Choosing the correct puppy food for your new family member can be overwhelming! There are so many diets available, how do you choose one that is nutritionally sound?
Puppies need to eat a diet that meets their specific needs until they are at least 12 months old. Large breed dogs need puppy diets until 15 months, while giant breeds until 18 months of age. This first 12-18 months is a critical period in your puppy’s life, so you’ll want to make sure you’re feeding the best possible diet.
Here is a list of considerations to help you make an informed choice:
- Does the manufacturer meet the World Small Animal Veterinary Association Guidelines on Selecting Pet Foods? These guidelines provide food for thought!
- Check that the food is nutritionally complete and balanced. This means it is designed to meet all the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) minimum levels for growing puppies. Many brands state that they meet AAFCO standards on their labelling.
- Has this puppy diet undergone feeding trials? Can you easily request the research information from the manufacturer?
- Is the diet made ‘for’ the company by a third party or ‘by’ the company?
- Has the diet been manufactured by an animal/veterinary nutritionist or is this a breeder/trainer formulated diet?
- Consider the size of your puppy. Puppies expected to grow to over 25 kilograms need to be fed a ‘large breed puppy’ diet. These foods are designed to have a lower calcium level and usually are lower in calories than typical puppy foods, so that we can avoid rapid growth. Rapid growth may stress developing bones and joints, which can contribute to ongoing joint problems.
- Do you want to feed dry food or tinned/wet food? Or a combination of both?
- What size is the kibble? Breeds such as brachycephalics (short nosed breeds) may find it easier to eat smaller sized kibble.
- Does you puppy have any medical issues? Puppies born with heart, kidney or liver problems may need a special therapeutic diet. Your veterinarian will be able to help you choose an appropriate diet.
Other points to remember:
- Often pet owners are keen to see a specific nutrient in a diet, such as protein. Puppy foods made by reputable manufacturers, based on strong nutritional expertise and excellent quality control, will have the right levels of nutrients for healthy puppies, so you don’t need to worry about identifying one specific nutrient for your pup.
- It is worth noting that desexing/neutering you puppy will reduce his or her caloric needs by about 30%. You will need to adjust your feeding quantities accordingly to avoid obesity.
- The costs of a diet and the nutritional value do not necessarily align! Don’t forget that marketing is a powerful tool.
- Until the specific cause of diet-associated dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) is fully understood, some owners may wish to avoid peas, lentils, chickpeas, potatoes, and sweet potatoes. These diets are often marketed as ‘grain free’.