Since they’re just little dogs, puppies probably just need less food than most adult dogs, right? Wrong.
Puppies need twice the energy intake of adult dogs and, depending on the breed, 25 to 30 percent of their diet should be protein. During the first few weeks of their life, puppies get all their nourishment from the mother.
Generally, around the age of three or four weeks, they should be introduced to small amounts of meat, vegetables or puppy food. At first, they may play in it but will learn soon enough what to do with it. By the time they’re weaned (about seven to eight weeks), they should be able to get complete nutrition from natural foods and dog food.
Puppies of small breeds (under 20 pounds as an adult) will reach full maturity by nine to 12 months, while large breeds (over 50 pounds) may not reach full maturity until the age of two. Unless you have other pets, your small-breed puppy is generally best fed with the free-feeding method. Most of them will develop good eating habits with food available to them at all times. If you are feeding your dog natural foods, or cooking for your pup, prepare lots of foods and offer frequent snacks.
Larger breed puppies should be fed with the portion control method. Some of the larger breeds are prone to bone growth problems and if they are overfed, excess protein and calcium can put them at higher risk for hypertrophic osteodystrophy (HOD), osteochondritis dissecans (OCD), and hip dysplasia.
Because they share similar symptoms, these diseases are sometimes confused with calcium deficiency, but adding calcium to the diet can actually worsen the disease or cause permanent damage.
For optimal skeletal development, large-breed puppies should be fed a portion-controlled diet specifically formulated for large breeds. We also recommend finding a dog nutritionist in your area and consulting with them. One of our favorite dog nutritionists is Rodney Habib with Planet Paws. He’s an endless source of amazing dog nutritional information.