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It’s really important to choose the right diet for your dog. When it comes to choosing your dog’s food, you’ll need to think about health, age, size, breed and lots of other factors. As you’ll notice when you’re out shopping, there are lots of options out there when it comes to dog food! This includes dedicated puppy food, food for dental disease, diet-formulated kibble and more.

We’ve put together a quick guide on choosing the right food for your pet’s nutritional requirements and life stage, so you can make sure your four-legged friend is eating the correct diet.

Choosing the right food for your dog

Keeping on top of pet nutrition is really important at any life stage. Feeding your dog the optimal diet for their age and any medical conditions can make a huge difference to quality of life and even life expectancy.

There are different nutritional guidelines for each of a dog’s individual life stages – from puppy right through to senior. Put simply, you shouldn’t be feeding the same food to both puppies and senior dogs. Just like with humans, different ages need different nutrients and food groups.

There are a few things you should generally look out for when you’re out shopping for pet food. Of course, depending on your dog’s health status (including allergies and intolerances etc.) you might need to look for or avoid specific ingredients.

How much food to feed your dog

Knowing how much to feed your dog is just as important as what you feed them. Again, every breed and life stage will have different requirements, and things like activity level and individual health conditions will play a part too.

As a rule of thumb, follow the guidelines on the packaging to figure out how much you should feed your dog. Particularly for growing pets or those undergoing weight loss, take note of the weight recommendations – you should be providing the suggested amounts for your dog’s target weight.

To make sure your dog is getting a well balanced diet, it’s a good idea to weigh out small meals and individual portions. This way you can be sure that your dog isn’t getting fed too much or too little. Of course, you’ll still be offering the occasional treat as well!

Generally, sticking to a feeding schedule and dividing the overall amount into about two to three smaller meals is recommended. Not only does this encourage regular and healthy digestion, but it can help to build a routine for you and your pet.

Bringing a new puppy home

What to feed a puppy

For most breeds, puppies and younger dogs will need to be fed a specific diet to help them reach a healthy weight. Food for puppies is enriched with specific nutrients and often optimised for specific breeds. For example, if you have a toy breed or similar, try to look out for ‘small breed puppy’ options. Similarly, large breed puppies will benefit from a tailor-made food.

Food that’s designed for younger dogs is tailored to their nutritional requirements. For example, too much of certain minerals (including calcium) can have an impact on bone growth and development.

The breeder or kennel you got your puppy from may have started feeding a certain variety of food. It’s recommended to change to a complete puppy diet over the duration of a week if this is not what they are currently being fed. 

What human food can dogs eat

Food that’s designed for younger dogs is tailored to their nutritional requirements. For example, too much or too little of certain minerals (including calcium) can have an impact on bone growth and development. 

Puppies are best fed between three to four meals a day to begin with, to make sure they’ve got enough energy throughout the day. This can be reduced to two meals a day as your dog grows up.

Of course, as your puppy gets older, the amount of food they need is going to change too. Make sure you’re feeding the right amount for your dog’s growth stage, and consider decreasing the number of times per day you feed them.

Dog with mouth open

What to feed an adult dog

Adult dogs will often have a wider variety of foods available to them, once they’ve grown out of the need for puppy-specific food. There are specific adult dog food varieties for different breeds, neutered dogs, and working dogs too.

For generally healthy dogs, you should be able to follow the feeding instructions on the packaging of your chosen food. If your dog needs to eat fewer calories to lose weight, or has a medical concern, you might need to choose a particular food. The vet at your local clinic can help with canine nutrition recommendations.

When should you switch from puppy food?

Once they’ve matured and grown out of that puppy stage, it’s time to start thinking about feeding your dog adult food. It’s important not to rush the move from puppy to adult dog food. Changing too quickly, or all at once, can cause a change in appetite or even slight stomach upsets. To try and reduce this, make the change gradually – though don’t worry too much if there is still a bit of a transition period.

Read more about Animal Trust’s pet nutrition services, or get in touch with your local vet clinic for more information. 

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