What and How to Feed My Puppy? Top 10 Tips From A Dog Nutritionist

The moment when we bring home our new puppy is a very special one.
We want everything to be perfect. For my last puppy I was obsessed with planning and prepared everything in advance: the bed and blanket, food bowls, toys, little collar and matching leash, and other cute essentials.
But what about food? That is a tough one. How do you know what food to choose? After all, choosing the best food for your puppy is one of the most important decisions you can make. If you fail and feed the wrong food, you can greatly increase your puppy’s risk of developing health conditions later on in life.
I asked Dasa Korze, a professional dog nutritionist with a degree in Canine Nutrition and founder of Feedko, to share her advice for how to find the best way to feed your puppy. Dasa has an immense international experience and is working closely with veterinary clinics, developing special diets for dogs with various health problems.  
Keep reading to discover her advice and learn more about best puppy food, including her advice on the best way to keep your puppy hydrated and overall healthy.
Should you feed your puppy with kibble or canned food? Is home-cooked diet really better? What about raw food? There're so many questions popping up, especially for first time dog parents.

What’s the best puppy food for dogs?

“All growing puppies need proper nutrition. In general the best nutritional factors for growing dogs include energy, protein, fat, fibers, calcium, phosphorus. 

“Important: You should not make any dietary change at all within the first few days after bringing the puppy in a new home! Be careful because leaving litter mates and mother is already very stressful for puppies and changing to a new diet at the same time can make it even worse.”

Puppy food: kibbles vs. homemade. Which one is better?

“No matter what type of food you choose, the most important thing is that your puppy food contains all the essential ingredients for growth and development. 

I highly recommend (if that’s possible in your life situation) balanced homemade food over commercial kibbles. This option requires more time for preparation and the recipe for your dog needs to be developed in collaboration with your vet or dog nutritionist. If you can afford to spend 10-20 minutes every couple of days to prepare homemade food for your puppy, it’s worth the investment in your pup’s health.

However, if you decide to feed commercial kibbles (or wet food), pay attention that the food you choose is marked as “complete” and not as “complementary” puppy food, meaning it contains all the necessary nutrients.

Even in this situation, try adding fresh cooked ingredients at least 2 or 3 times a week. You can enrich kibbles with fresh vegetables, cooked meat, eggs, teaspoon of fresh cooked rice, millet… Use your imagination but always double-check if the food is good for dogs before you add it to their diet.”

Do puppies need supplements, like vitamins?

“Growing dogs should not receive vitamin-mineral supplements when fed complete, balanced commercial foods, except adding probiotics, which I highly recommend for all stages of dogs life. 

Adding probiotics in your puppy meal will help strengthen their immune system, improve digestion and will have a beneficial influence on the health and well-being of your puppy in general. In the same way you can add herb supplements (parsley, oregano, algee,…) but make sure your vet agrees with it. 

Supplements for vitamins and minerals are mostly recommended to balance homemade puppy diet. Anyone preparing puppy food at home should consult with a qualified veterinarian or dog nutritionist which supplements to use. 

I really like high-quality supplements for homemade puppy diets such as V-Integra Cucciolo that was developed in collaboration with vets.”

VitaPaws Complete Multivitamins for Dogs | Sprinkle Capsules

How many times a day should puppies eat?

“Puppies should eat three to four meals per day until they are 4 – 6 months old. After 6 months, they should have a minimum of two meals per day (breakfast/lunch and dinner). Try to feed your dog at the same time every day. 

I do not recommend free-choice feeding for growing dogs because this type of feeding regimen makes it difficult to monitor and control weight gain and growth rate which has to be controlled.”

How much food should I feed my puppy?

After choosing the right food for your puppy, check the recommendation box at the back of the package. If you decide to cook food at home, your veterinarian or nutritionist will help you. 

Food intake depends on the size, breed, age of your dog and it has to be adjusted individually. 

To maintain the right body condition score it is really important to feed an adequate quantity of the food. As in people, also puppies can become overweight, and it is very difficult to return to normal weight and maintain it. Excessive food intake during growth may contribute to some disorders, especially in large- and giant-breed puppies.”

Find out your dog’s body condition score >> 

When to switch from puppy to adult dog food?

You should feed puppy food until your puppy achieves the adult body weight. That usually happens between 12 to 19 months, depending on breed and size. Small-breed dogs tend to mature physically much sooner than large-breed dogs.

Follow these guidelines to help you decide when to switch food:

Small-breed dogs (20 pounds or less when fully grown) are usually ready to transition to an adult formula when they are 9 to 12 months of age.

Medium-breed dogs (between 20 and 50 pounds when fully grown) normally mature at around 12 to 14 months of age.

Large-breed dogs (more than 50 pounds when fully grown) might not be ready to switch to an adult food until they are between 12 and 24 months old.”

How much water should a puppy drink?

Water is one of the most important components in puppy nutrition. The amount of water depends mostly on the type of the food.

When feeding wet or homemade food, your puppy will not drink a lot between the meals and that’s okay.

On the other hand, if you’re feeding your puppy with kibble, make sure the water is always available because kibbles can make dogs very thirsty. You can even add some fresh and warm water directly to the food.”

Portable dog water bottles have become massively popular. You can get yours at FLOUFFY.com

How do I know if my puppy is drinking too much or too little water?

You can check if your puppy is dehydrated very quickly!

a) Grab the scruff of your puppy’s back or neck and stretch it out fast. If the skin snaps back slowly, your dog could be dehydrated. 

b) Try to touch your dog’s gums. If they’re dry and sticky, make sure your puppy will drink more. 

If you see that your puppy does not drink enough, you can flavour the water with bone or chicken broth (without salt). When your puppy drinks, reward him or her.

Make sure the water bowl is always clean. You can check Amazon for a water fountain as well. 

Overhydration can be as dangerous as dehydration. If you suspect your dog drinks too much and too often, contact your veterinarian and make blood tests.”

HuffPost: Water Intoxination in Dogs by Dr. Karen Becker >>

What kind of treats are good for puppies?

You can choose between commercial treats and homemade treats. If you feed your puppy with commercial food, it’s a really nice opportunity to add some fresh ingredients as treats: cubes of apple, carrots, dry sweet potato, pieces of different meat, fish, cooked egg etc.

If you like baking, try making some homemade biscuits made of tuna, egg and oat flakes. 

The number of treats fed should be limited to no more than 10% of the total daily amount of food.

Be sure that treats you are buying are not too hard for puppy’s teeth. This way you can avoid damaging the teeth.”

Silicone Baking Mat for Healthy Puppy Treats

A super easy way to bake your own puppy treats at home! Simply combine peanut butter with an egg and oats (or whatever your dog likes), spread the dough over the mat and put it in the oven. 

What are the most common mistakes and how to avoid them?

One of the biggest mistakes is giving puppies too much food to eat. The consequences can be too fast growth velocity and obesity (more common for smaller breeds). 

We should also avoid heavy exercise, because that can lead to costco-articular pathology in large and giant breeds. Prevention in both bigger and smaller breeds is essential and should start at weaning. 

Do not give your puppy any sweets such as chocolate etc. Never feed onions, garlic, leek, avocado, grapes, raisins, coffee and tea, alcohol and macadamia nuts. These are some ingredients that are toxic to dogs!”

Being a puppy parent is a wonderful experience that comes with a lot of responsibilities.

Checklist for a healthy and well fed puppy: 

  • Make sure fresh and clean water is always available
  • Serve puppy food in a clean bowl or plate, preferably ceramic  
  • Food temperature has to be room temperature or slightly warm
  • Feed enough meals per day
  • Check that the poop is well formatted 
  • Introduce fresh food at least as a treat
  • Check you puppy’s body weight every week at the same time

And don’t forget: all this might sound like a lot of hassle but the amount of joy and happiness puppies bring into our lives makes it all totally worthy! 

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