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When you bring home a new puppy you become that puppy’s owner and caregiver – it is your responsibility to make sure that he stays safe and that all of his needs are met. One of the most important needs you must provide for you new puppy is a healthy diet. All dogs require a balanced diet in order to maintain their health and wellbeing, but the nutritional needs of a puppy are a little bit different than the needs of an adult dog. In this article you will learn the basics about the nutritional needs of puppies and receive tips for choosing a high-quality puppy food. You will also find a list of recommended brands of puppy food.
Nutritional Needs of Puppies
Even though they may look like it, puppies are not just miniature adult dogs – their needs are much different, especially when it comes to nutrition. Most puppies grow very quickly during their first few months of life so they need a high-calorie diet to fuel their growth and development. If your puppy doesn’t receive enough calories his growth may be stunted and he might not develop properly. This could set him up for a life full of health problems down the line. It is also important to note that puppies are especially sensitive to toxins and low-quality ingredients that might not bother your adult dog. For these reasons it is essential that you select a high-quality commercial food for your puppy.
The most important nutritional need to consider for puppies is, of course, calorie content. Calories are a unit of energy applied to food – the higher a product is in calories, the more energy it will provide for your puppy. You cannot simply pick the highest calorie food option for your puppy, however – you need to make sure that the calories (energy) come from high-quality ingredients and that they are balanced appropriately to meet your puppy’s nutritional needs. A top-quality puppy food might contain something around 450 calories per cup while an adult food made by the same manufacturer might have just 375 calories per cup. It may not seem like a big difference to you since you might consume as many as 2,000 calories (or more) yourself each day. For a dog, however, the total daily calorie consumption is much lower than for humans.
In addition to calorie content, you also need to think about how much protein, fat, and carbohydrate is in the food you choose for your puppy. Puppies require a higher protein content than adult dogs – it is about 22% versus 18%. For puppies, a fat content of around 8% is recommended while, for adult dogs, it is about 5%. In addition to needing more protein and fat, puppies also require more essential amino acids and higher quantities of certain vitamins and minerals than adult dogs. Puppies have a high risk for nutritional deficiencies so it is extremely important that your puppy’s diet provides these items. Unfortunately, the American Association of Feed Control Officials (AAFCO), an organization which monitors and regulates the production of animal feed, does not regulate nutrient content for pet foods. This means that it is up to you to evaluate various puppy foods before you make your decision.
Another important factor to consider when choosing a puppy food is the breed of your puppy. Small-breed puppies tend to reach their adult size more quickly than large-breed puppies because they do not have as far to go. Some large- and giant-breed puppies do not reach their full size until 18 to 24 months of age. This being the case, they may require a different diet than small-breed puppies. For large- and giant-breed puppies, abnormal growth and development can significantly increase the risk for hip dysplasia and other musculoskeletal conditions. Puppy foods formulated for large breeds should be a little lower in fat than traditional puppy foods – balanced calcium and phosphorus levels are also important for healthy development.
What Makes a Great Puppy Food?
Because a healthy diet is essential for optimal growth and development in puppies, you need to be very careful about choosing a high-quality puppy food. A high-quality puppy food will meet the following requirements:
- High in animal-based protein
- High in natural fats and oils
- Low in carbohydrate
- Made with a named animal source of meat
- Free from vegetable and animal by-products
- Free from artificial coloring, flavoring and preservatives
- Balanced in vitamins and minerals
- Not excessive in calcium (for large-breed puppies)
The quickest way to tell whether a commercial dog food is formulated to meet the nutritional needs of puppies is to check for the AAFCO statement of nutritional adequacy. AAFCO is responsible for setting forth a nutritional profile for dogs in various life stages and if a commercial dog food product meet those requirements, it will carry a statement of nutritional adequacy that reads something like:
“This product is formulated to meet the nutritional levels established by the AAFCO dog food nutrient profiles for growth.”
The word “growth” indicates that the formula is designed for puppies – the word “maintenance” is used for adult dog food formulas. In order to carry the AAFCO statement of nutritional adequacy, a puppy food must contain 10 essential amino acids, 12 minerals, and 11 vitamins. The amount of each of these nutrients is not regulated, but products that contain these 37 nutrients are more likely to provide for the nutritional needs of growing puppies than those that do not.
Top Recommended Brands
Now that you understand the basics about nutritional needs for puppies and have received tips for selecting a health puppy food you may be curious to see some examples of products that are good for puppies. Below you will find several recommendations for commercial dry dog food products that are specially designed for puppies:
Pinnacle Peak Protein Grain-Free Dry Food
This dry food formula is high in protein and low in carbohydrates to ensure that growing puppies and active adult dogs get the energy they need. This formula is made with chicken meal, chicken, potatoes, chicken fat, and tomato pomace as the top five ingredients. As you may already know, chicken meal is not a byproduct but a highly concentrated form of protein – it has been cooked down to a moisture level around 10% so it might contain up to 300% more protein than fresh chicken. The fact that both chicken meal and fresh chicken appear within the top five ingredients for this dog food speaks to the high protein content. Chicken fat is another beneficial ingredient in this formula because it provides your puppy with essential fatty acids as well as a concentrated source of energy. Other beneficial ingredients found in this formula include salmon oil, dried egg, chelated minerals, and dried fermentation products (probiotics). If you choose this food for your puppy, follow the feeding instructions and offer twice the amount recommended based your dog’s breed size and weight.
Nature’s Variety Instinct Ultimate Protein Duck Recipe
Nature’s Variety Instinct Ultimate Protein dry dog food comes in two flavors – chicken and duck. Both of these formulas offer high-quality protein in a diet that is formulated to mimic the ancestral diet of wild dogs. This formula is free from grains and it is designed to provide balanced nutrition for dogs of all life stages, including puppies. This Nature’s Variety Instinct Ultimate Protein dry dog food is made with duck, chicken, eggs, tapioca, and ground flaxseed as the top five ingredients. Having two high-quality sources of animal-based protein listed first is an excellent feature for this dry dog food – eggs are also an excellent source of protein for dogs. Tapioca is included as a gluten-free, grain-free source of carbohydrate and ground flaxseed provides omega-3 fatty acids as well as plant-based protein. Other beneficial ingredients include canola oil, freeze-dried turkey and duck, fresh vegetables, salmon oil, chelated minerals, and dried fermentation products.
Blue Buffalo Blue Wilderness Puppy
Blue Buffalo offers several dry dog foods (and canned foods) that are specially formulated to meet the nutritional needs of puppies – they even offer a formula for large-breed puppies. The Blue Wilderness Puppy Chicken Recipe is made with deboned chicken, chicken meal, and turkey meal to provide high levels of protein as well as sweet potatoes and peas for complex, digestible carbohydrates. This formula is specially designed to support a developing immune system as well as healthy growth and development for puppies. The Blue Buffalo Blue Wilderness Large Breed Puppy Chicken Recipe is also made with deboned chicken, chicken meal, and turkey meal as well as sweet potatoes and fresh fruits and veggies. This formula has lower levels of calcium, however, to prevent bone and joint problems in growing large-breed puppies.
The dog food formula you choose for your puppy is completely up to you but, if you want your puppy to remain healthy and to grow properly, it is essential that you choose a dog food that provides for his nutritional needs. After reading this article you should have a firm understanding of the nutritional needs for puppies, how to select a high-quality puppy food, and a few recommendations for high-quality puppy food formulas.