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Puppy Nutrition

Puppy nutrition should cover four important periods.

Pregnancy
A puppy's initial nourishment is linked to the mother. Any deficiencies in her diet over a prolonged period, will be passed to her litter. The most important stage of pregnancy is the last third, from six weeks onwards. This is when over 75% of the puppies weight is developed. This is also the period when there is an efficient flow of nutrients from the mother to the puppies, which will be beneficial during the first few weeks after birth. At this stage the mother should be fed Canine Extra/Active as her stomach capacity will be reduced. If you have a small breed or have experienced overly large puppies in the past we would recommend Mini Bites.

Birth to 6 weeks
Feeding the puppies places a demand on the mother to eat, digest and absorb very large amounts of food/nutrients. This then enables her to produce sufficient milk to support the growth and development of a number of puppies.

The following is a feed guide for the mother:

Week 1
You may need to feed the mother up to 150% of the recommended feed rate of Extra/Mini or a mix, 50/50 with maintenance.

Week 2
You may need to feed the mother up to 200% of the recommended feed rate of Extra/Mini or a mix, 50/50 with maintenance.

Week 3 to Weaning
You may need to feed the mother up to 300% of the recommended feed rate of Extra/Mini or a mix, 50/50 with maintenance. At this stage the mothers milk provides the only nutrition to the puppies. Most of the puppies antibodies will have passed from the mother during the final days of the pregnancy. These antibodies will last for the first 8 weeks of life. With all breeds it is important that weaning ( changing the puppies diet from mothers milk to dog food. ) does not begin until the end of the third week after birth. This process should be done gradually taking up to 10 days to change the puppies onto the food. The puppies will need 4 meals a day as well as still feeding a small amount from the mother. The gradual introduction of dry food will encourage the puppies to learn to chew and this may be started at around 5-6 weeks of age.

Puppies should not be removed from their mother until fully weaned around 6-8 weeks of age.

6-12 Weeks
At 8 weeks the immunity passed on by the mother loses its effectiveness. This is an especially vulnerable time for puppies as they have yet to develop their own immune system. They also undergo a number of stressful changes such as; - Removal from the mother - Vaccination programmes - Diet changes - Exposure to new bacterial challenges. Optimum nutrition for this stage is vital It may prove beneficial not to change the diet during this 6-12 week period. Adding vegetables to the diet can only benefit the puppies as they are natural anti-oxidants and boost the immune system.

12 Weeks to Adult
Up to 6 months of age the general feeding guide is the same for nearly all puppies. The next period of growth needs to be carefully controlled to provide a healthy future. Smaller breeds develop to adult weight more rapidly than larger breeds, and their energy requirements will reduce at an earlier age. At this stage the puppies rib cage should still be visible, but with a slightly thicker layer of fat. Their overall condition should be closely monitored as this is also the time when the puppies are most efficient at converting energy to fat.

An overweight puppy leads to an overweight adult. Between 3 and 7 months of age a puppy will develop its adult teeth. At this time the puppy's eating habits may change due to the sensitivity of its gums. This causes the puppy to take longer at feeding time. To increase acceptance during this time you can moisten the food with a little tepid water to soften it. NB: Hot water should never be used as it can destroy the heat sensitive vitamins. Changing to adult food, should be dictated by the puppy's activity, health and condition. The changeover should be made gradually over 5 days so that the puppy's digestion is not upset.

Nutrition of giant breeds
With Giant breeds the difference between appetite and requirement is vast and therefore there is more chance of these breeds becoming obese. This can be accentuated by owners wrongly believing a rapidly growing puppy is healthy and then fed more than is required. Excessive growth at this stage may also lead to bone abnormalities. Exercise is important, but should not be instigated too early or too vigorously. As a general rule a puppy should be fed 4 x daily for the first third of its growth to adult size. 3 x daily for the middle third and 2 x daily for the remaining third and probably for the rest of its life.

Digestive upset
Loose bowel motions, vomiting, straining, passing blood or mucus are all signs of upset digestion. Dogs which are prone to digestive upset are likely to be able to tolerate less food than average. It is better to feed slightly less food which will properly be absorbed rather than a larger quantity which could cause an upset.

Feeding Guide
It is difficult to give exact feed rates for puppies as each is an individual and each puppy's requirements are different. You may wish to feed your puppy to appetite, if this is done, please remember that if your puppy has loose bowel motions then the feed rate may be too high, even though the puppy would like to eat that volume. Vegetables and rice may be added to the diet for variety but no protein sources are advised. Puppies need worming on a regular basis and they need to have their puppy injections for their health. All puppies should be introduced to your vet so the general health and well- being of your puppy can be checked.
Dogs Worldwide.com - This article has been reproduced courtesy of Burns Pet Nutrition

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