Feeding that Puppy
Susan Thorpe-Vargas PhD


All of the above energy sources are required, in the proper ratio, to sustain normal growth. Also required are minerals and vitamins. The dietary intake ratio between these two vital constituents is quite critical. With the exception of some of the antioxidants, we suggest you do not supplement, unless you are quite expert, or under the supervision of a clinician.

By the time the dog has matured, enormous physical changes have occurred, with the most rapid growth period being the first six months. With the exception of lactation, no other stage of life requires quite the nutrient and energy needs as the puppy. It has been suggested that until the young dog reaches 40% of its expected adult weight it should consume twice the normal adult ration.

After it reaches this weight gradually reduce the amount to 1.2 times the maintenance level. This should support optimum muscle and skeletal development at a rate suitable for the dog's particular breed. Adjust the amount fed downward for the large and giant breeds according to your veterinarian's recommendations, and modify the amount upward for smaller dogs. Care should be taken not to overfeed the puppy. Nutrition studies have shown that over-nutrition early in life increases the number of fat cells and significantly contributes to obesity as an adult.

The nutritional requirement differences among the various biological stages of life, especially puppyhood, gestation and lactation, are crucial enough to warrent using dedicated feeds during those periods. While a one-size-fits-all feed may be adequate to sustain the dogs minimal nutritional requirements, it is still less than optimum. Puppy food should be fed for approximately the first six months.

Calcium and Phosphorus. The ratio of calcium to phosphorus is extremely important. The optimum ratio lies in a range of 1 to 2 parts calcium to one part phosphorus. Upsetting this ratio results in bone and growth anomalies. Do not supplement! These two minerals are responsible for the structural rigidity of bones and teeth. Additionally, calcium is required for blood clotting and nerve impulse conduction. Phosphorus is involved in almost all metabolic processes in the body.

Calcium and Magnesium
The balance between calcium and magnesium is essential for nervous tissue, heart and skeletal muscle functions. Additionally, magnesium plays a role in modulating sodium and potassium levels and is inherent in many essential enzyme reactions.

Potassium is necessary for growth, nerve impulse transmission, fluid balance, muscle metabolisim and heart regulation. Prednisone, a steroid commonly prescribed in veterinary practice, causes both a loss of potassium and retention of sodium, which in turn may exacerbate potassium loss. Protein-rich diets require correspondingly greater amounts of potassium. Naturally occurring potassium deficiencies are rare because of the many nutritional sources for potassium. Meat is one good example.

Sodium and Chloride
These two minerals usually are found in the canine diet in the form of sodium chloride, also known as table salt. They are the electrolytes of the body's fluids and deficiencies are rare in normal commercial diets.

Trace Elements: Iron, Copper, Manganese, Zinc, Iodine and Selenium.
These minerals are considered trace elements because, as necessary as they might be for health, they are needed in small amounts to maintain a balanced diet. Iron deficiency, the most well-known problem, results in anemia and reduce oxygen transport. Note that iron, like the other trace elements, quickly become toxic if ingested in excessive quantities. Copper is involved in many biological functions, including iron metabolism. Thus a diet deficient in copper can result in anemia even though adequate iron is present. Excess copper can also cause anemia, most likely due to competition for absorption stes between iron and copper. The role of manganese is not well understood. However, it is known to activate many enzyme systems and thus is involved in a wide variety of reactions. A deficiency of this mineral results in impaired growth, reprodution and distrupted lipid (fat) metabolism.

Zinc is essential for protein synthesis and certain enzymatic processes. Zinc requirements are affected by the presence of other minerals. For example, a high calcium intake may require more dietary zinc. A zinc deficiency appears as poor growth and skin and coat problems. Iodine's only known function is in the synthesis of thyroid hormones that regulate metabolisim. Deficiency results in goiters and disruption of the thyroid's hormonal production.

Selenium is acutely toxic, paradoxically an excess produces the same symptoms as a deficiency. This micro-nutrient has a complex interrelationship with Vitamin E and the sulfur-containing amino acids methionine and cystine. Selenium is also a component of the active site of the enzyme glutathione peroxidase, which protects cells from free radicals that cause damage to cartilage, cell-membranes and genetic material.

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