Click here to learn more.
Vetstreet. All rights reserved.
Vetstreet does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. See Additional Information ›
I love watching puppies grow. You can see them change almost day to day as they increase in height and weight.
To fuel their development from the inside out — bones, muscles and coat — puppies need what I like to call the Goldilocks diet: a blend of protein, fat, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals that’s just right. If they don’t get enough of these nutrients, they can grow too slowly, but if they get too much, their rapid weight gain can cause them to develop bone and joint problems.
Eating an appropriate food helps puppies grow at a measured pace. They will still reach their genetically predetermined adult size, but they won’t run the risk of rapid growth spurts or obesity.
Different puppies have different nutritional needs, depending on their breed, age and size at maturity, not to mention their individual variations. Your veterinarian can help you decide which food will be best for your pup.
Take toy breeds, for instance. They have a higher metabolism than large-breed puppies, so they need a diet with a mix of protein and digestible carbohydrates that provides a steady flow of energy. They also need bite-size food that’s easy to eat. Tiny puppies such as Chihuahuas may need meals more often to prevent hypoglycemia (low blood sugar).
Not every small breed should eat the same way, though. Like large-breed dogs, Cavalier King Charles Spaniels and Pugs may develop hip dysplasia if they gain too much weight when they’re young. These dogs may do best if they are switched to a food formulated for adult dogs when they are 5 or 6 months old.
Puppies who will grow up to be big dogs have special issues. People often let them grow too quickly, thinking that bigger is better. Not so. My veterinary colleague Jerold Bell, who breeds Gordon Setters, says large-breed puppies need a slow, uniform growth rate so they don’t develop joint problems.
Look for a diet made for large-breed puppies. These foods are specially formulated to provide less energy and calcium while still containing all the necessary nutrients for growth. My friend and colleague Tony Buffington, a veterinary nutritionist and professor at The Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine, says another option is to simply feed slightly smaller amounts of regular puppy food.
Who doesn’t love to see a roly-poly puppy? They’re awfully cute, but it’s just not good for puppies to be chubby. Puppies who gain too much weight at an early age are more likely to be obese as adults. By keeping your puppy slim, you’re training his metabolism to help him maintain a healthy weight as an adult.
Use your eyes and hands to check your pup’s body condition. Viewed from above, he should have a pinup model figure with a nice waist separating the ribs and hips. Put your hands on him, thumbs along the spine and fingers splayed along the ribcage. You should be able to feel the spine and ribs beneath a light padding of muscle and fat. His thighs shouldn’t rub together, and he shouldn’t have a fat rear end or thick neck.
Like this article? Have a point of view to share? Let us know!
Take our breed quiz to find your next pet.
Get all the best pet news and information sent right to your inbox!
Thank you for subscribing!
Rescuers were searching for a man lost
in the woods when a dog appeared and
led them to the man's location.
We asked our Facebook fans to share
their best tips for first-time cat owners,
and here's how they responded.
Before the summer ends, we have ideas
for summer activities that'll get you and
your dog outside and having a ball.
Does your kitty ever take kibble away
from his dish and munch on it in another
spot? Here's what's going on.
We’re clearing up popular misconceptions
about health, anesthesia, vet checkups and
more when it comes to older…
A people-loving dog who hails from Italy,
the Bracco Italiano is usually happiest
when he's with his family or out…
Parasites are no fun for dogs. Learn how
to protect your canine from heartworms,
hookworms, whipworms and more.
Check out our collection of more than 250 videos about pet training, animal behavior, dog and cat breeds and more.
Wonder which dog or cat best fits your lifestyle? Our new tool will narrow down more than 300 breeds for you.
Visit HealthyPet magazine for interviews with pet-loving celebrities, health advice from our experts, training tips and…
If the video doesn't start playing momentarily,
please install the latest version of Flash.
Thank you for subscribing.