little girl plays with puppy while it eats its food. Changing your dog or cat's food should be done gradually

Pet Nutrition 101: Feeding Your New Puppy Right


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Are you opening your heart and home to a cuddly new canine? If so, you might be wondering what makes the best diet for puppies. If, for example, you feed your adult pooch Purina dog food could it double as puppy food too? Also, what is AAFCO and FEDIAF dog food and where does it fit into your pet nutrition journey?

These are great questions. Feeding your new puppy the most appropriate foods may help them avoid certain health conditions. It could help support them through highly specific growth spurts and phases. In this article PD answers these questions and more so you can make educated pet nutrition choices for your puppy.

puppies inspect oversized AAFCO dog food that's too big for them to eat

Puppy VS dog food

As anyone who’s ever had a puppy knows, puppy zoomies are a REAL thing. Needless to say, the amount of energy your little fluff ball produces is explosive. Expending that much energy on the one hand means that, on the other, puppies require adequate energy intake via a well balanced puppy food.

Purina’s Nutrition Advisor, Beth Bryant, says:

“Pets require different levels of protein and fat throughout their lives. For example, the highest levels are needed when they are puppies and kittens as they need to fuel the rapid growth and development they undergo.”

A well balanced diet will give your puppy the right balance of energy and nutrition to match their energy output and growth needs. It’s not just zoomies that are fast, it’s a puppy’s growth rate and shifts between phases too. Puppies grow in leaps and bounds and have drastic shifts in their energy and puppy food content needs.

A puppy should always eat food that’s tailored to its age and breed and one that follows global food guidelines. Besides age, breed also plays a role in your dog’s energy levels and energy requirements in food. For more on that, read our article on high, mid and low energy dogs.

What do FEDIAF and AAFCO mean in dog food?

When you walk the pet food aisle you’re swamped with pet food brands. How can you decide which ones are good and which are just fillers? Purina shares an answer:

“A well-balanced diet should adhere to the guidelines set by the Association of American Feed Control Official (AAFCO) or the European Pet Food Industry (FEDIAF), and needs to have the correct balance of the six major nutrient groups in the correct proportions. These are proteins, fats, minerals, vitamins, carbohydrates – including fibre – and water.”

– Purina Nutrition Advisor, Beth Bryant

FEDIAF and AAFCO dog food standards are global guidelines for pet food manufacturers to follow. These have been tried and tested for over a century and they’re science backed. Choose a pet food brand that either meets or even goes beyond these minimum requirements.

A quick Google search for any cat or dog food + FEDIAF / AAFCO will tell you if that brand follows these nutrition requirements.

puppies sit in a fenced off area with food bowls containing the best diet according to their breed and age

Purina on avoiding obesity with the right dog food

Beth says, “inferior quality foods may be both less nutrient and calorie dense, which means you need to feed more, resulting in false economy.” In other words, you’re feeding your puppy too much food while starving them of the nutritional content they need.

It’s also important not to feed more than packaging guideline recommendations. Overfeeding could potentially result in a fat or obese dog. It’s a matter of quality and quantity.

“As in the human population, excessive weight and pet obesity is one of the most common conditions, so it would be great if more pet owners knew about the importance of monitoring their pets’ body condition and changing the amount of dog food or cat food they give accordingly.”

– Purina Nutrition Advisor, Beth Bryant

Pet obesity is one of the biggest health problems pets face today. More pets are obese now than any other time. PD Insurance asked veterinarian Dr Cath Watson to share some top tips on avoiding pet obesity. Watch this vlog for more:

What can go wrong in pet nutrition?

The wrong puppy food won’t just make your puppy poop more. It may also starve them of essential nutrition that they need to help safeguard against genetic and other illnesses. Purina shares the following about dog and cat food:

“Feeding poor quality food can affect many body systems, including digestion, the immune system, and skin and coat health. A pet diet that is deficient in Vitamin D may result in rickets. This disease can cause soft and deformed bones, particularly during gestation of puppies or kittens and during their early life.”

– Purina Nutrition Advisor, Beth Bryant

The best diet for puppies means FEDIAF and AAFCO dog food but, in addition, premium brands also cater to additional special needs. For example, you should choose a puppy food that suits your large or small breed.

Large breeds have to carry more weight and also have more intense growth spurts and grow for longer overall. Feeding a cat or dog food that follows FEDIAF and AAFCO guidelines and fits their pet profile is a win-win for health now and in the future.

You can also find puppy food that caters to a sensitive tummy or skin. Many leading brands also provide options for pet allergies, pet anxiety and special life stages including pregnancy and lactation. (Speaking of which, read all about how long dogs are pregnant.)

Puppy parents should also take care with raw food diets for puppies as these can be associated with rickets. If you're not going with an AAFCO or FEDIAF dog food and making your own, it's safest to consult a pet nutritionist or vet beforehand. 

Puppy food plus award winning pet insurance

According to the latest survey from Dogs NZ of new puppy owners, nutritional advice is sought after. Survey respondents ranked nutrition advice as the second most useful support service (64%) they’d like to receive from Dogs NZ and its partners just after training advice and programmes (65%).

On top of focussing on pet nutrition with good puppy food, having pet insurance in case things go wrong is a win-win. Your puppy’s dog insurance ensures you can more easily access affordable medical treatment in their hour of need. It also protects your finances from sudden unforeseen costs for diagnosis, treatment hospital stays and medicine.

They say it takes a village to raise a child. We say it takes a great breeder, pet owner, pet food maker for the best diet for puppies, and pet health insurer to raise a happy healthy canine. So, to start the ball rolling, get award winning pet insurance with PD today.

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