You will need to make sure your puppy is eating the right amount of food at all times, because small young dogs are particularly susceptible to bouts of hypoglycemia – or low blood sugar. This condition, if left unchecked, can cause your puppy to suffer acute organ failure, go into a coma, and die.
When a puppy is born, its nutritional requirements consist mainly of mother’s milk. Newborn pups must consume colostrum (the mother dog’s first milk) within the first 12 to 24 hours after birth in order to receive the full benefits of her antibodies. These specialized cells in the immune system recognize organisms that invade the body and provide protection against disease. A healthy mother dog passes this special immunization to her puppies in her milk.
At around 3 weeks of age – a fairly early stage of puppy development – you can begin feeding your pup a bit of dry puppy food mixed with water in a thin gruel several times a day. Gradually reduce the water content of the gruel so that by 4 to 6 weeks of age your puppy will be eating as much dry food as she does mother’s milk. She will still be suckling on the mother until around 8 weeks of age when she is ready to be weaned and placed on solid food.
Most puppies grow to their full size in under a year, so they require a high-protein, all-natural diet with balanced Omega fatty acids to allow for developing coat, muscles and bones. Look for those products that are corn, wheat and soy-free to help stop any symptoms of food allergies before they begin.
Puppies of different sizes have different nutritional needs. For your medium-sized puppy – such as a Border Collie or Australian Shepherd – a high-quality puppy food is probably sufficient according to veterinary nutritionists. However, large or giant breed puppies, as well as the small and toy breeds, may need a size-specific diet to help them through all the stages of puppy development.
Large and giant breed puppies – like Labrador Retrievers, Great Danes, Saint Bernards, and Irish Wolfhounds – tend to grow extremely fast in their first year, with some dogs gaining 100 pounds in a matter of months. This rapid growth puts a huge strain on growing bones and developing muscles, causing these large dogs to suffer from serious orthopedic issues including hip dysplasia and arthritis as they age.
Traditionally, pet parents were urged to feed their large-breed puppies food high in fat and calories and to give calcium supplements to help their pups develop into big and strong dogs. Modern canine nutritionists have found that these types of foods actually increase your large puppy’s growth rate, causing her rapidly developing bones to become less dense, weaker, more porous, and more prone to degenerative conditions.
Other scientists prefer that you feed your large breed puppy an all-natural food lower in calories, yet full of the antioxidants necessary to support her growing immune system and free of any grains that may later cause allergic reactions. Protein and calcium levels vary by manufacturer, however, so you need to check with your veterinarian about which, if any, brand of puppy food to feed your growing little pooch.
Your small and toy breed puppies – like Chihuahuas, Bichon Frises, and Yorkies – have their own set of special nutritional needs. Because of her smaller size and higher metabolism, your small breed puppy needs to eat more often and consume food higher in fat and calories than a larger breed puppy. Feeding her a nutritious, all-natural treat bar made with organic peanut butter can get her through those hungry times until her next meal.
For the first 3 or 4 months of her life, your toy puppy needs to be fed 3 to 4 times a day. You can gradually decrease the amount as she matures until she is receiving her daily allowance of calories in twice-a-day meals. Even as an adult, she should continue to eat twice a day to cope with her high metabolism. Make sure not to overfeed her, however, because just a few extra bites of kibble can translate into excessive weight for a tiny dog.
It’s important to remember that how your puppy feels physically can determine how she behaves. A hungry dog is going to be more food aggressive than one that is receiving the right amount of food. A puppy that is eating the proper amounts and types of her needed nutrients will have plenty of energy to play and learn. Using all-natural treats made with fruits, veggies, and a bit of organic peanut butter can be just the ticket to help your pup focus during training exercises.
Just like your school-age children, your puppy can’t learn or be trained if she goes to “school” hungry or tired.
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