Feeding that Puppy
Susan Thorpe-Vargas PhD

Energy Sources

Puppies' high-activity levels require an almost continuous source of energy. Hence the coloric density of their food needs to be high, as puppies can ingest only so much at one time. This is why puppy foods tend to have a higher fat content then other stage-of-life foods.

Fats are concentrated energy sources, about twice that per unit of weight as carbohydrates and proteins. Fats provide more than just energy. Not only are they necessary for the absorption of the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K, but the proper ratio of essential fatty acids (EFA) is also extremely important. The two essential fatty acids in the canine are linoleic acid (LA) and alpha-linolenic acid (LNA), which fall into two classes--- the omega-6 and the omega-3 fatty acids. Note that these EFAs cannot be synthesized by the dog and therefore their needs must be met by the diet. Two good food sources for LA are sunflower and sesame seeds, and flax seeds contain LNA. It is generally believed that these two EFAs should be combined in a 4 or 5-to-1 ratio (LA:LNA). Why is this important? These two fatty acids are the building blocks or regulators of transitory biological chemicals called eicosanoids. This class of chemicals controls such diverse biological processes as priming the immune system, keeping the circulatory system in good working order and modulating sexual reproductive hormones.

The developing immune system of the puppy is especially vulnerable to an imbalance between the two classes of eicosanoids, which could throw the above biological processes out of kilter. An imbalance between LA and LNA in the diet could cause an inflammatory immune response. Another concern for the consumer is that fats are particularly vulnerable to oxidation, that is, they rapidly go rancid, and generally are more difficult to preserve than carbohydrates or proteins.

Carbohydrates are starches, sugars and cellluloses. Canines can only assimilate the first two, but an adequate amount of fiber in the diet is necessary to maintain a healthy gut.

Carbohydrates have about half the energy content of fat and a similar amount as proteins. It should be noted that some members of this food group can be highly antigenic; that is they can provoke an allergic reaction. The top three foods with respect to this problem are soybean, wheat and corn. The canine doesn't absolutely need carbohydrates as dogs are able to compensate for their lack if fed a high- protein diet. This is not too surprising, considering the dog's evolutionary development.

Proteins consist of long chains of amino acids. The dog require some specific amino acids in their diet because they are unable to adequately synthesize them and these are referred to as the essential amino acids. The non-essential amino acids are just as important but can be derived from other amino acids.

Young animals require more protein than adults to build the new tissue associated with growth. The class of the dietary protein must also be of sufficient quality so as to insure proper assimilation. Feeding trials have determined that protein should provide no less than 22% of the puppy's total coloric intake In fact, the actual percentage of protein is not as important as the balance between protein and available energy.

Continue Article