Puppy nutrition - 101 - Overview

Puppy Feeding/Nutrition, last updated 20th, Oct 2020, DogSpot

We love all things dog. In our endeavour to bring education to pet parents we collaborated with David Southey. David is an animal nutritionist. He started working in the pet industry in 1992. He was the chairman of the Additives Committee for the UK Pet Food Manufacturers Association. In conversation with Cherian MJ, award winning groomer and Cocker Spaniel breeder, they spoke about puppy nutrition and the best way to manage nutrition for puppies and things to keep in mind to raise a healthy puppy. 

All we need to know about puppy nutrition:

1. Why should you know how your puppy will look like when they turn into an adult? 

It is one of the most important aspects in looking after your puppy. You need to know how they should look when the turn into an adult. Research online to understand their growth cycle as it helps in assessing the size of your puppy. Puppies develop in different ways at various stages. It is always a good idea to weigh your puppy through their growth. Every breed is different in their respective growing stage.

2. Can you explain the development stages in a puppy?

Dogs develop only in the initial year of their life. They only spend about 5-10% of their life growing. Small breeds reach maturity in about six months whereas big and giants breeds tales about a year to reach maturity. The first 50% of their growth is the critical period. Their internal organs and tissues are developing. The brain, immune and digestive system develop at this stage. Therefore, the nutrition had to be right at this stage. If you make errors here, then it becomes difficult to catch up later when they reach their maturity.

The second phase is from 50-80%. This is when the puppy starts to put on weight. Their bones start strengthening, muscles get built. The nutrition has to be balanced so that they have sufficient protein to support the growth. The last stage is 80-100%. Final 20% of the growth is where the dog learns a lot. The brain is very active. It is exposed to an external environment.  The major part of a puppy's growth is done by the time he reaches this stage.

3. There is always a comparison between pet dogs and wild dogs. Is that fair?

Dogs have evolved a lot. Dogs have been around us for about twenty thousand years now. They can now utilise carbohydrates pretty well. So, I would say it’s flawed when you say pet dogs are like wild dogs.

4. What does Grain-Free food really mean? Does that really mean free of carbohydrates?

Grain-Free diets do contain carbohydrates, but they contain alternatives to typical grains like rice.

5. There are a lot of breed specific brands in the market. What is the difference between them?

Majority of dog breeds need the same amount of nutrition. They can cope up perfectly well on the same recipes. In case of puppies, you need to take care of nutrition and see when to feed what but on the whole, it is the same.

6. Do dogs need a variety of food?

Food is not entertainment for them. They do not find variety in their food stimulating. We have humanised them as pet parents. Food is just a function for the dog.

7. Does giving variety to your dog make it a fussy eater?

It potentially can. A dog’s digestive system is used to the same ingredients and nutrients. When we start to offer variety, it puts more stress on the dog’s digestive system. If you keep changing the diet, it can lead to the dog becoming a picky eater.

8. How should we feed our dogs?

Dogs should be very eager to eat when you provide the food. You do not need to make the food available all the time. Dogs are opportunistic feeders.

9. A lot of pet parents feed their puppy human baby food. What is your take on that?

You can cause a lot of problems when you feed human baby formula to a puppy. They are highly concentrated. The nutritional requirements of a puppy and human baby are completely different.

10. What are the optimal levels of nutrition?

All dogs require around 42 essential nutrients in their diet. Some of these, dogs can store in their body and might not need on daily basis. Optimal nutrition means providing these nutrients in right quantities. Optimal is always about balance. 

11. What is the Belly, Bowel and Bone formula?

These are the three key points when you look at the puppy’s development. Belly is the size of the dog. Feel your dog and not just look. Bowel is a great indication on how the puppy is doing. Bone structure is critical when it comes to assessing growth of your dog.

12. What is your take on adding supplements to the food during the puppy’s development stage?

If you are feeding a good quality and nutritionally complete food, you really don’t need to give supplements. Only give them if your dog is deficient in any nutrient and that too when the vet prescribes it.

13. Does the area or country of origin make any difference when it comes to different food for different breeds?

The country of origin doesn’t make any difference to their nutritional requirements. There may be certain environmental factors that may need a different kind of food. 80% of the breeds have the same nutritional requirements.

14. Kibbles contain a lot of preservatives and are not safe in the long run. What is your view on this?

Some pet foods do contain preservatives. Good quality brands might contain them in very low quantities or zero quantity. Check the pack to see what all goes in the food. All preservatives that are added should be safe for your dog.

15. A lot of pet dogs have East-West Pasterns. What causes these and what is the solution?

This is not a bone related issue but a joint related issue. The best treatment would be to strengthen the joints. Use things like glucosamine, Vitamin C and Vitamin D.

Adding calcium will not help in this case. There is no role for calcium here. It could be related to excessive exercise and the food and nutrition not matching with the weight of the dog. You can easily take care of this during the first 50% period of the puppy’s growth to avoid this situation later by giving the right nutrition.

16. These pasterns are common in long breeds. What should we do during the critical period -when they are puppies to avoid these?

The first 50% period of the growth is the critical period. For larger breeds it could be between five to six months. It is important to transition them to low concentrated diets that have slightly lower energy levels and protein levels so that the dog doesn’t put too much weight quickly and put pressure on their skeleton.

17. As a nutritionist, do you believe that dry dog food actually puts the “canines” to work?

If you feed a good quality dry pet food, it will keep your dog’s teeth clean. Dogs can pick up other stuff which can cause issues to the teeth.

18. Can you touch upon puppies born or bred with swimmer puppy syndrome and other issues that lead to impaired walking? Can excess amount of animal protein lead to this?

It is very unusual. There has to be a deficiency in the diet. The diet would be very imbalanced to cause these issues. If the lactating female is not on good nutrition, then it can lead to these. Normally puppies catch up if you give right amount of good quality food.

19. How often should the puppies be fed? Should we soak the kibble?

Soaking the kibble is a good idea when they are young so that they are introduced to the dry food. Soak it with warm food for about 10-15 minutes as it activities the aroma and entice them to eat the food. It is also a great way to make your puppy eat if he is off his food. Even for adult dogs, it a good idea to soak it in summers. It helps to stimulate the hunger.

In terms of how often they should be fed, it’s better to feed the puppies small meals frequently.

20. Can a lack of some vitamins and minerals cause behavioural issues in dogs?

A severe deficiency can lead to behavioural issues in dogs. Adding too much supplements can cause issues to the dog. So, don’t add supplements when you see a change in your dog’s behaviour.

21. What fruits and vegetables can we give to our puppies?

Peas and carrots can be used to as training aids, but I wouldn’t use this as major supplement in the diet. Most fresh fruits and vegetables are good for dogs. The things you should avoid are dried fruits; fruits from the onion family and chocolates can be toxic for dogs.

22. Can continuing with same food lead to allergies? Is it true?

There is no evidence behind this. It is not scientifically proven. Dogs can get sensitive towards some food but that is not the same as allergies. These are created due to some changes in environment.

23. Is it okay to give my dog yogurt in summer as he hardly eats?

If your puppy is not eating, anything you can do to stimulate your puppy to eat is a good thing. Anything you give over and above their food is diluting it to some extent and it’s not balanced. If they are not eating, you can add a small amount of yogurt. Once they start eating you can stop giving it to them.

24. Are boiled eggs and liver good for dogs? Do they increase the palatability of the food?

Eggs and Liver have the highest palatability. Adding a small amount doesn’t do any harm if it helps stimulate your puppy’s appetite. Don’t over-do it.

25. Feeding dog food regularly decreases the lifespan of the dog?

If you are feeding good quality dog food, you don’t have to worry.

26. How do I choose the right premium dog food as all of them seem to have the right nutrition?

The first indicator should be a meat product. It should be listed very high on it and good levels of vitamins and minerals. It is quite difficult to pick the right meal with the amount of variety that is available. You cannot make out from the packaging. Your dog will tell you the quality of the ingredients. The answer lies in the poop you see the next day.


DogSpot.in went live with David Southey. David is an animal nutritionist. He started working in the pet industry in 1992. He was the chairman of the Additives Committee for the UK Pet Food Manufacturers Association. He has been associated with Arden Grange since it’s inception. David has a consulting company - Southey Consultant Ltd which specialises in formulating and designing pet food for manufacturers and brands across the world.

In conversation with Cherian MJ, award winning groomer and Cocker Spaniel breeder, they spoke about nutritional requirements of a puppy. David touches upon topics which include how important it is to give the right nutrition at an early stage of a dog’s development, how to go about it, need of supplements, life cycle of a puppy and other factors which play a crucial role in the development of a growing puppy.

We hope we answered all your queries regarding puppy nutrition. In case you have any further questions about the topic, please feel free to leave it in the comments below. An expert will be happy to guide you! 

Transcribed by: Srishti Bhatia

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