Puppy Nutrition 101: What Should You Feed a Puppy?

beagle and kid playing in grass

Like any adorable baby, puppies have unique needs, especially concerning their diet. The right food and nutrition while they’re small can help them grow into healthy, strong adults — despite our wishes for them to stay this small and cute forever. Here’s everything you need to know about your puppy’s diet.

Puppies Need Puppy Food

Puppies should usually be weaned off their mother’s milk when they’re around 7 to 8 weeks old. Then they need food that’s formulated for a puppy’s unique nutritional needs — like any of the PEDIGREE® puppy foods.

Puppies grow fast, so they require more nutrient- and calorie-dense foods than adult dogs. They also need food with more amino acids, fatty acids, minerals and protein to help them develop strong bones, muscles and immune systems.

What Makes a Well-Balanced Puppy Diet?

There are four main things a puppy needs in their food bowl to grow up fit and fabulous:

  • Protein: Imagine how much protein you’d need to reach your adult size within a year. Pups need a little extra protein to help build all those growing muscles and tissues.
  • Fats: Fats are, not surprisingly, a great source of essential fatty acids. They help puppies develop a healthy skin and coat. They’re also important for brain development and vision.
  • Calcium: This is a necessary component for growing strong bones and teeth.
  • Digestible carbohydrates: Puppies love to play, and easily digestible carbs are a great power source for all that energy.

What Type of Puppy Food Is Best?

Dry? Wet? Combo? There’s no right or wrong answer. Each has its advantages, and as long as it provides the nutrition they need and your pup enjoys eating it, ring the dinner bell.

  • Dry food: This is an economical option that offers a balanced diet. Dogs love the crunch of kibble. Bonus: The texture can also help keep gums and teeth healthy.
  • Wet food: Dogs of all ages love the flavor of wet food, so it helps even finicky eaters get their needed nutrition. It’s also considered more easily digestible among dog food connoisseurs.
  • Combo of wet and dry food: A bit of this and a bit of that? Go right ahead. Puppies like a little variety in their meals, too.
  • Treats: Treats are a great way to help train your little best friend and build your relationship. To keep calories in check, don’t give them too many treats — no matter how much they give you the puppy eyes look.

  labrador begging for food

A word (or several) on table scraps: We know it’s tempting, but table scraps add unnecessary calories to your pup’s diet and can lead to obesity. You don’t want them to develop any bad table manners by rewarding begging, either. Plus, some human food can be dangerous to dogs, especially puppies. It’s better to stick to puppy food.

When Should Puppies Switch to Adult Dog Food?

The time for your dog to leave the kids’ table is generally when they near their adult height. This can be as early as nine months for small-breed dogs or as long as two years for large breeds. Make the switch gradually over several days, mixing in the new and the old food to minimize upset tummies.

With the right nutrition and lots of love, your dog will grow into a healthy and happy adult — though they’ll always be your little puppy at heart.

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