Your puppy will grow the fastest during the first six months of his life, so you’ll want to take special care to plan a healthy diet from the start. “Growing puppies have a lot more energy than adult dogs,” says Madan Khare, DVM. “They require more nutrients in each bite because they can’t eat in large quantities.” Here’s everything you need to know about feeding your puppy, including what food to choose, how often to feed him and how to handle treats and teething.
Look for a premium puppy food with key ingredients such as animal-based proteins (chicken, beef or lamb) for strong bones, and energy-rich fatty acids (omega-6 and omega-3 are two) for a healthy skin and coat. When perusing the products at your grocery store, don’t be tempted by the low-cost brands in the huge bags. They may contain lower-quality ingredients and artificial preservatives and may not provide your dog the with optimal nutrition he needs.
Premium puppy food, such as IAMS™ ProActive Health™ Smart Puppy, is more easily digested and has additional nutritional value, containing nutrients such as DHA that are naturally found in milk from the puppy’s mother. Discuss with your vet and read package labels to determine an appropriate formula for your dog’s breed and size.
Create a clean, quiet spot for your puppy to eat, preferably in the kitchen. Additionally, provide your pup with fresh water in a clean bowl at all times, even outdoors. You may want to place a mat beneath both bowls to easily clean up spills or crumbs and keep the area tidy.
Develop a consistent eating schedule that coordinates with yours. At first, feed your puppy three times a day (consult your vet about proper quantities). After four months, twice daily should be fine.
"Feed your puppy while you eat your breakfast, lunch and dinner," Khare suggests. Your puppy will learn that you eat at the table and he eats from his bowl. This will deter any tendency to beg. “He'll appreciate the bonding time, too,” Khare adds.
Premium dry food, such as IAMS™ ProActive Health™, is your best bet for balanced nutrition, value and convenience. When stored properly, it’ll stay fresh longer than moist food — and it requires fewer cleanups.
For a teething puppy, you may want to mix dry food into moist food.
Use vet-recommended treats when training your dog, but with moderation. Don't offer human food, though — it may do more harm than good because it won’t have the important nutrients your pet needs.
Does your mature dog sniff at his bowl and walk away instead of digging in? You may think he’s just being picky, but it’s important to keep an eye on how much he’s eating — especially if he’s a senior. While age-related diminishment of the senses of smell and taste may account for some of his disinterest in food, appetite loss can also indicate a serious medical problem.
“It’s important to give your dog enough calories because weight loss can be debilitating to senior pets,” says Wendy Brooks, D.V.M., who warns that a loss in appetite should be mentioned to your vet. A good rule of thumb: If your pet hasn’t eaten in a day, make a visit to the vet. Here are six ways to entice your canine friend with a nourishing meal.
Many animals find canned food more palatable because they like the taste and texture, Brooks says. You can top their favorite dry food with room-temperature wet food.
Dogs like a warm or room-temperature (not hot or cold) meal. Avoid serving him day-old wet food from the refrigerator, and keep his food away from heat. Another reason he might not be eating: It's too hot outside.
Dogs prefer consistency when it comes to their food. Don't change every day, but try a new flavor, such as lamb or chicken, and see if he responds (it may trigger his sense of smell). To avoid an upset stomach, introduce a new food by mixing it with his old food in equal increments each day.
Common mature-dog health issues, such as arthritis or joint pain, can make it difficult for him to access his bowls. Keep food and water where he spends most of his time. Put a water bowl on all floors of the house, too.
Older pets are at a higher risk of dehydration. Provide a clean bowl with fresh water at all times. It will help prevent disease, such as a kidney condition, and aid in digestion.
Dogs are people pleasers. If you see him eating, give him a little verbal reward. He'll know it makes you happy and will repeat the behavior.