« Back to Puppies

8–11 Weeks: What to Expect From Your Puppy

How to Get Your Puppy Used to a Crate :: A Guide to Your Puppy's First Round of Vaccines :: Five Steps for Housetraining Your Puppy in (Almost) a Week :: How to Review Your Puppy's Diet for Optimal Health

How to Review Your Puppy's Diet for Optimal Health

Up until now you've probably been following your breeder or rescue agency's recommendations for your puppy's food. While this is a fine and even good thing to do because it gets your pup settled without more changes, it's a good idea to review his nutrition and the amount he is eating at this stage.

A well-nourished puppy is active, alert and has a stable growth rate and a healthy coat. Use these as checks to determine your pup's food quality.

The nutritional requirements for puppies are pretty much across the board while the amount fed varies based on the puppy's breed, gender, age, activity, environment and metabolism. When considering your puppy's nutritional needs, you should look for the correct portions of proteins, fats, carbohydrates, minerals, vitamins and water.

Note that a puppy's protein requirements are much higher than an adult dog's. Your pup will enjoy optimal health by insuring his nutritional needs are met by following a few simple rules.

The ingredients listed on food labels cannot alone be trusted to indicate their true nutritional value.

  1. Look for a statement such as "Meets the nutritional requirements of puppies established by the American Association of Feed Control Officials (AAFCO).” This means the nutritional adequacy is based on standards set by the AAFCO.

  2. Ideally, feeding trials for growth have been performed by the manufacturer. Look for a statement such as "Complete and balanced nutrition for growing dogs based on AAFCO feeding."

  3. The best test to see the results of your puppy's food is to watch your puppy. If his skin and coat are healthy, he's alert and active and his growth seems steady, these are, again, good indications that his food is good.

To determine the amount of food your puppy should eat, consider his Body Condition Score (BCS) on a weekly basis. You can do this by performing this simple task: Run your hands along your puppy's ribs. If they are visible with prominent pelvic bones, he is too thin. If his ribs are palpable with heavy fat covering and fat deposits over the base of tail, he is too fat. Ideally, your pup's ribs are palpable and without excess fat covering and his abdomen should be tucked up.

Poor nutrition leads to skin issues, a poor coat and slow or irregular development. Likewise, puppies fed more or less than the correct amount of food are at risk for developing skeletal abnormalities because they grow too slowly or too quickly. Monitor your puppy's body condition and re-evaluate the amount of food every two weeks. It is best to stick with a food once you see good results. Using supplements can actually be harmful unless prescribed by your vet. Though your pup may prefer a dinner of filet mignon and potatoes, a complete and balanced food and plenty of fresh water should be all he needs for optimal health.

Advice from Other Dog Owners 

Feed Your Dog at the Same Time Every Day

Feeding at a set time (versus free feeding where food is available all day) is, in my opinion, the best option. Here's what I think are the many benefits:

* It GREATLY helps potty training (you can control/predict potty schedule)
* It helps dogs get PROPER amounts of food (not too much or too little) *eta: in multiple dog households where all dogs have access to the food sources
* Prevents obesity (since you are controlling how much each dog gets and they can't eat someone else's portion)
* Helps the dogs get on a schedule
* Reminds the dog that you are the bearer of all things yum
* Prevents middle of the night "I have to potty"
* Allows you to easily add medication/supplements to individuals' food
* Allows you to vary the meals each dogs get if they have dietary issues
* Provides for a proper schedule if you train with treats so you can be able to work with a dog who is not stuffed from eating all day
* Dogs were not meant to graze all day, they aren't like cows... they digest more efficiently when they get concentrated meals

We free fed for years but since I started really working with the dogs I have found that feeding at set mealtimes is what I much prefer and think it has so many benefits to the minute downside of inconvenience.

~Tena P., owner of Border Collie

Before Starting a Homemade Dog Diet

Be sure to really do your research before feeding any home-prepared diet. Balancing the meals is very important. Look at both sides of the issue, and have a chat with your vet.

~Tiffany C., owner of Papillon mix

Grain in Dog Food

It's not that grains are necessarily bad for your dog, it's that they simply aren't necessary. Dogs can sometimes get some nutrients from high-quality grains, but for the most part, they just make poop!

~Rebecca L., owner of Mastiff

Add Your Own Advice 

Comment headline
Your comment
Submitted by
Owner of