Got the puppy? Check. Found a vet? Check. Now you just need to figure out what to feed them! One of the most common questions we come across with young pups is whether it’s okay to give them adult dog food, or if their nutritional needs are different. So we spoke with Richard Patton, a New Mexico-based animal nutrition consultant, who helped clarify what’s best to put in your puppy’s bowl.
Do puppies and adult dogs have different nutritional needs?
It’s less about the content of the food, and more about the amount. Puppies will need more protein, fat and micronutrients than adult dogs, Patton says, because they need to gain weight. But that can be accomplished by increasing the volume of the food. Most puppies need twice as many calories per pound of body weight as an adult dog, Patton explains.
How do you determine how much food your puppy needs?
According to the National Research Council of the National Academies, at least 28 percent of your puppy's food should be protein, while at least 18 percent of an adult dog’s food should be protein. Another way to look at it: a 10-pound puppy who is estimated to grow to about 33 pounds needs about 990 calories daily. About 53 grams should be protein, and there should be 21 grams of fat, according to the council.
How can you tell if your puppy is getting enough food?
Puppies eat about as often as humans do: three to four times a day. “What I would recommend for people raising puppies is to have fresh food out for them all the time,” Patton says. “If they’re too butterball, then you can start to limit what you put out.” Not sure whether your pup is gaining too much or too little? Here’s a simple guide: If your dog is underweight, you’ll be able to see his ribs. If he’s at an ideal weight, you’ll be able to feel his ribs, and if he’s overweight, you won’t be able to feel them.
Are there some ingredients that are better than others for puppies?
Animal proteins are better than plants for puppies, Patton says. But within meats, there isn’t much difference: fish, lamb, chicken and beef will all nourish them. To meet the rest of your puppy’s nutritional needs, you’d need to add fat (fish oil is a healthy one), nutritious carbs to give them energy and dietary fiber (oats, barley and rice), along with vitamins (A, D, E and K, specifically) plus minerals including potassium, phosphorus and calcium. All can be found in a high-quality dog food. Bonus: find one you like, and you won’t have to switch companies when your pup gets older.