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Feeding Your Puppy

Puppies are generally fully weaned by the time they are eight weeks old. To avoid upset stomachs when you bring your puppy home, be sure to ask the breeder what the puppy has been eating. Any changes made from that diet should be made very gradually. Whether you choose to feed a good commercial diet or prefer to make your own, extra dog vitamins or supplements should only be given under the direct supervision of your veterinarian.

A puppy's energy and nutrient requirements is two to four times that of an adult of the same until it reaches 50% of its adult body weight (usually 3-5 months of age). It then decreases to one and a half times that of an adult dog until the puppy reaches 80% of normal adult weight.

Free feeding, or dog food available at all times, is not recommended for dogs of any age. There are several reasons for this. Feeding puppies and dogs at intervals allows the gastric juices to rest and makes your puppy eager and ready for the next feeding. Toy dog breeds frequently have a tendency to obesity as adults, and free feeding may encourage them to eat more than necessary.

Too much energy-rich foods and nutrients fed to large and giant dog breeds, or to dogs with a tendency toward skeletal problems such as hip dysplasia, can actually aggravate or accelerate these conditions or even stunt growth. Limiting feeding will slow their growth to a moderate, steady pace, helping these puppies accommodate normal bone and cartilage development.

In addition to controlling the quantity these large dogs eat, it is necessary to limit certain nutrients, in particular protein, because of the concentrated growth-energy it provides, and calcium. In fact, after 12-14 weeks of age, many breeders and veterinarians suggest that these dogs should not be fed puppy "growth formulas" but rather a premium quality dog food labeled " for all stages of life.

It is essential that puppies (and adult dogs, for optimum health!) be fed premium quality dog food that contain high quality, highly digestible protein (but not more than 25%) and very little indigestible filler. Puppies, especially small breeds, have small stomach capacities. If they eat poor quality dog food, they are not able to obtain the nutrients they need from the quantity they are able to consume. As a result, they can suffer from low blood sugar, a potentially serious condition.

Furthermore, poor quality commercial foods may substitute high levels of inexpensive bone meal protein for more expensive meat protein. Adding large quantities of bone meal raises the levels of calcium in these foods. As stated above, it is dangerous for large breed puppies to consume excessive calcium.

A puppy younger than 12-weeks-old needs to be fed four times a day. After 12 weeks of age and until six months, small breed puppies should be fed three times a day, and large breed puppies should be fed twice daily. Allow your puppy to eat five to 10 minutes and then withdraw the food. If you have more than one puppy or dog, always feed each separately so the dominant puppy or dog won't get all the food. Make sure his food is fresh and his dog bowl is washed with soap and hot water before each meal. Make sure fresh water is always available. Never play hard with a puppy just before or after eating. Besides being common sense for good digestion, rough play or exercise close to mealtime can cause a life-threatening condition called bloat in some deep-chested dog breeds.

If your puppy is one of the larger breeds, it is important to put his dish at a height just under his chin to avoid undue strain and stress on growing joints. Adjustable feeders allow you to raise the dish as he grows.

When puppies are teething, they may go "off" their food slightly because of the discomfort. Watch your puppy carefully and never let a puppy go for more than 24 hours without eating, especially if there are other symptoms present, such as vomiting or diarrhea.



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