Nutrition and Puppy development

Posted on April 8, 2016

It is probably not surprising that not all puppies develop at the same rate. For example, a Great Dane will take over 12 months to reach full maturity whereas for a terrier it is closer to 6. However, what is true for all breeds is that during the first 2 or 3 months of life nutrition plays a crucial role in determining the health and wellbeing of the dog in later life. During these initial months millions of nerve pathways are being formed and extended, whilst bones and muscles grow and strengthen at rapid rates. All of these processes require carefully balanced levels of amino acids, fatty acids and, vitamins and minerals to function fully and properly, and any dietary deficiencies at this stage can be disastrous.It is therefore essential to choose a puppy food carefully, and select one which contains digestible proteins, such as fish, and a good range of fatty acids, such as EPA and DHA omega-3 oils.


The Difference Between Puppy Food And Adult Food is that puppy food provides higher protein and fat, as well as more calories and different requirements for vitamins and minerals particularly calcium and phosphorous. Puppy foods also tend to have smaller kibble size.

Look for high quality protein: Good, balanced proteins will rapidly be digested and broken down by the puppy into amino acid building blocks, which are then transported around the body to target areas. Around the skeleton they create muscle tissues, in the blood and liver they make up vital enzymes, and in the brain they ensure that the healthy development of hormones and senses, such as sight and hearing.

Omega 3 is important: The brain is around 60% fat and 30% DHA Omega 3 fats and the retina is 50% DHA Omega 3. A good source of Omega 3 is always important but never more so than during the critical growth stages.Omega-3 fats are involved in nerve formation and skin integrity. The “sleeves” through which nerve fibres run require fatty acids for their development and so a deficiency of these substances can cause neural defects, such as impaired vision, mental alertness, and movement.

The skin is rapidly growing and thickening during this time and fatty acids are essential to keep the skin smooth and supple as it expands. Omega-3 oils are also important for reducing inflammation during this time, when new external influences, such as meeting new dogs and bacterial challenges, can elicit negative responses by the puppies body.

Use treats wisely: It is also a time when behaviour training can begin, as the puppy learns new ways to socialise. Treats can play an important part in this process but it is essential to choose healthy options that do not disrupt the balance of nutrients in the main diet. Small pieces of dried fish are ideal as they are very palatable, contain omega-3 oils, and are relatively low in calories (which means that the quantity of complete food need not be reduced).

Calcium and Phosphorous: As the puppy moves into the second period of its development the bones begin to extend and thicken, and it is essential during this period that the balance of minerals in the diet is controlled. For example, a large breed such as a Labrador will require as much as a teaspoon full of calcium and phosphorus each day to keep pace with bone growth. However, these minerals must be provide in a form that the puppy can easily digest and assimilate, and there is no better source of this than bone. Ground bone meal included in many dry, complete foods is ideal for this.


Initially, feed four meals a day; at about 12 weeks reduced to three a day; at six months move to two meals a day, which can continue for the rest of their life.

Take away any food not eaten after 15 minutes

If your puppy regularly leaves some of their food you may be putting out too much – the feeding guidelines on packs are only guidelines and the needs vary from puppy to puppy

If your puppy doesn’t have an appetite and doesn’t eat a meal – don’t worry – as long as they are showing normal energy levels and don’t miss more than 1 or 2 meals.

Don’t try to remove a bowl of food whist they are eating – it may cause anxiety and cause them to become defensive of their food – think how cross you would get if someone kept snatching away  your plate mid meal.

If your puppy won’t eat don’t be tempted to feed them table scraps – these are not nutritionally balanced and if they know that they can blackmail you into feeding delicious table scraps then they will never learn to eat their own food. 

Meals should be given at the same time every day,

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