Fooding Puppies and Kittens ..
During the growth phase the young animal has a higher requirement for protein, energy and calcium than an adult fur kid. The diet should also be high quality and easily digested. Overfeeding during the growth period should be avoided as this predisposes to skeletal problems in large dogs and obesity in all animals. The calcium to phosphorous ratio is important for correct bone and teeth formation.
Severe underfeeding will prevent your fur kids from reaching their or its full adult size. However, slight underfeeding will not be affecting the full growth potential, as it actually appears to increase your fur kids’ life span. This fact seems to argue against the provision of high-protein, calorie-dense foods for puppies and kittens, but it must be remembered that they have tiny stomachs which limits the amount of food they can eat at any one time. If the food or feed is of poor quality or low in energy, the young animal is unable to eat enough to satisfy its nutritional requirements. This leads to poor muscle and skeletal development, poor growth and reduced immunity. It is good practice to weigh puppies and kittens regularly to check that their growth is adequate but not excessive.
Regular weighing will give a much more accurate assessment of the efficiency of the diet than appraisal by eye. Kittens should gain between 50 and 100g per week, while puppies should gain between 2 and 4 grams per day per kilogram of expected adult weight during their first 5 months. Most pups in the small and medium breed groups will reach 50% of their adult weight by the age of 4 months. Too slow a weight gain requires either extra food or better quality one, while too rapid a weight gain suggest the use of a less energy-dense food. “Roly-poly” pups may look attractive but it is not an ideal start in life for them.
Establishing growth rates and nutrition levels for pups is complicated by the size range of adults dogs. Dogs have the widest range of any species from toy to giant breeds and, because of this, the nutrient requirements will vary according to the group in which they belong. Mixed breed pups pose a particular challenge as often background information is scanty and estimating their adult size is not always easy.
Rapid growth is a major factor in the development of juvenile bone and joint disease and energy levels have the greatest impact on growth rates. In large breeds (i.e. those whose adult weight is 25kg or over) the aim is to food a diet which slows down the pup’s growth rate, but still enables it to reach its genetic potential at maturity. In order to do this, some restriction on the intake of nutrients might be needed.
In summary, puppies need nearly four times the energy than adult dogs, and they need extra protein to help build new tissue. So an energy-rich diet including protein, fat, calcium and phosphorous is important during this phase. Puppies’ needs also vary according to breed. Small breed dogs need higher levels of these nutrients, while large breed dogs need less to control their growth rate. Medium-sized dog breeds are between the two.
Kittens, due to the small size of their mouths and digestive systems, can’t eat much at one sitting. Common practice is allowing kittens to free feed, meaning food should be left available at all times, however, we do not encourage this practice. Even kittens should have meal times, even up to 7 times per day. Their food should be high in easily digestible animal protein and other important nutrients, such as fibre, essential vitamins and minerals, and taurine, an amino acid found in chicken and fish sources.
Puppy Meal Management
You have decided to give your puppy the best start in life by choosing a raw food diet, but now you’re probably wondering how much you should be fooding to help grow a healthy puppy into a strong dog?
Puppies develop most rapidly during the first six months, which is known as the “pediatric life stage”. During this time, puppies:
- Grow mature bones, tissues, muscles and internal organs;
- Form new nervous system connections;
- Further develop brain and cognitive functions;
- Build a strong immune system.
Puppies require the same nutrients as mature dogs, however they require different amounts of these nutrients to support optimum growth – for example, about twice the protein and 2.25 times the number of calories (adjusted for size) as their older adult counterparts. While the best way to control the quality of your puppy’s food is to prepare it yourself, formulating a home-made diet for a puppy can be much trickier than for an adult dog because his (or her) nutritional needs can literally change weekly as he sprouts into adulthood. An excess or deficiency in any key nutrient can spell disaster for a puppy’s growth and development and jeopardize his lifelong health.
Calcium and phosphorus are key examples. These are the most abundant minerals in the body and the primary components of bone and teeth. Puppies require the correct amount and balance of these minerals to promote proper musculoskeletal development. However, both a deficiency and excess of calcium and phosphorus are dangerous. Deficiency can lead to weak bones and fractures, while excess can cause Developmental Orthopedic Disease (DOD). This is especially true for large breed puppies that must grow at a slow, steady rate to avoid serious orthopedic problems.
To help you, the table below provides the most accurate amounts available on the net (or in text books) today. The most accurate way to food is an amount based on bodyweight percentage. The following table has been devised by Add Ridyard (The Dog’s Dinner) (Article) after studying several breeds over a period of time.
Puppy Feeding Index
Some puppies will need the upper limits allowed, some will need the lower limits, common sense and observation should be used by the pet parent at all times, to ensure their puppy does not get fat. Puppies are supposed to be lean!
The term “puppy fat” is applied to pups who are still being nursed by their mothers. When a puppy arrives in its new home, it should start to lose the “puppy fat” and gain shape and definition i.e. – a waist and this should happen within a few weeks of arrival in its new home. No matter how the needs of a puppy is determined, it is most important to judge, just like your adult pets, how much to food by an additional evaluation of the puppy’s appearance. Judge the amount to food by the animal’s weight and fat content. A puppy’s dietary intake should be examined and adjusted every week for its desired rate of growth, coat, body conformation, spontaneous activity, and most importantly prevention of orthopaedic problems.
The puppy should look trim with only a slight layer of fat over the ribs. The puppy is too fat if the ribs cannot be felt with gentle pressure on the rib cage. The puppy is too thin if the ribs can be easily seen as the puppy moves. If too fat, or too thin, regulate the diet until the puppy is in good condition. The desired condition varies with certain breeds – some tend to be more solid, others more trim.
As stated before, periodic weight monitoring and controls are essential. Maximal growth is not necessarily compatible with optimal growth. If pet parents continue to feed puppies so they can be proud of their animal’s size, many problems can be expected in future. Rapid growth leads to abnormal skeletal development. Slower growth reduces the incidence of abnormalities and does not affect a dog’s ability to eventually attain its normal adult size. The goal of feeding is to provide all the essential nutrients but while keeping the growing puppy “lean“.
Start off by splitting their daily amount into 4 to 5 meals per day (smaller feeds and smaller amounts). Once your puppy is between 6 to 9 months old, you may look into changing this to 2 meals per day, depending on the breed. Again, this is a generalization, make sure you read up on your fur kids breed specifics, or ask around.
Remember, every dog is different and what applies to one may not apply to another. Dogs have different metabolic rates, activity levels, and breed requirements so bear this in mind.
For kittens, a similar system exist. Below is the typical kitten feeding index for raw.
Kitten Feeding Index
Additional Articles and Videos
Good reference articles & videos further reading available at:
- Dr Jean Dodds and Diana Laverdure, “Canine Nutrigenomics – The New Science of Feeding Your Dog for Optimum Health” (Amazon);