Nowadays we are all convinced of the truth of the slogan, "One day, our food will be our best medicine."
To have a good and handsome dog later on, correct food needs providing from the earliest age. Canine nutritional science has made strides - puppies´ nutritional requirements are known precisely, so that industrial manufacturers can now supply perfectly balanced foodstuffs.
A puppy´s nutritional requirements vary with its size. Thus, puppies can be seen to put on weight very quickly at first. This then slows down, at between 4 and 6 months (4 months for small dogs and 6 months for large ones).
As in everything else, excess and deficiency are both harmful. A puppy which is too fat is liable to be obese later on. Being overweight moreover predisposes to bone and joint disorders in large-framed animals. Hence the importance of weighing your puppy regularly, to check that growth is proceeding smoothly.
Industrial or home-made food?
Dog-owners believe they are doing the right thing by feeding their dog with the leftovers of the table, whereas dogs´ nutritional requirements have got nothing to do humans´. All the same, it is true that we have the choice between two ways of feeding our dogs: home-made or industrial food.
Industrial - tins or dog-biscuits?
Dogfood manufacturers provide puppies with product-ranges adapted to size. These are perfectly balanced, which means that no extras are needed. The choice then is between dry rations (biscuits) and wet (tins). The former is often more practical and cheaper. You must make sure that the puppy always has fresh water at its disposal.
The choice of industrial food is based on an idea of quality: Vets supply "premium" and "superpremium" food. These high quality products may sometimes be a bit more expensive than down-market ranges, but the repercussions in terms of your dog´s health and its fur´s beauty are striking. The price difference mainly comes from the quality of the raw materials used, notably as regards proteins. Moreover, these products are very appetising, so that your puppy will be eager to eat.
Finally, certain owners wonder whether they should vary their animal´s food. The answer is no. Dogs do not need variety and may quite happily consume one type of food all life long. Not only that, but sudden changes in diet can cause digestive complications.
The amount of food to be given is shown on the packaging. However, you should check your puppy´s weight regularly and adjust the amount of food in line with its ideal weight.
Your Vet is also a nutritionist, and can help you find the ideal food for your puppy.
There are those who remain unconvinced of the advantages of shop food. You can make your animal´s meals yourself. There are several types of rations which must absolutely be topped up in calcium and phosphorus (seek advice from your Vet).
Here is a possible menu (for 1kg of rations):
- red meat: 450 g
- cooked and drained rice: 400 g
- cooked and drained veg (carrots, french beans): 85 g
- salad oil (soy, rape or sunflower): 35 g
- extra minerals and vitamins: 30 g
For an adult dog, one meal a day is enough. For puppies, 4 meals a day are generally advised at first, the frequency to be gradually reduced.
More or less, clean water should be constantly available. Water requirements vary greatly with food, weight and climate (e.g., a 25kg 6 month-old pup, eating 500 grams of dog-biscuits per day, needs 2 litres of water). The requirements will obviously be lower for a puppy feeding on tinned or household food.
Beware of treats!
Ideally, your puppy should only ever get meals. But it sometimes is hard not to go soft! Then, at least, no sweets: shop treats are better adapted to a puppy´s nutritional requirements. Also, your puppy should not be allowed to "beg" at the table - not only for nutritional but also behavioural reasons: sharing a meal is a sign of dominance in a dog pack. Dogs should eat after their masters and never get food during meals.