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Puppy Nutrition 101: What Should You Feed a Puppy?


Like any adorable baby, puppies have unique needs, especially concerning their diet. The right food and nutrition while they’re small can help them grow into healthy, strong adults — despite our wishes for them to stay this small and cute forever. Here’s everything you need to know about your puppy’s diet.

Puppies Need Puppy Food

Puppies should usually be weaned off their mother’s milk when they’re around 7 to 8 weeks old. Then they need food that’s formulated for a puppy’s unique nutritional needs — like any of the PEDIGREE® puppy foods.

Puppies grow fast, so they require more nutrient- and calorie-dense foods than adult dogs. They also need food with more amino acids, fatty acids, minerals and protein to help them develop strong bones, muscles and immune systems.

What Makes a Well-Balanced Puppy Diet?

There are four main things a puppy needs in their food bowl to grow up fit and fabulous:

  • Protein: Imagine how much protein you’d need to reach your adult size within a year. Pups need a little extra protein to help build all those growing muscles and tissues.
  • Fats: Fats are, not surprisingly, a great source of essential fatty acids. They help puppies develop a healthy skin and coat. They’re also important for brain development and vision.
  • Calcium: This is a necessary component for growing strong bones and teeth.
  • Digestible carbohydrates: Puppies love to play, and easily digestible carbs are a great power source for all that energy.

What Type of Puppy Food Is Best?

Dry? Wet? Combo? There’s no right or wrong answer. Each has its advantages, and as long as it provides the nutrition they need and your pup enjoys eating it, ring the dinner bell.

  • Dry food: This is an economical option that offers a balanced diet. Dogs love the crunch of kibble. Bonus: The texture can also help keep gums and teeth healthy.
  • Wet food: Dogs of all ages love the flavor of wet food, so it helps even finicky eaters get their needed nutrition. It’s also considered more easily digestible among dog food connoisseurs.
  • Combo of wet and dry food: A bit of this and a bit of that? Go right ahead. Puppies like a little variety in their meals, too.
  • Treats: Treats are a great way to help train your little best friend and build your relationship. To keep calories in check, don’t give them too many treats — no matter how much they give you the puppy eyes look.
A word (or several) on table scraps: We know it’s tempting, but table scraps add unnecessary calories to your pup’s diet and can lead to obesity. You don’t want them to develop any bad table manners by rewarding begging, either. Plus, some human food can be dangerous to dogs, especially puppies. It’s better to stick to puppy food.

When Should Puppies Switch to Adult Dog Food?

The time for your dog to leave the kids’ table is generally when they near their adult height. This can be as early as nine months for small-breed dogs or as long as two years for large breeds. Make the switch gradually over several days, mixing in the new and the old food to minimize upset tummies.

With the right nutrition and lots of love, your dog will grow into a healthy and happy adult — though they’ll always be your little puppy at heart.

  • When Should You Switch Your Senior Dog to Soft Food?

    smiling lab sitting in front of brick wall

    As your dog ages, you’ll likely notice changes in your best pal’s energy levels, routine and even muzzle. Older pets may require adjustments to help them get around, exercise and live their best life as a senior. One important aspect of caring for a dog entering their golden years is diet.

    When it comes to diet, every dog has unique, individual needs, regardless of age. So, there's no one easy answer to the question of soft food versus hard food. Both types of food can provide your dog with the nutrition they need — as long as you feed your dog a high-quality dog food that’s nutritionally balanced and complete.

    two dogs eating from two bowls

    Signs Your Senior Dog May Benefit from Wet Food

    If your dog has very specific health concerns, such as aging joints or weight issues, consult with your vet for more information about what type of food best addresses your dog's needs. That being said, there are a few reasons why you may consider switching your senior dog to soft food.

    fluffy brown dog yawning showing teeth

    Teeth Sensitivity

    As your dog gets older, their teeth may become more sensitive, which can make chewing kibble more difficult and even uncomfortable. Switching to a soft food can help to alleviate your pet’s oral discomfort when eating.

    However, if your dog is experiencing serious pain at mealtime from a condition like tooth decay or gingivitis, switching to soft food won't remedy the problem. Make sure you talk to your vet about oral care and dental treatment.

    Digestion Aid

    Digestion begins in the mouth with saliva, so if your dog has a tendency to scarf down meals, they may not be adequately chewing the food or adding enough saliva to it. Soft food can aid with digestion because it's more easily chewed.

    Hydration Help

    It’s no surprise that wet food has a higher moisture content when compared to dry kibble. If your senior pup is prone to urinary-tract issues or simply needs a little help staying hydrated, canned dog food may be a good choice.

    girl kissing older dog on the head

    Slower Metabolism

    Aging dogs tend to have a slower metabolic rate compared to their younger years, which puts them at a higher risk of becoming overweight or obese. Many nutritionally balanced wet dog foods offer high protein content with fewer carbs than dry food, which can benefit older dogs with slower metabolism. Always talk to your vet if you have concerns about your pup’s weight.

    Picky Eaters

    While wet food may be less than appetizing to humans, the opposite is true for dogs! If your aging best friend has started turning their snout up to dry food, wet food tends to be more appealing to picky eaters. Mixing wet food and kibble offers your pup a variety of flavors and textures; try adding wet food as a topper on dry food for a real treat!

    Whether you choose dry food, soft food  or a mix of both, ask your vet before making any transition. And when it's time to switch your dog's food, remember to do it slowly — even if it's the same brand and flavor — to help prevent stomach upset and allow your dog time to adjust.

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