5 Tips on Puppy Nutrition

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German Shepherd puppy chews on a rawhide.

By Dr. Eva Evans, a veterinarian and writer for Pets Best, a pet health insurance agency for dogs and cats. 

Getting a new puppy is a fun, exciting, and at times an overwhelming experience. Puppies require lots of attention, play time, training, health care and proper nutrition. Follow these five steps to ensure that your new puppy stays on track for the best nutrition.

  1. Feed the Right Food – Puppies should eat a commercially prepared puppy food, not an adult dog food. They are growing and their bodies need a different combination of protein, fat and carbohydrates. It is important to feed your puppy only puppy food to keep him healthy. If you have a small breed puppy, be sure to buy small breed puppy food which is easier for little mouths to chew. If you have a large or giant breed puppy such as a Great Dane or Mastiff, be sure to buy large or giant breed puppy food. These breeds require a different amount of calcium and phosphorous for bone growth than smaller dogs, so it is important to feed the right type of puppy food. If you are unsure which type of puppy food you should be feeding, consult your veterinarian.


  1. Dental Chews – Puppies love to chew! As dogs age, they get plaque and tartar build up on their teeth. Dental chews can help reduce tooth decay between dental cleanings. If you plan to start giving your puppy dental health chews, make sure the product is certified by the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC). Look for the VOHC Seal of Approval when buying dental chews. Also, be sure to follow the product instructions and do not over feed these chews.
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  1. Avoid People Food and Cat Food – Although it may be tempting to treat your new puppy to part of your dinner, it is best to avoid feeding any people food. Puppies have do not have fully developed immune systems, so they are very sensitive to a change in diet. They can easily develop diarrhea and vomiting from dairy, meats and sweets. Puppies also need to stay away from cat food. Cat food is very high in fat and protein. Not only can it give puppies an upset stomach, but it can also harm their bone growth.


  1. Avoid Raw Diets – Raw diets have come into fashion in the last few years. The idea comes from the “wild” in which dogs (and people!) ate freshly killed, uncooked meat. The problem with this theory is that the raw food diets are not from freshly killed meat. They are prepared from store bought meat that has been sitting in plastic packaging for days to weeks. Unfortunately, many of these diets are not properly formulated with the appropriate proportions of fat, protein, calcium, phosphorous, vitamins and minerals. Additionally, raw food diets often carry Salmonella and E. coli bacteria which can cause very bad diarrhea and food poisoning in puppies. Additionally, if you are preparing or serving a raw diet in your house, these same bad bacteria are very likely to make you and your family sick as well. You wouldn’t eat raw meat, and your puppy shouldn’t either.


  1. Choose the Right Treats – If you plan to feed your new puppy treats, be sure to choose healthy options. Avoid store-bought treats such a jerky and dog biscuits as these are very high in sodium and fat. The best treats for puppies are fresh fruits and vegetables such as apple slices, carrots, green beans and bananas. Avoid grapes though, since they are toxic to dogs! You can also feed puppy kibble as a treat. It may be the same food that your puppy eats every day, but they still love getting a snack!
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