Many first-time puppy owners panic that they may be over or under feeding the newest member of their family. As every dog is an individual, and there are so many brands and types of puppy food out there, it can be quite tricky to know if what they are eating is right for them to maintain a healthy weight. For the vast majority, things quickly fall into place. It is usually the puppy that dictates what they are fed; asking for more if it is needed or failing to finish their portion if not.
Interestingly, owners tend to worry a lot less once their pup has grown up a little, assuming that as they are healthy puppies, there is no cause for concern when it comes to portion control. However, all too commonly, maturing and adult dogs are being fed inappropriately, resulting in obese pets. Setting a precedent at a young age will go a long way towards achieving the ideal weight.
As a puppy grows up, their calorie requirements change. They grow more slowly than when they were very little. They also become less hyper and boisterous, meaning less calories are burned. While a young pup will need about three times their typical daily energy requirements at three months old, this drops to two and a half times by six months old and to about two times when they reach one year of age. While we don’t need to get the calculator out just yet, it’s sensible to have a general idea of our pup’s requirements as they develop.
Keep in mind that the feeding tables at the back of the food packets do not work for every dog. They just provide a guideline, so we should also be using the Body Condition Score chart at the same time and adjusting accordingly.
The Body Condition Score
As things are ever changing, it is essential to constantly weigh your puppy and assess their Body Condition Score. This is a score which assesses how fat or lean a dog is, based on their physical appearance. It provides more information than simply weighing an animal (although this has its place). This is because you can have two dogs of the same breed that weigh the same but one is a healthy weight and the other is over-weight. If you are unsure how to perform this measurement, simply ask at your local veterinary practice for advice and they will be happy to help you out.
What to feed to help your puppy to stay a healthy weight
Ideally, we would have our pups on a specific diet and be feeding according to their age and weight. We should also be using a weighing scales to calculate their daily portions. We should reduce the amount given if they happen to eat any treats, chews or tit bits that day (it all adds up!). A big cause of unwanted weight gain is over-feeding of treats. This is likely because it is one of the easiest ways to make our dogs happy and they are wonderful training tools. Consider low calorie options such as small pieces of skinless chicken breast rather than pre-packaged treats which tend to be high in fats and sugars.
The effect of neutering on your puppy's weight
It's important to note that calorie requirements typically change after a dog has been neutered. This can lead to dogs becoming over-weight after they are castrated or spayed, as owners fail to alter what they are being fed. The change in hormones that occurs after neutering can slow the metabolism. Some dogs become less active, meaning they simply require less calories. To simplify things, several big brands have manufactured foods aimed specifically at neutered animals. They provide the required nutrients but less calories than regular food.
TOP TIP: Many owners wonder why their dog fails to lose weight even when they feed the amount indicated on the food packaging. If trying to get them to slim down, it’s vital to feed dogs for the weight we want them to be rather than the weight they currently are.