Apart from being these adorable balls of fluff that everyone dotes on, puppies are quite amazing little things. How quickly they grow, develop and turn into this cheeky adolescent pushing his luck. A toy-small breed is fully matured at around 12 months with a large-giant breed being matured around 18-24 months, a human child takes many more years.
When all of this growth and development has occurred in such a short time, their body really has been working super hard. It stands to reason that it has totally different needs to a fully-matured dog. Let’s take a look at those needs and how specially formulated foods are able to meet them.
1. Protein Requirements for Puppies
Every cell in everybody is made up of protein. It is crucial to its function, repair and growth. In fact, the word comes from the Greek “proteos” which means primary or first place. Typically, a dog’s body will break down the same amount of protein that it uses to repair tissues.
However, there are times when it will break down more than it can create. Puppyhood is one of these times. During that period of rapid growth, the body is turning over huge amounts of protein, which means it needs to be replenished. For that reason, a puppy food needs to be high in protein. Like the definition suggests, protein should have first place on the ingredients list.
A puppy needs at least 12.5g of protein per kilogram of body weight. When a fully matured dog only needs 2.62g per kg of bodyweight, you can see how different the puppy’s needs are! A good quality puppy food should have a minimum of 22-30% guaranteed protein analysis, it should be from an animal source and listed as the first ingredient.
2. Fat Requirements for Puppies
Would you be surprised to learn that puppies also need fat? Fat is a vital source of energy and we know how much energy those pups burn though. Essential fatty acids (fat) have also been linked to improved brain function, basically, fat makes our pup more trainable!
A puppy’s diet should consist of at least 8% fat, so look for this guaranteed analysis on the label. This reduces to around 5% when they are fully matured. These are minimum requirements, so don’t avoid a food if it has higher analysis. The only time you should be concerned about higher content is if you have a large or giant breed.
Their rapid growth means they need a food with reduced calorie content and also reduced calcium content. Large breed foods should contain no more than 4.5 calcium content per 1000 calories. This ensures their skeleton develops sufficiently.
3. Different Nutritional Requirements for Dogs
When he’s fully matured, his body should be breaking down the same amount of protein that it is using, hence why the general requirements reduce. They will also reach a plateau of activity.
Use their lifestyle to guide you on the food that you choose to feed—if they are super active, they will benefit from a high protein, high fat diet with cooked carbohydrates. Carbohydrates provide a practical source of energy for those busy dogs. Active dogs will use more food than sedentary dogs and those in extreme temperatures will also use more to keep warm!
Not surprisingly, as he reaches his senior years his nutritional requirements will alter again.
Older dogs require even more protein to avoid unwanted muscle loss. They also need a lower caloric content as they are often less active which can lead to weight gain.
Senior foods will often have added supplements to support joint and cognitive health.
As you can see, a dog’s nutritional needs change significantly throughout his life course.
A good quality dog food will have varying content to meet the needs of the life stage it is intended for. If you are concerned about what you are feeding your pooch at any of his life stage, speak with your veterinarian or a qualified dietician.
John Woods is a member of the Association of Professional Dog Trainers. He is a dog-parent to his two rescue dogs, Jeff and James. When he’s not looking after his dogs, or training clients’ dogs, he is an editor for a pet magazine