Whether you come across them through fostering or adopting, puppies are one of the most adorable four-legged baby animals you’ll ever encounter! There’s a lot you’ll need to learn so you can help them grow up to be physically, mentally, and emotionally healthy dogs. Nutrition is one of the key factors in their overall development, and in this article, we tackle:
- When is a dog considered a puppy?
- When can I feed food to a puppy?
- What human food can I feed my puppy?
- Other puppy feeding reminders
Before we dive into the topic, remember that this blog post is meant to assist puppy pawrents and foster carers with all the information they need to provide for their pups. It should not replace consultations with a veterinarian. To achieve optimal results, create a meal plan with your vet that will cater to all your young pooch’s needs.
When is a dog considered a puppy?
A dog is considered a puppy from the moment he is born until he is about six to 18 months old. Born deaf, blind, and unable to regulate his body temperature, he initially relies on his mother as well as his sense of touch and smell to experience the world. Gradually, he gets to see, hear, and bark—helping him socialise with his littermates and other people.
When can I feed food to a puppy?
The production of mother’s milk begins to decrease at four weeks. This is the perfect time for puppies to begin eating solid food, as some or most of his baby teeth have already come out. At this point, puppies won’t get all the calories they need from their mother’s milk, so it’s important for them to start eating specially formulated puppy food. The entire weaning process takes about two to four weeks, so a puppy should have fully transitioned to solid food by eight weeks old.
Start off by feeding him four times a day during the weaning stage, then slowly decrease the number to twice a day by the time he reaches one year old. Ask your veterinarian for puppy food brand recommendations and the right amount to give for each meal based on his breed/size, weight, and activities. Observe your puppy’s growth and eating habits, adjusting the frequency and amount of food when necessary. Two telltale signs that your puppy is digesting the food well are through formed brown feces and a thick and shiny coat.
What human food can I feed my puppy?
Give your growing pup “complete and balanced” meals that will supply all the nutrients his body requires. The easiest way to do so is by purchasing commercially made puppy food that meets the requirements established by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) or by the Pet Food Industry Association of Australia (PFIAA). The store-bought puppy food should contain the correct ratio of protein, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals.
Another option is to feed your pet homemade meals using puppy-friendly human food. The recipes should be approved by your veterinarian or carefully formulated with the help of a veterinary nutritionist. This may seem like a cost-effective option, but it’ll take commitment and effort to prepare these meals. You can use these ingredients from your kitchen:
- Protein: Try fish, turkey, lean beef, and chicken. Do not serve raw meat because your puppy’s immune system may not be able to fight off pathogens found in them. Make sure to remove all the cooked bones, which may splinter and injure your puppy’s internal organs.
- Carbohydrates: Go for pasta, ripe potatoes, and rice that have been cooked without any seasonings such as salt, herbs, and spices.
- Vegetables: Carrots, green beans, peas, broccoli, and asparagus can be fed to your puppy as long as they are prepared properly (don’t include sauces or dips!) and are soft enough for chewing. To help your puppy, you can also slice the vegetable into bite-sized pieces or blend it.
- Fat: A drop or two of vegetable oil will help meet your puppy’s fat requirement.
Always use fresh, all-natural ingredients. To make sure your pup isn’t allergic or intolerant to a certain ingredient, do a quick check by feeding him a small amount. Observe him for any changes in the next 24 hours. Vitamin or mineral supplements can be purchased from your veterinarian or other reputable sources. It is not recommended to mix in your own medicine.
As for treats given as snacks or rewards, make sure not to go over 5 to 10% of your puppy’s daily calories. Fruits such as apple, banana, cantaloupe, orange, and watermelon can be fed to young dogs as long as the seeds, core, and other hard layers are removed. Some fruits are sweeter than others, so it’s best to check how many pieces you can give per fruit type depending on your puppy’s size and weight.
TIP: Go through our “can dogs eat” for a list of human food your puppy can and cannot consume.
Other puppy feeding reminders
Do not interchange puppy food with adult dog food. Puppy food is packed with essential nutrients to match his rapid growth, which takes place within the first five months of his life. You can transition from a growth diet to a maintenance diet once your puppy has reached 90% of his expected adult weight. It takes about nine to 12 months for small breeds to finish growing, while larger breeds take about 12 to 18 months.
Be careful not to underfeed or overfeed your pet. Underfeeding will lead to malnourishment. On the other hand, overfeeding may lead to muscle and bone problems, especially those belonging to large and giant breeds. It is acceptable for a puppy to have baby fat for the first few weeks, but his ribs should be visible by the time he is eight to 10 weeks old.
Some puppies may be finicky eaters or may enjoy playing with their food, so you have to find ways to encourage them to eat it. To invite your puppy to try his new food, dip your finger into the food and hold out your finger for your pup to lick. You can also help him get used to eating dry kibble by adding warm water until it feels spongy and easy to munch on.
Learn more about caring for puppies by reading our list of first year firsts. You can also discover effective techniques in crate training or potty training your pup!
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