Specifications For Puppies

The nutritional requirements of puppies vary from those of adults, and deficiencies (or excesses) are more likely to cause harm. Puppies need more protein, fat, calcium, and phosphorus than adult dogs do, but too much calcium can lead to serious orthopedic problems. This is especially true for young (prior to puberty), large-breed puppies. These increased needs continue as long as your puppy is growing, and are highest during periods of peak growth.

The exact amount of calcium that puppies require is a matter of endless debate among nutritionists. I’ll outline the most prominent recommendations, and suggest an approach that should result in your home-prepared diet falling into the middle of these ranges.

The 2006 National Research Council (NRC) guidelines recommend that puppies receive 3 grams (3,000 mg) of calcium per 1,000 kcals, which is three times its recommended amount for adult dogs. The minimum requirement is 2,000 mg/1,000 kcals, but they also say that large-breed puppies (anticipated adult weight greater than 55 lbs) should get at least 0.25 mg calcium per pound of body weight up to the age of 14 weeks.

The nutrient guidelines published by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) express the recommended amount in a different way, suggesting that puppy diets include between 1.0 and 2.5 percent calcium on a dry matter (DM) basis. In comparison, the 2006 NRC recommendations are 0.8 to 1.7 percent for smaller breed puppies (adult body weight under 55 lbs) and 0.8 to 1.2 percent for larger breed puppies (based on a diet that contains 400 kcals per 100 grams of food).

Some nutritional research suggests that large-breed puppies have optimal skeletal development and mineralization when fed a diet that contains between 0.8 and 1.0 percent calcium (DM), as long as the diet uses high biological value protein (from animal products) that provides 420 kcals per 100 grams of food. The percentage of calcium needed increases when caloric density is increased (higher-fat diets), so that the total amount of calcium per calorie remains the same. The percentage of calcium needed also increases when more grains are fed, since the phytates in grains bind calcium.

Studies have shown that skeletal abnormalities and lameness can result in large-breed puppies fed more than 2.6 percent calcium (DM), or more than 6,500 mg calcium per 1,000 kcals (one study found significant bone abnormalties in growing dogs feed 4,900 mg calcium per 1,000 kcals). The 2006 NRC recommends a safe upper limit of 4,500 mg calcum per 1,000 kcals for giant-breed dogs (the limit is likely higher with smaller breeds). Minimum amounts are less well defined, but problems may occur when diets contain less than 0.6 percent calcium (DM). The amount of vitamin D in the diet will also have an effect, since it increases the absorption of calcium. Small-breed puppies can tolerate a much wider range of calcium than large-breed puppies without developing problems.

Heres my suggestion: If you add an amount of bone meal that provides between 1,000 and 2,000 mg of calcium per pound of food fed (not counting any low-calorie veggies), this should provide adequate but not excessive calcium. If you cook the meat, use the cooked weight to determine how much calcium to add.

The higher amount in that range (2,000 mg per pound of food) will meet both NRC and AAFCO guidelines, providing between 2,000 and 4,000 mg of calcium/1,000 kcals and 1.6 to 2.0 percent calcium (DM) based on the diet recommendations I've given.

The lower amount (1,000 mg per pound of food) will provide between 0.8 and 1.0 percent calcium, which some feel is most appropriate for large breed puppies. This is lower than NRC and AAFCO minimums, but not low enough to cause deficiencies. Remember, you need to add more calcium per pound of food fed if you use a high-fat or high-grain diet.

Because puppies also need more phosphorus than adult dogs, I suggest using bone meal for a calcium source, rather than a calcium-only supplement. (Again, bone meal contains calcium and phosphorus in a ratio of 2:1.)

If your dog's diet provides calcium in amounts that fall at the low end of the ranges suggested by experts, its advisable to supplement the diet with vitamin D, which enhances calcium uptake. (Don’t use calcium supplements that contain vitamin D, though, as the amounts will be too high). If you want to do your own calculations, you can analyze the diet you’re feeding using a nutrition analyzer (see Resources below).

Remember that if you feed a diet that includes ground bone in appropriate amounts, there is no need to add additional calcium or phosphorus, as bone supplies both minerals in the right proportions. (Isn’t nature wonderful?)

Puppies also require more protein than adult dogs. Remember that there is no danger in feeding high-protein diets to puppies. The best thing you can do for large- and giant-breed puppies is to keep them lean and slow-growing by limiting the total amount fed, not by limiting the percentage of protein in the diet.

Most puppies will do well with a diet that has a moderately high amount of fat. Puppies need more fat than adult dogs, but too much can lead to rapid growth (if they get too many calories), or limit nutrition (if you have to feed less than the normal amount to control growth). If you have a very active puppy who eats more than would be expected for his age and size, then you can increase the amount of fat in his diet. Don’t feed a low-fat diet to a puppy.

Figuring out how much to feed a puppy will depend on the pup’s age as well as current weight and anticipated adult weight. Puppies eat much more for their weight than adult dogs do, and young puppies eat more for their weight than older puppies do. That’s one of the reasons why it’s important to feed younger puppies three to four meals a day.

The amount fed to puppies should gradually increase from a little over half of the appropriate adult serving (when the puppy is very young) to close to the adult ration (for older puppies). Here’s what that would translate into based on percentage of current weight:

1/4 grown: 4.5 to 6.5 percent of current body weight (55 percent of adult diet)
1/2 grown: 3.5 to 5.25 percent of current body weight (88 percent of adult diet)
3/4 grown: 2.75 to 4 percent of current body weight (100+ percent of adult diet)
Fully grown: 2 to 3 percent of their body weight daily (100 percent of adult diet)

Small-breed puppies reach their adult weights more quickly than large breeds do. A small-breed puppy will eat as much as an adult by the time she’s around three months old. A large-breed puppy will eat as much as an adult by the time she’s around 5 months old. In both cases, they’ll eat a little over half that amount at 8 weeks of age. Small breeds will eat a higher percentage of their body weight daily than will larger breeds.

Keep in mind that the appetite of puppies is notoriously varied — they eat more when they're in a growth spurt and less when they're dealing with hormones and teething — so it's important to pay attention to the individual dog and adjust as needed. It's best for puppies to be lean, not chubby, especially the large breeds; keeping them lean will decrease the likelihood of hip dysplasia and other orthopedic problems developing. Adjust the amount of food as needed to keep your puppy at the proper weight, with ribs easily felt and not covered in fat.

Source: http://www.dogaware.com/wdjhomemade3.html

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License