Balanced Nutrition for Healthy Puppies

Puppies grow the fastest in their first five months of life, so it stands to reason that their nutritional needs vary significantly from fully-grown, adult dogs. For instance, puppies require about twice as many calories per pound as adult dogs of the same breed. It is also recommended that 30 percent of a puppy’s diet consist of protein, compared to only 18 percent for adult dogs. Because those first few months of a dog’s life are critical to the development of their bones, teeth and muscle mass, choosing a food with the proper balance of nutrition is essential. Knowing what elements are required for what reasons will help you in choosing the appropriate food for your puppy.

Proteins are comprised of 23 amino acids, of which only 13 can be made naturally by your puppy. The remaining ten, called the “essential” amino acids, must be derived from the puppy’s diet. Although protein can be supplied by both animal and vegetable origins, the value of the protein is higher from meats. Theoretically, healthy puppies cannot get too much protein, as any excess will be eliminated as waste, burned as calories, or converted to fat. However, protein is the most expensive element in a puppy’s diet, so paying for more than you need is just a waste of money.

Carbohydrates like sugar and starch are the elements that provide energy to your puppy. Without enough carbohydrates (and fats), a puppy’s body will convert protein to sugar, and result in a loss of muscle mass. Although sugars are 100 percent digestible, starches – like those that come from corn and wheat – must be cooked before they can be digested by your puppy. Cellulose is also a carbohydrate. Although not digestible, it acts as fiber in your puppy’s diet and helps keep the gastrointestinal system healthy.

Fats are essential to a puppy’s diet for a variety of reasons. Without fats, your puppy could not break down and utilize any of the fat soluble vitamins. They are also important for healthy skin and hair, and can make your puppy’s food taste better. Excess fat, however, can result in obesity in puppies, just as it can in humans. It is recommended that 18 percent of a puppy’s calories come from fat.

Vitamins are essential to a puppy’s diet, just as they are to a human’s. They can be either fat soluble or water soluble, and are responsible for many of the body’s chemical reactions. Interestingly enough, puppies do not have to consume Vitamin C in their diets, as they are able to produce their own.

Minerals, like vitamins, are necessary for some of the body’s chemical reactions, but they are also important for structural growth and development as well. Correct proportions in a puppy’s diet are essential with some minerals, as too much can impede growth and bone development.

How to Get It All Right – Although a complicated task if you were to make your puppy’s food yourself, it’s not difficult at all when you purchase commercially-made puppy food. Because pet food in the U.S. is regulated by the American Association of Feed Control Officials, all you need to do is look for a label stating that the puppy food is “complete and balanced nutrition.” If you’re careful to purchase the variety for your specific breed or size of dog, no further supplementation should be necessary.


“Puppy Food – Types, Feeding Schedule, and Nutrition,”

“The Right Nutrition for Your Puppy,”

“Nutrition for the Growing Puppy,” Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine

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