Feeding your puppy
It is very difficult to choose the right diet for your puppy or dog when there is such a huge variety of foods on the market. You have to remember that the needs of your dog will change throughout its life and different species and breeds may require different diets.
On collecting your new puppy, you will usually be informed of the diet the animal has received. Sometimes these diets can be very strange concoctions and not at all balanced in minerals and vitamins. The best option is to use a puppy food that has been properly formulated and has a feeding guide to enable you to supply the correct amount of calories.
Puppies grow and develop fast in a short space of time, so it is important that they are fed a diet that is correctly formulated for their needs. Manufactured puppy foods are formulated to provide nutrition without the bulk. Puppy formulas have good levels of high quality protein to support healthy tissue and organ development, higher levels of essential minerals such as calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, zinc and iron, as well as vitamin D to help build strong bones and teeth.
You should feed your puppy small amounts to begin with as puppies have small stomachs but large appetites. Up to four months of age a puppy should be fed four meals a day, reducing to three meals a day until six months of age and thereafter two meals a day can be fed. Overfeeding you puppy will cause digestive upset and could lead to painful bone problems in the future – plus, overweight puppies turn into overweight dogs.
It is important not to feed your puppy immediately before or after exercise. Resting after feeding and also soaking dried food before feeding, helps to prevent the risk of swelling or twisting of the stomach. Puppies are also best fed in a quiet place away from interruptions. As puppies grow bigger their appetites increase. After six months the rate of growth will slow and food intake needs to be reduced.
Feeding your adult dog
Once your dog reaches maturity (from nine months in small dogs but 12-18 months in larger breed dogs) you need to settle into a regular feeding routine and change to a maintenance diet. Any diet change should be done gradually over one week to avoid stomach upsets.
Your dog’s diet needs to contain the correct balance of nutrients and any good quality manufactured complete food will provide your dog with all the basic nutrients. Canned or dried or a mixture of the two may be fed. There is also a wide range of commercial diets available to match the needs of specific breeds of dogs.
Food should be fed at room temperature and do not feed your dog immediately before or after exercise.
Feeding your senior dog
Senior diets can be introduced from five years of age in larger breed dogs and seven years in smaller breed dogs. Senior dogs are less active and have a slower metabolism so fewer calories and fat are required.
Specially formulated senior dog food is available and it is advisable to move older dogs onto this food. Manufactured senior dog foods are carefully formulated to reflect the changes that occur as a dog gets older.
The frequency of meals for the older dog can still be one to two meals daily but sometimes they may prefer smaller portions more frequently. It is important not to over feed older dogs as they may put on weight which will lead to increased stress on their joints and worsen any existing arthritis.