play, Even When You’re Away!

Nutrition is extremely important to puppies, and if you want to set your dog up to a lifetime of success, then take care to give your dog a balanced diet. 

This is why, at Greenlin, any time you board your puppy with us we recommend you bring their own, familiar diet from home. We can accommodate their regular feeding schedule, and our staff are trained to look out for issues related to under or over-nutrition. In addition, puppies that attend our dog daycare can get the exercise they need for healthy muscle — and social! — development, priming them for a life full of wellness.

We at Greenlin Pet Resorts act as your partner in keeping your puppy happy and healthy throughout their lifetime. If you are interested in any of our puppy-focused services, including the option of puppy training that can be combined with boarding or daycare, then reach out to one of our six locations in the Harrisburg area today!