Written by Dr. Lindsay Butzer, DVM
Puppies are adorable, of course, but they require more than our adoration. The tender, loving care we give them must include a nutrient-filled diet to help them grow up happy and healthy. Like a human baby’s digestive tract, a puppy’s digestive tract is not fully mature at birth; until your puppy is about four months old, it will need to consume a diet that not only contains sufficient and specific nutrients, but one that can be easily absorbed as well. That’s why a puppy-specific dog food or a dog food that offers complete and balanced nutrition for all life stages is essential to help your puppy best mature. See below to learn more about what to look for in puppy food to make sure your new pet gets all the nutrients it needs.
What to Feed a New Puppy: A Nutrition Guide to a Raw Food Diet
Look for These Nutrients in Your Puppy’s Food
Puppies have certain nutritional needs that will help them grow. They need an energy-dense food high in animal protein and rich in omega fatty acids, with adequate calcium and phosphorus for healthy bone growth and development. Feeding a raw diet with bone and meat will give your growing puppy the calcium and phosphorus they need. A common misconception is that large breed puppies need more calcium to grow bigger, but in fact small breeds need the same amount of calcium. Another misconception is that raw food diets are hard to formulate to give your dog the proper calcium and phosphorus, which is also not the case.
Puppies need more protein than adult dogs to develop muscle and tissues, and they need more fat to use for energy. While many minerals are important for your growing puppy, increased calcium and phosphorus intake in particular are essential for healthy bone development. Look for all these items on the nutritional label of any dog food. Also make sure that the food is specifically designed to provide complete and balanced nutrition for growing puppies, not just mature dogs.
Raw diets are particularly good for puppies as they have all the above nutrients, plus added moisture to support hydration. Stella & Chewy’s offers puppy-specific recipes in their Raw Coated Puppy Kibble and their Perfectly Puppy Beef & Salmon Freeze-Dried Raw Dinner Patties. These excellent choices provide optimal nutrition as well as smaller-sized pieces for smaller mouths. They also feature industry-leading levels of glucosamine and chondroitin to ensure joint health and are enhanced with probiotics and antioxidants.
Some pet parents are nervous about feeding raw diets to puppies because they feel it is not “balanced enough” or “doesn’t have enough nutrients.” A raw food diet is simple and has all the nutrients a growing puppy needs. As long as they are receiving a safe, complete and balanced diet, puppies thrive on raw foods. Raw diets are rich in the animal proteins that your puppy needs to grow. Since a raw food diet resembles eating real meat, has a fresh taste and delicious smell, it tends to be very appetizing, which can help a picky eater transition into a new home.
All Puppies Have Different Nutritional Needs
Not every puppy needs the same amount of calories. Breed and activity level will determine if your puppy needs more or less food. For example, a small-breed dog, such as a Maltese, that does minimal exercise consisting of short leash walks of, say, 5 minutes or less, 4–5 times a day, does not require as many calories as a large-breed puppy, such as a Labrador, that runs in the back yard for 30 minutes, plays rough in the house and needs longer leash walks to sleep through the night.
As a general and safe rule of thumb, a puppy should be fed at least 2 or 3 times a day until it becomes an adult, which happens at roughly 10 months old. Puppies should also always have fresh water available. Dehydration is one of the most common health issues puppies suffer from and ensuring they get enough to drink will help prevent more serious health complications.
Another important feeding factor is that different dog breeds require different levels of nutrients. Small, toy breeds may consume fewer overall calories, but they are susceptible to hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) and therefore need energy-dense puppy foods that are usually higher in fat. Large- or giant-breed puppies are susceptible to developmental bone disease, so they need to avoid excessive calories and calcium while they are developing.
Stella & Chewy’s Product Selector will help guide you find the right type of food for your puppy based on its age, breed and other factors. Your vet or a holistic vet can also be a great resource for helping you to decide what to feed your newest family member.
Have a new puppy? Save $3 on food specially formulated to help your puppy thrive!
Bio: Dr. Lindsay is a small-animal veterinarian working in Boca Raton, FL. She graduated from Colorado State University and followed that with a degree from the DVM program at Ross University. Dr. Lindsay did her clinical year at Tufts in 2016 and has been practicing at Clint Moore Animal Hospital since then. You can learn more about her on Instagram.
Dr. Lindsay Butzer was paid for her time, but all opinions remain her own.