As your large-breed puppy grows, he will experience some dramatic changes. In fact, large-breed puppies generally grow more rapidly than smaller breeds. By feeding your large-breed puppy a diet that supports growth without allowing him to grow too quickly, you can help prevent abnormal skeletal development and other health issues. To help give him the right balance of nutrients, keep these five key points in mind.
1. Feed Your Puppy Scheduled Meals
From the time your puppy is weaned until four months of age, you should feed your puppy two to three meals a day, with the total amount based on the guidelines on the food label. After four months of age, your puppy should be fed twice a day on a regular schedule. Always provide fresh water.
2. Remember That One Size Does Not Fit All
Not all puppies have the same nutritional needs. Large-breed puppies have lower metabolic rates per pound than smaller-breed puppies. And while his growth is more dramatic, your puppy will reach his mature adult weight 12 to 24 months later than smaller breeds that reach adulthood at as early as nine months. In short, large-breed puppies can benefit from fewer calories per cup.
Large-breed puppies can also benefit from less calcium. Puppies that consume too many calories and too much calcium might grow too rapidly, which can result in the development of bone growth problems or joint problems. With your large-breed puppy, the goal should be a moderate, healthy rate of growth. That’s why it’s important to choose a diet with precisely balanced amounts of fat, calcium and phosphorus, designed specifically for large-breed puppies.
3. Choose Food Formulated for Puppies
To help your large-breed puppy grow at a healthy rate, look for these features in the puppy food you choose:
- Adjusted calcium and phosphorus levels to support healthy skeletal development
- Controlled calories and fat to help maintain ideal growth rate
- Vitamin-rich fish oils to support overall health
- Essential vitamins and minerals to help support the immune system and help your puppy stay healthy during this critical stage of growth
- High-quality animal-based protein sources to help nourish growing muscles, vital organs, and skin and coat
- A fiber source that will help keep your puppy's sensitive digestive system healthy, so more nutrition stays in your puppy
Look for these important building blocks of nutrition when you choose dry or canned dog food and when you select treats. IAMS™ ProActive Health™ Smart Puppy Large Breed gives your puppy a great start by providing the essential nutrition he needs to grow at a healthy rate.
4. Exercise Caution with Adding Supplements to Puppy Food
You want to give your puppy the very best nutrition during these months, but supplementing your puppy's diet may lead to health problems.
By feeding your puppy vitamins, calcium tablets, table scraps, yogurt or meat, you could be upsetting a critical, balanced interaction of nutrients and minerals. Too much of one mineral can affect a puppy’s ability to absorb other minerals. And excess calcium might lead to bone-growth problems, especially in large-breed puppies. A high-quality pet food, carefully formulated for your puppy’s life stage and breed size, will give him complete and balanced nutrition without supplements.
5. Know When to Switch to Adult Food
A large-breed puppy approaches adult weight by 12 to 24 months, at which time you can begin feeding him adult dog food. You can help ease the transition by gradually introducing the adult food. Try mixing 25% of the new food with 75% of his puppy food, and then gradually change the proportions over the next three days until he’s eating 100% adult food.
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Keeping Your Senior Dog Healthy and Active
It depends on the breed of dog, but your pet's senior years generally begin at age 7. Louise Murray, DVM, director of the ASPCA's Bergh Memorial Animal Hospital in New York City and author of Vet Confidential (Ballantine, 2008), tells you what you need to know to keep your older dog spry and happy.
Senior Dog Health: Preventive Health
At this stage, Murray recommends taking your dog to the vet twice a year. "So much can happen to an elderly dog," she says. Your veterinarian can take blood annually to test liver and kidney functions. "Discovering problems early is extremely important," she says. Your vet can be on the lookout for conditions that often affect older dogs, such as anemia and arthritis.
Senior Dog Health: Urination, Bowel Movements, and Appetite
Pay attention to what might be subtle changes in your dog's habits: Is she drinking more water or urinating larger amounts? These behaviors might indicate a liver or kidney problem. Have your dog's bowel movements shifted? This could indicate a digestive issue. Diabetes or digestive problems might cause your dog to eat more but still lose weight. Knowing the dog's patterns can help the veterinarian determine a course of treatment.
Senior Dog Health: Flea, Tick, and Heartworm Medicines
Continue to use preventive medicines.
Senior Dog Health: Dental Health
Clean your dog's teeth daily. If she has tartar buildup, you might need to have her teeth professionally cleaned at your vet's office, which requires sedating your pet.
Senior Dog Health: Exercise
Your dog is probably less active, so steady, moderate exercise is best for her now. Don't turn her into a "weekend warrior" who, after lying around on weekdays, accompanies you on a 10-mile hike on Saturdays. This is especially hard on an older dog's joints.
Senior Dog Health: Diet
Your veterinarian might wish to put your dog on a senior diet, such as IAMS™ ProActive Health™ Senior Plus. These formulations contain nutrients specifically geared toward older-dog health.
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