Food and feeding
To give your puppy the best start in life, we recommend a mix of dry and wet food that’s made specifically for puppies. It should be supported by plenty of clean water and nutritious treats to assist with training.
How to identify the best puppy food
To identify high quality puppy nutrition, look at the ingredients list. The first ingredient should be an animal protein, followed by wholegrains, fats and oils, natural flavours, and a range of vitamins and minerals. Make sure the food you’re buying meets AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials) standards.
Here are some other features that identify high-quality puppy food:
- Added extra fatty acids, such as DHA that aid brain development.
- Created in partnership with veterinary and nutritional experts.
- Sold only at vets and specialised pet supply shops like Animates.
- Brands you can trust include Royal Canin puppy food, Hill’s Science Diet puppy, Eukanuba, Nutrience, Nutro, Wellness, Black Hawk puppy food and Pro Plan.
What to feed your puppy
Age specific food: To give your pooch the best start in life, select a Superior Nutrition diet for puppies. Food that is specifically made for puppies includes a scientifically-formulated balance of the fats, proteins, vitamins and minerals to meet the nutritional needs of growing puppies.
- Pro Plan Sensitive Digestion Puppy Food Lamb & Rice 2.5kgRegular Price $49.99 Special Price $37.49
Breed-specific food: If you have a pedigree pup (or a cross-breed that strongly resembles a purebred), you may want to consider feeding your dog a breed-specific puppy food. From facial and jaw structure to skin and coat type, these breed-specific diets are formulated to provide the right set of nutrients that your purebred pooch needs. To learn more about these diets, visit our article ‘The benefits of breed-specific dog food’.
Food to match your puppy's size: When choosing a Superior Nutrition puppy food, it's important to select a diet that matches the size of your puppy's breed (e.g. small, medium, large). Smaller dogs have fast metabolisms, so they need higher calorie food. Big dogs have big bones, so they need optimal levels of calcium.
- Eukanuba Small Breed Puppy Food 3kgRegular Price $49.99 Special Price $37.49
- Eukanuba Large Breed Puppy Food 3kgRegular Price $49.99 Special Price $37.49
- Eukanuba Puppy Food 3kgRegular Price $49.99 Special Price $37.49
- Eukanuba Small Breed Puppy Food 7.5kgRegular Price $84.99 Special Price $63.74
Mixed feeding: Feeding your puppy a mixture of dry and wet food has multiple health benefits. Dry food is nutrient-dense and beneficial for dental health, bone development and intelligence, while wet food provides flavour, texture, and essential hydration. Most high-quality brands have a complementary wet diet to match their dry food.
If you decide to feed a mixture of wet and dry puppy food, make sure you adjust the recommended portion sizes of each and follow the instructions on the packaging so that you don’t overfeed or underfeed your pup. To learn more about mixed feeding, check out our article ‘How to decide between wet or dry dog food’
How much to feed your puppy
The amount of food you give your puppy depends on their breed and size. We recommend you read the guidelines on your puppy food. If you’re still not sure, talk to Animates’ in-store experts or call for advice.
- Depending on your pup’s breed and size, you’ll serve meals three to five times a day.
- Most puppies work well with timed feeding schedules (typically morning, lunch and dinner).
- Smaller breeds may need food more often as young pups to ensure they get enough calories and to avoid puppy low-blood sugar, which can be dangerous.
- Remove the bowl after 10 minutes if your puppy doesn’t eat. This trains them to eat within a timeframe and avoids food wastage.
Here's our guide for how often to feed your puppy:
- Small breed puppies from weaning up to 16 weeks - 3 to 5 times daily
- Other puppy breeds from weaning up to 16 weeks - 3 to 4 times daily
- After 16 weeks up to adult age - 2 to 3 times daily
Changing your puppy to a new food
When you adopt your puppy from a breeder, SPCA or animal shelter, ask what they have been eating. This is the starting point for feeding your new friend. Over a week, you can gradually switch your puppy to the high-quality foods you have chosen. Keep an eye out for puppy diarrhoea or constipation, which are both signs you might need to slow the changeover.
- On the first day, feed your puppy their usual food, plus just a tiny bit of the dry and wet foods you have bought. Always offer dry foods in one bowl; wet foods in another.
- For the next few days, gradually decrease the amount of your puppy’s original food and offer an increasing amount of the new foods.
- On day seven, switch entirely to the new dry and wet foods.
Once your puppy matures into an adult dog at 12 months, or even 18 months for some large breeds, we recommend switching your dog's puppy food to a Superior Nutrition food that is specially formulated for adult dogs. For more tips and tricks on changing your dogs diet, visit our article 'A guide to changing your dog's food'.
Foods you shouldn’t feed your puppy
Dogs, especially when they are young, are highly sensitive to a range of ingredients humans love. Get into the habit of following food safety guidelines to avoid food that can be toxic and cause significant harm in dogs.
- Chocolate is potentially the worst. It contains methylxanthines, which are stimulants that stop a dog’s metabolic process. Even just a little bit of chocolate, especially dark chocolate, can cause diarrhoea and vomiting.
- Macadamia nuts are also toxic to dogs. They can cause vomiting, increased body temperature, inability to walk and lethargy.
- Ensure your pup has no access to cinnamon, garlic, onions, coffee, bread dough, avocado, grapes, raisins, nuts, mushrooms, fruit stones, green tomatoes, xylitol and corn cobs. While these foods aren’t as bad as chocolate and macadamia nuts, they can still make your dog sick.
- Avoid feeding your puppy table scraps. Treating your dog with your dinner is not only encouraging begging behaviour, it can also cause them harm. Read more about why table scraps are bad for your dog here.
- If you have a cat in the house, don’t let the puppy eat the cat’s food. It won’t contain the nutrients a growing pup needs.
- Avoid giving your puppy leftovers of human food, which might have additives that are harmful.
- It’s best to avoid bones, raw meat and raw fish. Meat and fish should be cooked, to avoid potential infection with pathogens like salmonella. Bones can get stuck or splinter and perforate your puppy’s digestive tract.
- Make sure the treats you feed your puppy are for canines; human and cat treats are not suitable for dogs.
If you have seen or suspect your puppy has eaten toxic food, be sure to visit your local Animates Vetcare or vet clinic for a health assessment before their condition worsens.
Treats for bonding and training
Puppy treats will help enormously with training, but deciding which treats are right for your puppy is easier said than done. There are natural treats, grain-free treats, dried meat treats, biscuit treats and a variety of other morsels with specific functions. We recommend trying a variety of treats, then grouping them into high-value and low-value. This will help with training.
- High-reward treats are best for training. They are typically made of a protein source your pup doesn’t eat every day, like venison or duck. They are also high in fat, to make them extra yummy. High-value treats should be small, so your puppy can eat the treat quickly during training.
- Teething and dental treats are designed specifically to clean your puppy’s teeth, helping to prevent decay and gum disease.
- Chew treats (such as pig ears) can be great distractions for your puppy, but only offer them when you’re around to supervise.
- Remember that treats count towards your puppy’s daily nutritional needs, so adjust meals to avoid over-feeding and ensure they're only 10% of your puppy's diet.
- When training, treats don’t have to be used every time. Voice praise can be just as effective.
For dogs, water is as essential as food. Dogs pant to cool themselves down, so they’re always losing water. Veterinary advice is 1-2ml per kilogram of body weight per hour (equivalent to approximately 25-50ml per kg per 24hrs). For example, a 10kg dog should drink about 480ml in 24 hours. This amount will be higher in hot weather.
- Puppies need almost constant access to water before and after play, at feeding time, after a walk and before bedtime. The only time you might remove access to water is during the night, to avoid multiple toilet visits.
- Clean the water bowl thoroughly once a day then keep it topped up.
- If you have multiple pets sharing the same bowl, get a bigger bowl or offer more than one bowl. The multiple bowl strategy is smart, because it allows your puppy to have another source of water if one gets spoiled or knocked over.
- Some dogs can be messy drinkers, so you may need to put towels down.
- In warmer weather, ice cubes in your pup’s water bowl is a lovely treat. Some dogs like to take the ice out and play with it.
- On longer walks, take a collapsible bowl and flask for pup hydration on the go.
For more puppy advice, pop into your local Animates store and chat to our friendly team of knowledgable pet experts. They can help you choose food that gives your pup the best start in life.
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