We are seeing some lovely, brand-new puppies in at our clinics just now. Two important advisory points that come up regularly in our regular first Puppy checks-ups are advice on diet and dental care.
A correct balanced diet is one of the most important factors in the healthy development of puppies. It can be so difficult to choose the right diet for your puppy when there is such a huge variety of pet foods available.
Puppy food is designed specifically for the nutritional needs of still growing dogs, with twice the daily nutritional requirements than that of an adult dog food. A well-researched, good commercial dry puppy food, appropriate for the age and size of your puppy, and described as a ‘complete’ diet, will be nutritionally balanced, with all the essential important nutrients that your puppy will need and will not need to be mixed with anything else. It is also good for keeping their young teeth clean.
Puppies grow and develop in a remarkably short space of time, so it is particularly important that they are fed a diet that is correctly formulated and balanced for their nutritional needs during this rapid growth phase. Puppy diets should have adequate levels of high-quality protein to support healthy tissue and organ development, and the appropriate levels of vitamins, Omega fatty acids, and minerals to develop a good immune system, healthy bones, teeth, skin and coat, and calories for energy and to support adequate growth.
Before you collect your puppy from a breeder, ask them what brand and type of food your puppy has been weaned onto. A reputable breeder should provide you with a few days’ supply of this food to take home. Sometimes though, these diets may not be nutritionally balanced for a growing pup. The best option is to use an advised complete puppy food that has a clear feeding guide, to enable you to supply the correct amounts of nutrients and calories as your puppy grows. If you do decide to change your puppy to a different advised brand of food, you will need to do this gradually over a week to 10-day period, to avoid causing any upset stomachs.
The amount of food that your puppy requires will depend on their age, size, and breed, and on their individual nutritional needs. A good diet usually indicates the recommended amounts of food for growth and development. Large and higher energy dog breeds will need more calories than the smaller breeds. Feed your puppy four meals a day up until the age of 4 months, and then reduce their feed to three meals a day until they are 6 months old. They can then move to two meals a day from there.
Dogs are considered “puppies” until they reach their expected adult size for type and breed. Ideally, a puppy should be fed on a puppy food until he reaches 80% of his expected adult size. So, the large or giant breeds may require a “puppy” diet for longer than one year.
Do be careful with amounts fed and measure their food out carefully using an accurate Digital Kitchen scale. Overfeeding your puppy can cause digestive upsets and could also lead to painful bone problems. Also, overweight puppies often become overweight dogs. Pet obesity is a huge problem in the UK, 56 per cent of U.K. dogs are overweight or obese. Overweight puppies will develop health problems as they mature. Controlling your pup’s food intake is the best way to prevent them getting fat. If you are concerned about whether you are feeding your puppy enough, or too much food, weigh your puppy each week, and check on an appropriate, advised feeding guide with your Vet practice.
On Dental care: To get into a routine of doing to keep your pet’s mouth clean and healthy, it is recommended to get your puppy used to regular toothbrushing at this young age. It is also a good time to start this training to get your pup used to being handled and examined in the mouth area.
Stay calm while handling your puppy and gently get them used to you touching and handling their mouth, lips, and teeth first, then you introduce the toothbrush. Use lots of praise and treats, to connect handling of the mouth and teeth brushing to something positive.
A puppy’s first set of “baby” deciduous teeth have developed by the time they turn 2-3 weeks old. They have their full set of first deciduous teeth by the time they turn 2 months of age. These deciduous teeth are then replaced by their permanent teeth, by the time they turn 6 months old, puppies usually have a complete set of 42 permanent teeth.
As all these essential permanent teeth erupt your puppy will naturally want to chew! For a safe chewing action, provide safe Puppy Dental Chews with natural ingredients, avoiding high salt and highly flavoured chews with excess colours and preservatives, as these are often ingested. Also, avoid chews that are too hard, and look for chews that are designed for puppies, that have some safe pliability, but also provide some natural chewing action. So, do look for dental chews that are not too soft, as these will undoubtedly be eaten in seconds, and not too hard, as these may crack and fracture their precious young teeth. Bones, Hooves, Antlers, and hard Nylon chews are too hard for their teeth and can crack them. Also, be aware that Tennis balls carried for lengthy periods of time can eventually cause some “attrition” and gradual wearing of the surface tooth enamel. So, discourage the constant carrying of tennis balls, and provide a variety of other forms of safe play toys and chews for them to carry around and to chew on.
For good professional advice on your puppies’ diet, and on puppy dental care, do contact your Veterinary Practice.