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Feeding Puppies FAQs


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How long should I feed puppy food before switching to adult food?
Puppies need higher levels of nutrients that are not available in regular dog food. Because of their special nutritional needs, your puppy should only receive puppy food for the first year (up to 18 months in giant breeds). Most dog food manufacturers offer a special formula for puppies that is higher in protein (28%-30%), and enriched with the fat soluble and water soluble vitamins, minerals, fats, and other essentials your growing puppy needs.
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What types of food should I feed my puppy?
We at Drs. Foster & Smith recommend feeding your puppy dry foods. In addition to generally being better for your puppy (and satisfying their need to chew), dry foods are typically economical, easy to use, only 9-11% water, and are made of quality ingredients. We do not recommend feeding your puppy expensive, high-calorie, high-water-content canned food or semi-moist foods. Further, dogs who grow up eating dry foods typically have fewer intestinal upsets, (diarrhea or constipation), fewer problems with unwanted weight gain, and better overall dental health.
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Do I need to feed my large-breed puppy a special food?
While lower levels of fat, protein, and calcium for large-breed puppies may be good in theory, newer foods, in practice, may not make a significant difference in the incidence of bone growth problems. Premium large-breed puppy foods appear to be of good quality and should do a great job of providing the needed nutrition. However, many owners of large-breed puppies often feed a more affordable general-purpose puppy food. If cost is not a consideration, then premium large breed formulas are a good choice. If cost is an issue (and you do your homework), you can typically find a good quality general-purpose puppy food that will provide adequate nutrition for less money. If you feed a premium puppy food, be sure it is specifically formulated for large-breed puppies.
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When should I feed my puppy?
Your puppy's feeding schedule will be somewhat dictated by your own schedule. Do not leave food out for the puppy so he can eat it whenever he wants. You must be there for feedings because you can then put the puppy and his entire body (including his need to eliminate) on a set schedule. This is best accomplished by feeding the pup at specific times on a specific schedule. In general, puppies under six months of age should be fed three times daily; between six and twelve months old, two times daily; and once or twice per day after twelve months of age.

Also, make it a habit to give your puppy 60-90 minutes of quiet time after his meal. This will help to avoid stomach upsets. Be sure to take him to his housetraining area, though.
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How much food should I feed my puppy?
The amount of food given for each meal should never be dictated by what is on the back of the dog food bag. A good starting point is to give your puppy an ample amount of food, then remove any uneaten food after 10 to 15 minutes. Adjust the amount of food according to your puppy's condition, activity level, and environmental temperature (puppies need a lot of energy to stay warm when it is cold). Your veterinarian can assess your puppy's weight during routine puppy exams, and help you adjust the quantity you feed. As always, be sure to have plenty of water available with or immediately following the meal.
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Is my puppy eating enough?
One of the biggest concerns veterinarians hear from dog owners - especially those with animals less than 18 months of age - is that their puppy never seems to eat enough. Many owners feel their puppy is not putting on enough weight or growing fast enough. They are therefore tempted to somehow encourage their puppy to eat more. Resist this urge! Growth rates and appetites of young animals on a good-quality food are primarily dictated by their genetics. Do not try to make your puppy grow faster than he should or into something he is not. Artificially accelerated growth leads to bone and joint disorders.
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Should I feed my puppy extra calcium?
Feeding high-calcium diets with excess calcium is often blamed for contributing to bone problems in young, rapidly growing dogs. There does appear to be a link between the incidence of hypertrophic osteodystrophy (HOD), osteochondritis dessicans (OCD), and hip dysplasia, and the overfeeding of calcium. In recent studies, researchers fed dogs calcium at a much higher-than-recommended amount, and compared the incidence of disease in dogs that were fed normal or less-than-normal calcium levels. As would be expected, the animals that were overfed calcium showed increased incidence of skeletal problems including hip dysplasia.
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What about puppy treats?
Treats should never account for more than 10% of your puppy's caloric intake (which is not much in Toy breeds). Your puppy's food is his sole source for the nutrition he needs, so be careful not "fill up" your puppy on treats before meal time.

Liver products are great treats because they provide nutrients your puppy is unlikely to obtain from any other food source.

Hard chew treats keep your puppy entertained through constant chewing and improve dental health by exercising the gums and scraping the teeth.

Treats can be used during training to reward good behavior, but be careful not to overdo it.
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