Proper Nutrition For Growing Puppies

Many companies offer food specifically designed for puppies. But are they really necessary? And are they good for all breeds of dogs?

In general, you shouldn't feed medium/large, large and giant breed dogs regular puppy foods. It causes rapid growth that has been linked to increased cases of panostenosis and hip and elbow dysplasia. There are specially formulated large breed puppy foods that don't induce such rapid growth, but the question that must be asked is "Is it more beneficial to feed a large breed puppy food over a quality adult food?" The answer is: not really. Regular puppy foods can have over twice the fat content of adult and large breed puppy foods, and often have a higher calcium to phosphorus ratio. Large breed puppy foods and adult dog foods are nearly identical in fat content and calcium to phosphorus ratios. The benefits of feeding large breed puppy and adult foods can be undone by overfeeding, so keep puppies thin and feed moderately. They'll attain the same adult size, they'll just do so at a slower rate, which lessens the chances of dysplasia and panostenosis. 

Is puppy food beneficial for smaller breeds? Studies performed say yes, but those studies were performed by the only people willing to pay for them: pet food companies. I don't wish to disparage the only scientific data available, but when the pet industry pulls in over 70 billion dollars a year, it's tempting to narrow the parameters of studies so that they align with your company's narrative and hopefully result increased sales. That said, according to their data over the years, studies have stated that puppies need a more calcium rich (compared to phosphorus), high caloric diet compared to adult dogs to grow up "strong and healthy and meet nutritional needs." But this doesn't hold true for large and giant breed puppies apparently because it causes too rapid of a growth rate. Many people find that confusing. As always, it's best to talk to your vet, research for yourself and come to a conclusion you think is best for you and your dog. 

What about raw diets? Raw diets, when correctly fed, are nutritionally complete for all ages. Most prey model diets advocate 80% muscle proteins, 10% organ (hearts are considered muscle proteins and don't count), and 10% raw, edible bone (weight bearing bones of large animals aren't considered edible). Puppies may need their food to be ground or finely chopped depending on age, size and breed, but if you already feed raw, you will simply be feeding what you'd feed an adult dog. 

Last but not least, what about cooked diets? Preparing cooked diets requires more research than feeding raw. Cooking causes chemical changes in food, and the amount of specific nutrients in raw foods may be altered during the cooking process. If you're considering raising a puppy on a cooked diet, read books, join groups and forums and do what's been working for other pet owners and breeders. Don't be afraid to take the advice of several people and incorporate different ideas into something that works for you. Variety can help ensure that you don't run into problems with malnutrition. 

In conclusion, everything we know about diet is based on studies by pet food companies and studies done on the wild cousins of dogs. Many people find the issue of diet and their growing puppies confusing and even frustrating at times, because we all want what's best for our puppies and for them to be healthy and grow up strong. This article is by no means a complete guideline. Its purpose is to bring attention to the fact that while many studies have been done on the proper nutrition for domesticated dogs, there are many options, and fewer answers than you might think. Puppies of every breed and background have been raised into healthy, happy dogs on all of the aforementioned diets. Talk to your vet, do what you think is best and don't be discouraged.