Feeding your puppy nutritious food is one of the most important things you can do to keep him healthy.
Most puppies begin weaning from their mother's milk and eating solid foods at about four weeks of age.
Your puppy needs several key nutrients for good health: proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals (especially calcium and phosphorus).
Sources of these key nutrients include meats and vegetables. This is why most dog foods have mixtures of meats and vegetable matter. (Dogs are true omnivores, which means they can digest and absorb nutrients from both meats and vegetables.)
Protein is absolutely essential; it gives your puppy strength and keeps muscles healthy.
Puppy foods usually have a mix of proteins from dairy/meat and vegetables/ grains. Meat proteins are the highest quality source for dogs. The following are commonly used protein sources in commercial puppy foods, listed in order of highest to lowest protein concentrations: chicken meal, lamb meal, fish meal, poultry by-product meal, meat and bone meal, corn gluten meal, rice gluten meal and dried egg product.
Fats are needed for energy and proper growth and development; they keep the skin and coat healthy and help digestion.
Fat sources in puppy foods can include animal fat such as pork, chicken or beef tallow. Vegetable oils such as soybean, corn or sunflower are also often included.
Fat makes food taste better but it can spoil easily, so the puppy food you choose should contain high-quality fat such as beef, chicken, flax and canola.
Carbohydrates are chemical compounds found in breads, cereals, grains, fruits and vegetables. They provide energy. In puppy foods, carbohydrates are usually provided through grains such as wheat, barley, rice and corn. Some studies have found that the ideal amount of carbohydrates in food should be about 20 per cent. If carbohydrate levels are too low, your puppy could get sick.
Calcium and phosphorus are minerals which promote the growth of bones and teeth. They are found in products such as bone meal and certain vegetables and legumes.
The calcium and phosphorus levels in puppy foods must be provided in the right combination. An imbalance of the minerals will cause bone or muscle problems. The ideal calcium level varies depending on the breed and size of the dog as an adult. Small breed dogs (less than 25 kg/50 lb) need less calcium than large breed dogs, in which higher calcium levels help prevent problems associated with rapid growth, such as bone deformities.
Fibre helps move waste products through the intestines, helps improve stool quality – and it helps your puppy feel full after meals, which can prevent overeating. Fibre sources found in some puppy foods include beet pulp, peanut hulls, wheat bran, soy mill run and cellulose.
Puppies need various nutrients in different amounts than adult and senior dogs. As your puppy becomes an adult and is spayed or neutered, his energy and mineral demands will decrease because he will be growing less.
Adult dog foods generally have fewer calories than puppy foods and different levels of minerals. Your veterinarian can tell you when to start feeding adult dog food. (When your dog grows into a senior dog, his nutritional needs will change again.)
Your veterinarian can help you choose a food that might be suitable for your puppy. If you look for foods on your own, try to find foods approved by CVMA (Canadian Veterinary Medical Association) Pet Food Certification Program to make sure they are nutritionally balanced.
There are standard levels of key nutrients that must be included in dog foods. These are usually listed as percentages on a chart.