Getting a puppy home can be overwhelming. Dog parents get inundated with advice on what to feed their puppy, and end up getting confused as to what to really feed!
Before deciding what to feed your puppy, it is important to understand what essential nutrients puppies need in their diet each day.
Key Nutrients for puppies
Macronutrients Protein & Fats are an absolute essential part of a puppy’s diet. While fat is a source of essential fatty acids, protein is made of building blocks called amino acids which help in repairing & maintaining cells & tissues, and making enzymes & hormones.
Puppies also need essential Micronutrients (Vitamins & Minerals) – such as Vitamin A, B, C, D, E, K, Calcium, Phosphorus, Magnesium, Iron, Potassium, Sodium, Zinc, Copper, Manganese, Selenium, Iodine and so on.
Common dietary sources of Key Nutrients
Raw meaty bones (such as Poultry feet, wings, necks) are a rich source of Calcium, Phosphorus, Magnesium, Potassium & Sodium
Livers contain a high amount of Vitamin A, Copper, B-complex (particularly B-12)
Fatty fishes are high in Omega-3 fats, Vitamin D and Selenium
Leafy greens & cruciferous vegetables are a good source of Vitamin C & K
Iodine can be found in small quantities in eggs & fishes. However, Kelp is a rich source of Iodine
Complex carbs like Oats, Quinoa are also nutrient rich and can be added to balance the macros
Since puppies undergo massive growth & structural changes in the first few months of their lives, their nutritional needs exceed that of adult dogs. They need more protein, fats, vitamins & minerals than an average adult dog. In order to feed your pup right, it is important to understand what mistakes to avoid while feeding home-cooked diet
Common mistakes that new dog parents make when they get home a puppy
They start off by feeding curd rice or other nutrient sparse foods
Curd rice will provide a puppy with enough energy to survive, but it is not a nutrient dense food by any means. A lactating female dog’s milk is rich in fats, protein and micronutrients like calcium, potassium, Vitamin D, B12, A etc. Hence, when a puppy is weaned off from her/his nourishing mother’s milk, it is important to feed her/him a diet just as nutritious.
The homecooked meals are not balanced
Puppies need to be fed a balanced diet every single day in order for them to grow & develop properly. Balanced diet means that your puppy’s diet contains all the essential nutrients and they meet the recommended allowances established by National Research Council (NRC) for dogs. Most people make the mistake of not auditing the daily meals to check if any of the essential nutrients are missing in their puppy’s diet.
Tend to over supplement
Feeding a multivitamin is not the right way to supplement a puppy! If you are feeding homecooked meat & vegetables to your pup, some nutrients are already present in his meals, and do not need to be supplemented. Over supplementing can lead to toxicity of certain vitamins & minerals in the body. It is important to recognise what nutrients are missing in the homecooked meals and supplement only those.
End up feeding the wrong fats
Most often than not, dog parents end up feeding oils which do not fall in ‘essential’ category, and which are already present in the food that they are feeding. This can lead to an imbalance of fats and an essential fatty acid (EFAs) deficiency.
You can follow the below guidelines to ensure your pup gets a balanced diet:
Calcium to Phosphorus ratio
It is important to maintain a Calcium to Phosphorus ratio of 1.2:1 to 1.4:1 for a proper skeletal & structural growth. Puppies need around 3 grams of Calcium per 1000Kcal food per day. Avoid feeding too many calcium bones or multiple calcium supplements to your pup! Raw or dehydrated bones, and dehydrated bone powder are ideal sources of calcium for puppies. Remember that Phosphorus levels are quite high in home-cooked diet, and so it is important to balance the phosphorus levels with adequate amount of calcium to ensure your pup has stronger bones.
A puppy’s skin & coat is an indicator of her/his overall health. Puppies need essential fatty acids (EFAs) to maintain healthy coat, especially EPA & DHA. Fatty fishes such as Sardines, Mackerel, Anchovies are a rich source of EPA & DHA. Alternatively, you can also feed a fish oil! Make sure the fish oil product that you purchase is third party tested for heavy metals & PCBs. Don’t fall for the words ‘Omega-3 oil’! Some Omega-
3 oils contain certain vegetable oils which are not healthy for a puppy. A fish oil made from Sardines is ideal for pups.
Right combination of protein
Adding one type of protein will not form a complete diet! Your pup will need at least two types of protein sources to make a well-formed & balanced diet. An ideal combination of proteins is red meat and poultry. Red meat (ruminant meat) is high in the nutrients that puppies need more in their diet i.e Iron, Copper and Zinc. Chicken eggs are also a complete & bioavailable protein source for pups. Quinoa is a vegetarian ingredient that has sufficient protein and contains all essential amino acids necessary for puppies.
Feed variety of vegetables
The sooner you introduce new & different ingredients to your puppy’s diet, the better it is to avoid build up of deficiencies. Adult dogs that are not fed a variety of vegetables growing up, never acquire a taste for them later in life. Feeding a variety of vegetables like pumpkin, bottle gourd, carrots, broccoli, french beans, cabbage, zucchini, spinach etc offer a rich source of phytochemicals which help reduce the risk of major chronic diseases, particularly cancer.
The right supplements
The best way to supplement homecooked meals is by feeding nutrient isolates instead of multivitamins. Commonly missing nutrients in homecooked diets are Vitamins E, D, B1, Magnesium, Manganese, Zinc, Iron, Iodine, Choline, Selenium etc. Fats like Omega 6 & 3 can also be imbalanced and lacking. It’s important to get the diet formulated by a Nutritionist to understand what nutrients are lacking, and what supplements are
safe to feed. In case of homecooked meals, Fish oil or Omega-3 oil with 10:1 ratio are ideal sources of fats.
Puppies need to be fed small portioned meals throughout the day. Getting the right diet at this early stage and feeding nutrient dense food will set them in great stead for this amazing period of growth. Monitor your puppy’s weight regularly and change the calories accordingly.