Dishing up the right stuff to prepare a puppy for life

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The responsibility of having a new puppy or kitten can be extremely daunting to owners who have acquired a new pet.

Providing a complete and balanced diet appropriate for the puppy or kitten according to the breed is critical to help support optimal growth and to prevent growth associated problems. While cats have a reasonably similar adult size the adult dog size varies very dramatically according to breed.

Also the rate of growth is different with small dogs, weighing less than 10kg, being fully grown at around 10 months of age and very large breeds who are not fully grown until two years. This difference in growth rates explains why large breed dogs have a higher risk of growth associated disorders and also why feeding must be different.

In the early stages of life, a puppy may require twice as much energy as an adult dog, in relation to its weight. However, by the time the puppy reaches 80 per cent of its adult body weight at, six months for a small dog, and at around eight to 10 months for large dogs, those requirements decrease dramatically to only 20 per cent more than an adult.

During the growth period large dogs should not gain more than 100g per day and giant breeds should not increase more than 200g per day. Puppies between 12 and 16 weeks should be fed three or four times a day, reducing the frequency to twice daily by eight to 10 months. It is untrue that puppies will achieve a bigger adult size if they grow faster and in fact excess energy can have a detrimental effect on the growth of large breeds.

Another detrimental effect is when meat only/mainly meat diets are fed they become deficient in calcium and phosphate. In young animals, this imbalance may lead to secondary nutritional hyperparathyroidism with bone problems. This causes problems particularly in the legs and can lead to broken bones (pathological fractures). Diseases such as hip dysphasia can be caused due to many reasons, although genetics has been shown to play a major role, nutrition and exercise are also important factors. If a good quality, balanced diet is being fed then no supplements are required.