Nutrition and movement are fundamental elements for the health of any dog.
Not too different from the human one, the ideal diet for dogs is substantially omnivorous, as shown by studies on the dietary needs and dietary habits of today’s canids living in the wild.
To avoid getting lost in the usual debates on what is best to put in the bowl of trust, between solid foods consumed in the family and special industrial products, to determine which is the optimal diet for the dog, it is first of all necessary to know the nutritional needs of the animal.
Equally important is the use of common sense; It is obvious, for example, that avoiding croquettes and the like, fearing the poor health of raw materials, and then basing the dog’s diet on waste from the canteen or supermarkets, represents a harmful behavior for the health of the animal.
After this necessary premise, we just have to proceed in stages by examining the rules for a healthy dog diet in the various stages of life.
2. Feeding of the Puppy and Weaning
In the first 3-4 weeks of life, breast milk is a complete and irreplaceable food. Therefore, if the mother is healthy, well-fed, and the puppy is not showing signs of undernourishment, it is important to let nature take its course.
On the other hand, it is necessary to report to the veterinarian the possible appearance of symptoms such as continuous crying, poor reactivity, and weight growth below the guidelines (a puppy should increase by 2-4 grams per day for each kg of the average adult weight; if for example, it is estimated that when it is fully grown it will weigh about 15 kg, in the first five months of life it should increase its weight by 30-60 grams per day).
Comparison between cow’s milk and bitch’s milk
|MILK OF||COW||FEMALE DOG|
|Energy (KCal / 100 g)||66||135|
|Dry matter (%)||12.4||22.8|
When the vet notices that the puppy’s weight is not gaining enough, he can suggest milk feeding support.
In this regard, or in the case of orphaned puppies or mothers unable to feed them, it should be borne in mind that bitch’s milk is much more concentrated and rich in proteins, calories, fats, calcium, and phosphorus than cow’s milk.
On the market, therefore, there are special formulations of milk adapted to the needs of puppies.
Third week of life
The start of weaning of a healthy dog occurs around the third week of life, or the fourth for dwarf breeds; this is, in fact, the period in which the young animal begins to actively explore the environment that surrounds it.
The transition to a solid diet should not be abrupt, but progressive. In the early stages of weaning, we recommend special preparations for puppies, chopped and softened with water (one part of dry food together with three parts of water or two parts of canned food for each part of water). If the dog does not accept the new food, it is possible to encourage him by bringing a finger just dipped into the mixture to his lips.
The sixth week of life
After six weeks of life, the nutritional needs of the puppy must be satisfied for at least 25% by the weaning diet, which compared to the previous phases will include gradually coarser pieces and increasingly poorer mixtures of water (which will be supplied separately, with availability to libitum). When feeding puppies, water must not be replaced by milk; as we have seen the chemical composition of cow’s milk is quite different from that of bitch’s milk.
End of weaning
At seven to eight weeks of age, most dogs are considered weaned. However, it is advisable to avoid forced weaning, since the abrupt detachment from the mother and the other elements of the litter could lead to nutritional deficiencies and behavioral disturbances in adulthood, as well as facilitating the appearance of breast engorgement in the bitch.
Food for Puppies
When choosing a puppy food it is good to opt for the one that is most suitable for the dog breed, feeding it at the doses recommended by the manufacturer or the veterinarian.
Overeating in the growth phase can be accompanied by an excessive weight increase concerning bone development, with a consequent risk of osteoarticular pathologies.
|Time to reach adult weight in dogs of different sizes|
|Small dogs 8 – 10 months|
Medium-sized dogs 12 months
Large dogs 15 – 18 months
Giant dogs 24 months
This risk is especially valid for large and giant dogs, for which special formulations are available; it should also be borne in mind that these breeds reach adult body weight later (18-24th month) than small and pet breeds (6th-9th month).
Finally, remember that puppies, by their nature, are prone to play and movement, but the absence of peers, the lack of space, and adequate stimuli, can promote early fattening with a high risk that overweight and obesity will accompany them throughout. life, even when nutrition is restrictive.
Frequency of Meals
Up to 4-6 months of age it is advisable to feed the puppy at least three times a day (4 during weaning), at regular intervals; after which you can pass to the canonical two daily meals typical of the adult dog’s diet.
However, if it is a nursing female or a working dog – given the increased energy needs, up to three-four times higher than a normal dog of similar size – to avoid giving too substantial meals, it is good to delay food. on at least three occasions a day.
A single meal in large and particularly voracious dogs can represent a risk factor for the onset of stomach torsion, and favor the regurgitation of what is voraciously swallowed. The last meal of the day, however, should not be given too late in the evening, as the animal may need to eliminate feces and urine within hours of eating.