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Feeding a dog of any age or size can be confusing, with literally hundreds of different options available on the market for commercially produced foods, before you even get into the details of specialist diets and home made dog food! Picking the right food for your puppy and deciding on how you wish to feed them is very important, as good nutrition from an early age can actually extend your dog’s life and help to keep them healthy well into old age. It is important to give plenty of thought to what you wish to feed your new puppy, and have a plan in place before you even get them home.
In this article, we will cover the main considerations that you should think about when it comes to feeding your puppy.
You may decide to continue feeding your new pup the diet that they were given by their breeder, and there is some merit to doing this as it ensures continuity. However, you may prefer to change your puppy’s food for something rather different, and once you have decided what form this will take, making the transition must be handled gradually.
Even if you don’t intend to keep your pup on the breeder’s diet, you must start them off on the food that they are used to when you get them home, and not make any sudden swaps or changes to their diet. Phase out their old food and phase the new one in gradually, to allow your pup to get used to the change and minimise the chances of causing any digestive upsets.
If you asked ten different people for their recommendation on the best puppy food brand, the chances are you may get as many as ten different answers! If there was a one size fits all solution and one brand that was simply better than all of the others, choosing the right food would be a simple process!
However, different puppies have different needs, and what food will be the best fit for them depends on a very wide range of variables. The size, breed, activity levels and type of coat that your pup has all play a part, as do intangible factors such as medical issues, your pup’s tastes and many other things.
For dogs that have sensitive skin or that are prone to allergies, you may need to pick a specific anti allergenic food, or a diet that cuts out unnecessary grains. Some specialised canine diets are breed specific and developed to fit the needs of particular breeds, but again, this does not mean that that diet is the most obvious choice for your own dog!
What constitutes a balanced diet is not the same for all dogs, and while dog foods may be advertised as “nutritionally complete,” this claim only holds water if it is aimed at the specific nutritional needs of your own dog.
Dog foods are divided into choices for different life stages, and while both a complete puppy food and a complete adult diet may be nutritionally complete, feeding a food that does not suit your dog’s life stage and physical requirements will not provide optimum nutrition.
While all commercial diets are sold as complete as opposed to complimentary, meaning that they should in theory fulfil all of your pup’s needs, the quality and balance of the ingredients within any diet can vary considerably. A good choice of puppy diet should be rich in high quality ingredients and no unnecessary fillers, grains or preservatives. Pick a diet that lists meat as the main ingredient and source of protein, and that uses whole meat rather than meat meal or meat by-products. You should be able to recognise all of the ingredients listed within the food, and a long list of grain-related products or ingredients that are not clear in meaning and are not explained are not likely to be very good quality.
Try to pick a food that is not coloured or artificially flavoured, and does not contain added salt or sugar. Look for natural preservatives such as vitamins C and E, sometimes listed as ascorbate and tocopherols, and avoid synthetic ingredients and chemical preservatives.
A good quality dog food diet that ticks all of the boxes should do so because the manufacturers have hit upon a formula that works, and that they are confident in, and that does not need constant tweaking in order to boost sales. The food in question should look, smell and taste the same (to your dog) every time you open a new packet, and if you find that your dog suddenly goes off something, look to see if something has changed.
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